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Canada Remembers Those Lost in Battle of the Atlantic

December 10, 1939 - HMC Ships Ottawa, Restigouche, Fraser and St Laurent escort first Canadian Troop Convoy of Second World War. Source: Royal Canadian Navy
December 10, 1939 - HMC Ships Ottawa, Restigouche, Fraser and St Laurent escort first Canadian Troop Convoy of Second World War. Source: Royal Canadian Navy

By The Maritime Executive 05-03-2020 05:33:27

May 3 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. 

The Battle of the Atlantic involved U-boats and other German warships and aircraft of the Luftwaffe against the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, United States Navy, and Allied merchant shipping. Over 30,000 sailors were killed on each side. The Allies lost around 3,500 supply ships and 175 warships. The Germans lost 783 submarines.

Convoys, coming mainly from North America and predominantly going to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, were protected for the most part by the British and Canadian forces. It was a formative experience for the Royal Canadian Navy, says Marc Milner in The Naval Service of Canada 1910-2010: The Centennial Story. “Fought largely by reservists in small ships built in Canada and operating from Canadian bases, the defence of North Atlantic trade against the submarine menace defined a naval role for Canada within a much larger alliance. After 1945, the RCN became the best anti-submarine warfare (A/S or ASW as it is now known) navy in the world as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). But it was not an easy or direct path.”

Milner continues: “The RCN destroyed 33 enemy submarines during the war: three Italian and the rest German. It was, in the end, a very small proportion of the 1,000 U-boats sunk by the Allies between 1939 and 1945, and a very modest portion of the 500 of these claimed by naval vessels. But the real measure of the RCN’s war against the U-boats lay in the shipping safely escorted. Indeed, a huge proportion of the 25,000 ships brought safely across the Atlantic during the war moved under Canadian escort.”

“On Battle of the Atlantic Sunday our 75th anniversary year of victory in the Atlantic, we recognize the service of our veterans, their families, and the sacrifice of the many shipmates who never returned home,” said the Royal Canadian Navy in a tweet.