On May 7, Canadians from across the country will gather to commemorate the sacrifices made by the thousands of Canadians who fought so valiantly during the Battle of the Atlantic, from 1939 to 1945.
The national ceremony will be held at the National War Memorial and will include members of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and the Royal Canadian Air Force, alongside members of the Merchant Navy. They will be accompanied by Central Region Sea and Air Cadets, Navy League Cadets, the Royal Canadian Legion Colour Party, local veteran organizations, other government departments, the diplomatic community, and the Ottawa Children’s Choir.
Each year on the first Sunday in May, Canada and its naval community commemorate those lost at sea in the longest single campaign of the Second World War. Today, the legacy of the Battle of the Atlantic is upheld by those currently serving in the RCN, pledging themselves “Ready, Aye, Ready” to defend Canada and to uphold its ideals around the world.
“The Battle of the Atlantic had to be won if the allies were to defeat the Axis powers and preserve freedom and democracy throughout the world. In 1943, Canadian and allied forces turned the tide of this historic battle, and secured the sea routes for transportation of soldiers, fuel, and other goods essential to the war effort. The women and men who served in this historic battle will be remembered, and so will their families, for their valiant sacrifice and incredible bravery.”
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence
“I am deeply honoured to commemorate the heroic actions of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Merchant Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, who ensured the Allies attained a crucial victory in the longest running battle of the Second World War. More than 4,600 Canadians gave their lives at sea during the Battle of the Atlantic, we offer our deepest gratitude as a nation for their service and their sacrifice.”
The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of the Department of National Defense
“Canada’s military history is full of courage and sacrifice, this Sunday we remember the brave men and women who sacrificed so much in service to Canada during the battle of the Atlantic. That sacrifice has provided the foundation for the RCN’s contributions to global peace and security through the decades. The Canadian Government has consistently called upon its Navy to be “Canada’s first responder” in times of crisis and conflict. As our commemoration of the Battle of the Atlantic takes place this year as part of the Canada’s 150th celebrations, I invite Canadians to attend the ceremony in your region to pay tribute to those who were lost, to those who served, and to reflect on your navy’s rich past, and to celebrate its excellence at sea today.”
Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, Commander Royal Canadian Navy
The Battle of the Atlantic was the fight for supremacy in the North Atlantic and lasted 2,075 days. It pitted allied naval and air forces against German and Italian submarines, ships, and aircraft whose primary targets were the convoys of merchant ships carrying vital life-sustaining cargo from North America to Europe.
Much of the burden of fighting the Battle of the Atlantic fell to the RCN which, at the outbreak of the war, was comprised of only six destroyers and a handful of smaller vessels.
By the end of the war, Canada’s navy had grown to become the fourth largest in the world, and was instrumental in turning the tide of the war. During the Battle of the Atlantic, the RCN destroyed or shared in the destruction of 33 U-Boats and 42 enemy surface craft. In turn, it suffered 2,210 fatalities, including six women, and lost 33 vessels.
The Merchant Navy lost over 70 ships and suffered over 1,700 fatalities and the Royal Canadian Air Force lost more than 900 aircrew.