The Battle of the Atlantic

May 8, 2016

The Battle of the Atlantic lasting from September 1939 to May 1945 was Canada’s longest military engagement of the Second World War.
The battle began on September 3, 1939, west of Ireland, with the sinking of the
passenger ship the SS Athenia bound for Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The SS Athenia had 1,400 passengers and crew members on board; 118 were killed. The passanger ship was sunk by a German submarine.
Thirteen days later, on September 16, 1939, the first trans-Atlantic convoy of the war sailed from Halifax to the United Kingdom, escorted by British cruisers and two Canadian destroyers, the HMCS St. Laurent and HMCS Saguenay.
The Royal Canadian Navy began the war with 3,500 sailors and 13 vessels and ended it as the third largest Allied navy with 373 ships and more than 110,000 volunteer sailors, including 6,500 women serving in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Services.
The main threat to the merchant marine and the Allied navies were German submarines (U-boats)
Royal Canadian Air Force Eastern Air Command, Royal Canadian Air Force crews in Royal Air Force Coastal Command and ships from the Royal Canadian Navy helped sink 50 U-boats.
While the convoy routes of the North Atlantic and the Murmansk Run to northern Russia lost the most ships and crews, there were no safe havens anywhere at sea for the merchant marine. By the end of the war, up to 72 Canadian merchant ships were lost to enemy action. Operational accidents, structural shortcomings, and storms at sea also took their toll.
This battle of the Atlantic was fought by the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Merchant Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force. More than 4,600 brave service men and women lost their lives at sea.
Some 2,000 sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy were killed during the war, the majority of them lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Royal Canadian Air Force lost another 752 aircrew members in this theatre of operations.

Thankfully, The Battle of the Atlantic which lasted the duration of the Second World War in Europe, officially ended on V E Day, May 8, 1945.

We celebrated in the free world. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, wives and husbands let out a sigh of great relief. Their loved ones would be returning to them…those that survived.
In Halifax, N.S. the government made a decision to close all avenues to alcohol. The service men waiting in Halifax to be shipped across the Atlantic to the war zone wanted to celebrate. It caused a great riot on the main streets of Halifax. The stores were broken into and goods taken…. Alcohol was found and indulged in causing the mood to darken yet even more. May 8, 1945 will always be remembered by the citizens of Halifax with both great relief and elation that the war was over and yet with the cooling memory of that riot.


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