The Battle of the Atlantic – September 1939 to May 8, 1945

May 8, 2016

I remember clearly the excitement and then the stress expressed by my parents and older siblings on that day back in 1945.

My parents home was on Barrington Street, the main street in Halifax. On that day so long ago I didn’t understand or appreciate the great magnitude of what was happening. It was my 7th birthday and I was disappointed that something …some event was happening that frightened me.

As I stood on our verandah with my mother and other siblings I saw and heard a hoard of people advancing down the street… filling the street and sidewalks as they advanced. They had gathered to celebrate the ending of the war only to find the city had closed access to any and all liquor. These young men and women who were prepared to put themselves in the line of danger were elated that the war was ended a feeling they shared with all people in the free world. They wanted…no, they needed to express their relief but had no where to do that. So… there we all were in the middle of a great celebration with no where to celebrate. Unfortunately, the situation got out of hand. As the throng of happy celebrants advanced down Barrington Street from the south end through the shopping district and to the north end. They found liquor, smashed windows, and turned over street cars in their path. But who could blame them? The war was over! They did not have to cross the Atlantic and put themselves in the path of danger and possibly death. It was a day to celebrate…. and still is.
The Battle of the Atlantic was Canada’s longest military engagement of the Second World War, lasting from September 1939 to May 1945. This battle was bravely fought by the men and women of the Canadian Merchant Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. More than 4,600 courageous service men and women lost their lives at sea.
It began west of Ireland on September 3, 1939, with the sinking of a Montreal-bound passenger ship the SS Athenia by a German submarine. The SS Athenia had 1,400 passengers and crew members on board; 118 were killed .
The first trans-Atlantic convoy of the war sailed thirteen days later on September 16, 1939, from Halifax to the United Kingdom escorted by British cruisers and two Canadian destroyers, HMCS St. Laurent and HMCS Saguenay.
The Royal Canadian Navy began the war with 13 vessels and 3,500 sailors, and ended it as the third largest Allied navy with 373 ships and more than 110,000 sailors (all volunteers), which included the 6,500 women serving in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Services. Aircraft from 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.


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