Victoria is home to one of Canada’s two navy bases, with the majority of the Royal Canadian Navy’s pacific operations being based at CFB Esquimalt. In addition to a large military population in our community, we are also treated to many parades and ceremonies with a large turnout of our men and women in uniform. This Sunday, May 4th, was no exception as military personnel and civilians gathered at the cenotaph on the Legislature lawn to remember the Battle of the Atlantic.
The Battle of Atlantic took place during World War II, from September 3 1939 to May 8 1945. Canada’s Merchant Navy suffered losses of over 70 vessels and 1,600 sailors. When the war began Canada had 38 sea-faring merchant vessels. This changed drastically by the end of the war, as over 400 cargo ships had then been built in Canada. The Battle of the Atlantic was the only battle of the Second World War to reach North American shores (with the exception of the Alaskan Aleutian Island invasion by the Japanese). U-boats entered into battle in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and between May 1942 and November 1944 they sunk several merchant ships and 3 Canadian warships. Even though the Canadian casualties were high, the Battle of the St. Lawrence was considered a victory for Canada as they were ultimately able to disrupt U-boat operations and protect their convoys.
For the ceremony here in Victoria, our Canadian Forces members stood in formation on the lawn of the Legislature while a parade including more service members, cadets, veteran flag bearers and the Naden band approached via Government St. Veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic performed readings followed by a wreath laying ceremony. The pouring rain and chilly temperatures were a challenge, but as Rear-Admiral Truelove pointed out, the men and women who fought the Battle of the Atlantic suffered much worse conditions and a couple of hours of rain were the least of our troubles.
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