75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic

November 14, 2019 – On May 3rd, 2020 services and branches across Canada and internationally will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of action in the Battle of the Atlantic. This significant milestone provides Canadians and the world an opportunity to commemorate our navy’s proud past while celebrating its bright future.

Canada’s proud naval and maritime history could not be better represented than by Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) successes in the Battle of the Atlantic. For this reason, the annual celebration of naval and maritime service takes its name. Of course, the annual Battle of the Atlantic celebrations are far broader in scope, inclusive of the great people-delivered successes that populate our now 109-year (110 years in 2020) RCN history.

The Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continuous battle of the Second World War, raged from 1939 to 1945 and was and one in which Canada played a central role. During those 2,075 days, over 70,000 Allied sailors, merchant mariners, and airmen lost their lives, including 4,600 Canadians.

HMCS Haida and HMCS Athabaskan, two of the four obsolete destroyers ordered by VADM Percy Nelles for the RCN.

Canada entered the battle with six destroyers and 3,500 sailors, one third of which were reservists, and less than 40 merchant vessels. A massive ship building effort resulted in Canada fielding one of the largest navies in the world with over 400 warships, 400 merchant vessels, 95,000 sailors, including 6,000 members of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, and employing 12,600 civilians in industry by the end of the war.

Over 25,000 voyages were made during the war. The price of victory, when paid in full, cost the RCN 33 warships and over 2,000 lives, the Royal Canadian Air Force 350 aircraft and over 900 lives, and the Merchant Navy of Canada 73 ships and over 1,700 lives. One in seven serving in the Battle of the Atlantic, either at sea or in the air, lost their lives, the highest percentage of casualties across the Canadian Armed Forces.

The first Sunday of May is the traditional collective opportunity to honor all those that made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of Canada and its interests in the North Atlantic. This year, in an effort to enhance our collective memory and to create a greater awareness of the important role Canada’s navy played in shaping our nation’s identity, events will occur throughout 2020.

HMCS Moncton and Regina are honoring ships of the period and have been painted in a Second World War Admiralty Disruptive camouflage paint scheme. Sometimes colloquially referred to as ‘dazzle paint’, the heritage paint scheme is a poignant reminder of our naval history and a silent recognition to our shipmates both past and present.

Formal services will be held at monuments, memorials, and naval facilities across Canada on Sunday, May 3, 2020. Every Canadian is invited to attend a parade and take the time to reflect upon the sacrifices made by those before us.

While the RCN commemorates the efforts and sacrifices of all who served in this grueling conflict, it also takes the opportunity to salute those who served in the 75 years since the battle ended as well as those who continue to serve all across the Canadian Armed Forces today.

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