The Ministers of Veterans Affairs and National Defence mark Merchant Navy Veterans Day and the anniversary of the Beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic


Ottawa, ON – The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement today to mark Merchant Navy Veterans Day and the Beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic:

“The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest military engagement of the Second World War, lasting from September 1939 until May 1945. It was not only a struggle by Allied sailors and airmen against German U-boats and surface vessels, but also against the cold and unforgiving waters of the North Atlantic.

“In flammable tankers and slow-moving freighters laden with food, ammunition and other important supplies, the sailors of the Merchant Navy put their lives on the line sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. By the end of the Second World War, more than 25,000 merchant ship voyages had been made from North American to British ports under the escort of Canadian forces. These ships delivered roughly 165 million tonnes of supplies, providing a vital lifeline for Great Britain and fuelling the eventual liberation of Western Europe.

“Providing these supplies was a perilous task, enemy U-boats often attacked allied convoys in ‘wolf-packs’, surfacing when it was dark to torpedo merchant ships in a coordinated attack. At their peak, the Germans had some 300 submarines to turn against Allied shipping.

“However, the U-boat threat was eventually countered as the war wore on. Alongside our allies, both the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force were able to do so by way of more and better equipment, improved training and tactics, and reliable intelligence throughout the Second World War. The combined allied sea and air defenses did their utmost to tenaciously hunt the U-boats that threatened the Allied convoys.

“The courage of the Canadians and Newfoundlanders who braved the North Atlantic to help ensure Great Britain remained supplied throughout the war is reflected in the continued tradition of service by today’s Canadian Armed Forces. We will continue to honour those who have served, both past and present.

“Lest we forget.”

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Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada

Alex Wellstead
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

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