Ministers MacAulay and Sajjan commemorate Merchant Navy Veterans Day and the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic


Ottawa, ON – The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, released the following statement to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic as well as Merchant Navy Veterans Day:

“The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest military engagement of the Second World War. From September 1939 until May 1945, the Allies fought Nazi Germany for control of the vital North Atlantic shipping lanes which were crucial to the success of the Allied war effort. On September 4th, 1939, Merchant Navy sailor Hannah Baird became the first known Canadian casualty of the war. She lost her life when the British passenger liner SS Athenia was sunk by a German U-boat while enroute to Montreal.

“Allied merchant vessels sailed from North America to Britain, laden with food, ammunition and other supplies the United Kingdom needed to continue the fight against the enemy. Throughout the nearly six-year conflict, German U-boats stalked Allied convoys, often hunting in groups known as wolf-packs..

“These convoys were defended by Allied naval and air escorts, including those of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. In June 1944 Flight Lieutenant David Hornell earned the Victoria Cross posthumously for his great bravery in sinking a German U-boat north of the Shetland Islands.

“By the end of the war more than 25,000 trans-Atlantic merchant ship voyages, transporting approximately 165 million tonnes of cargo, had been completed under the escort of Canadian forces.

“Lest we forget.”

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Media Relations
Veterans Affairs Canada

John Embury
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Media Relations
Department of National Defence

Todd Lane
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of National Defence

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