SOME NAVAL HISTORY
Canada's Naval role in World War II was significant, particularly in the Battle of the Atlantic. Starting from a small base of ships and personnel and an infrastructure of meagre proportions, Canada became one of the foremost allied powers in the Atlantic war. By 1942, Canada was able to carry a major share of the defence of North American waters and at the same time was Britain's principal partner in the defence of trans-ocean convoys. By 1944, Canada's forces had developed the strength and capapbility to assume, as well, a significant share in other theatres of the war.
Canada's Merchant Navy Veterans bore much of the brunt of the Atlantic war. Many of the sailors aboard merchant marine vessels had survived the mines and submarines of the First World War and chose to sail again, some 20 years later. They sometimes sailed in rusty old tramps,, but more often in highly flammable oil tankers or in freighters loaded with ammunition. With each voyage the odds of survival seemed to grow longer. Still, voyage after voyage, men who had been torpedoed or had seen ships go down about them sailed again and again. During World War II, the Canadian Merchant Navy lost 73 merchant ships and 1,578 civilian crewmen.
The most important achievement of the Atlantic War were the 25,343 merchant ship voyages made from North American ports to British ports under the escort of Canadian warships. These vessels delivered 164,783,921 tonnes of cargo to sustain the United Kingdom and make possible the liberation of Europe. In addition, Canadian warships escorted convoys of merchant ships to Murmansk, Russia. In the process of all this, Canadian warships and aircraft sank, or shared in the destruction, of 50 German U-boats.
Beginning the war with only 13 ships and 3500 personnel, the Royal Canadian Navy grew to become the third largest Navy in the world. At war's end, the RCN comprised 373 fighting ships and over 110,000 Naval service personnel, including 7,000 women who served in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, commonly referred to as The Wrens. The principal Canadian anti-submarine forces included destroyers, corvettes, frigates and minesweepers. All but a handful of these ships were built in Canada, an accomplishment of critical importance to the Allied cause. The number of ships that poured from Canada's shipyards during the war was extraordinary. In fact, it was described by an official of the British Ministry of War Transport as "remarkable", "astonishing" and "magnificent".
The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (Wrens) was created in 1942. 7,000 young women joined the Wrens and made a significant contribution in the struggle to win the War. Wrens served in such capacities as telegraph operator, supply assistant, writer, sick bay attendant, plotter and cook. Over 1,000 Canadian Wrens served overseas and nearly 500 served in Newfoundland.
With Canada's expanded participation in the War there was a very high cost. More than 2,000 members of the Royal Canadian Navy were killed in all theatres of the war. During the war Canada lost 24 warships, with most of the losses coming as a result of German U-boat attacks. The Canadian warships lost were as follows:
HMCS Fraser, Destroyer, June 25, 1940
HMCS Bras d'Or Minesweeper, October 19, 1940
HMCS Margaree, Destroyer, October 22, 1940
HMCS Otter, Armed Yacht, March 26, 1941
HMCS Levis, Corvette, September 19, 1941
HMCS Windflower, Corvette, December 7, 1941
HMCS Spikenard, Corvette, February 10, 1942
HMCS Raccoon, Armed Yacht, September 7, 1942
HMCS Charlottetown Corvette, September 11, 1942
HMCS Ottawa, Destroyer, September 13, 1942
HMCS Louisburg, Corvette, February 6, 1943
HMCS Weyburn, Corvette, February 22, 1943
HMCS St. Croix, Destroyer, September 20, 1943
HMCS Chedabucto, Minesweeper, October 21, 1943
HMCS Athabaskan, Destroyer, April 29, 1944
HMCS Valleyfield, Frigate, May 7, 1944
HMCS Regina, Corvette, August 8, 1944
HMCS Alberni, Corvette. August 21, 1944
HMCS Skeena, Destroyer, October 25, 1944
HMCS Shawinigan, Corvette, November 25, 1944
HMCS Clayoquot, Minesweeper, December 24, 1944
HMCS Trentonian, Corvette, February 22, 1945
HMCS Guysborough, Minesweeper, March 17, 1945
HMCS Esquimalt, Minesweeper, April 16. 1945
The RCNA PRAYER
As we stand here safe and free,
We wonder why 'twas meant to be
That men should die for you and me.
On all the oceans, white caps flow.
They don't have crosses row on row.
But they who sleep beneath the sea,
Rest in peace, 'cause we are free.