Ottawa – Every year, in September, Canadians honour the dedication, bravery, and personal sacrifice of the 12,000 men and women who served in Canada’s Merchant Navy during the Second World War.
The Merchant Navy was a vital lifeline and played a decisive role in the Allied war effort throughout the Battle of the Atlantic — the longest continuous battle of the Second World War beginning on the opening day of the war in September 1939 and ending almost six years later with Germany’s surrender in May 1945. Merchant mariners crewed the vessels that carried essential personnel, equipment, and supplies all over the globe while relentlessly pursued by enemy U-Boats. Over 25,000 of these dangerous voyages were completed by our ships throughout the Second World War.
The Allied convoys were guarded, in part, by escorts from the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force. At great cost, they defended the slow-moving merchant vessels and their vital cargoes from attack. Despite these valiant efforts, by the time peace had been declared, nearly 1,600 of Canada’s merchant mariners had been killed or lost to the sea. This amounts to an appalling rate of loss of approximately one in eight, among the Canadians who served onboard these crucial ships.
This year is also the 80th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Caribou on October 14, 1942. The passenger ferry was sunk by a German submarine causing the worst loss of life in Canadian waters during the Second World War. The namesake of the Royal Canadian Navy’s second Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, Margaret Brooke, a Royal Canadian Navy Nursing Sister, was decorated for gallantry for her actions in the wake of the torpedoing and subsequent sinking of the SS Caribou.
We remember the sacrifices made by Canada’s Merchant mariners, and the ultimate price so many of them paid during the costliest war in history.
“Today, we remember the 12,000 Canadians that served in Canada’s Merchant Navy during the Second World War’s Battle of the Atlantic. They fought unimaginable danger, and through their courage, completed 25,000 passages of vital supplies in often treacherous conditions across the Atlantic Ocean. We remember the brave souls that participated in the effort, and those who did not make it home. Their contributions were a vital part of the Allied victory.” – Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
“Canada’s Merchant Navy was a lifeline through the Allied war effort. Their service to Canadians cannot be overstated nor can the bravery of the sailors that risked such dangerous waters to supply the war effort. Today, we remember them, their bravery and their contribution to the Canada of today” – Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence