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Royal Canadian Navy Commemorates 79th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic

Canadians and sailors from coast to coast to coast commemorated the 79th anniversary of the end of action in the Battle of the Atlantic and the sacrifices of the thousands of Canadians who fought valiantly from 1939 to 1945 during the longest campaign of the Second World War.

Each year on the first Sunday in May, sailors from Canadian Forces Bases Halifax in Nova Scotia and Esquimalt in British Columbia, and the 24 Naval Reserve Divisions across Canada commemorate the sailors, merchant sailors, and aviators who perished at sea during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Fought largely by reservists in small ships built in Canada and operating from Canadian bases, the task of defending North Atlantic trade routes against indiscriminate submarine attacks, defined a naval role for Canada within a much larger alliance. After 1945, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) became one of the best anti-submarine warfare navies in the world due, in part, to maritime aviation capabilities.

“The Battle of the Atlantic was the largest and longest battle of the Second World War – and arguably the most important as it was the critical enabler to victory in Europe. It is also the battle in which the war came to Canada with many ships sunk within sight of our shores, right up to the war’s very end. Seventy-nine years later, the Battle of the Atlantic reminds us of the necessity of naval forces that are ready to defend all three of our oceans while helping to keep the global maritime commons safe for all to use sustainably. In addition to the sacrifices made by sailors and merchant sailors during the battle, we celebrate the centennial of the Royal Canadian Air Force and emphasize the vital role performed by the RCAF and Fleet Air Arm in the Atlantic theatre and their major contribution to our shared victory.”

Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy


  • The Battle of the Atlantic began on September 3, 1939, with the sinking of the SS Athenia by German submarine U-30. Allied forces fought for control of the North Atlantic Ocean to supply the war effort from 1939 to 1945, making this the longest campaign of the Second World War.
  • The RCN grew from a mere 6 destroyers and 3,500 personnel in 1939, to 373 fighting ships and more than 100,000 sailors by War’s end – one of the largest navies in the world.
  • Our sailors and aviators sank or shared in the destruction of some 50 U-boats while they escorted approximately 25,000 merchant ships who delivered more than 165 million tonnes of life and war-sustaining cargo to Europe.
  • Throughout the Battle of the Atlantic, 24 Canadian of the 175 Allied warships were lost, and 2,600 merchant ships, including 62 Canadian vessels, also met the same fate.
  • More than 2,700 personnel from the RCAF and the RCN, and 1,600 Canadian merchant sailors, lost their lives in this battle.

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