The first Sunday in May each year commemorates the end of the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest, most unforgiving campaign of World War II.
It is to those sailors of the navy and merchant marine who sailed on the stern and unremitting waters of the Atlantic, into the dangers of the enemy that we owe so much today.
This year will mark the 69th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic. The Comox Valley Branch of the Royal Canadian Naval Association will commemorate this occasion with a Memorial Service at its cairn in Comox Marina Park at 1 p.m.
There is an open invite to the public to attend the service, which will culminate with an informal gathering at the Comox Legion.
From Sept. 3, 1939 through May 8, 1945 a continuous flow of war materials was maintained between North America and the United Kingdom by the convoy system. “Fast” convoys could cross the Atlantic in 13-14 days, while the slow convoys took 16-17 days. Between the threat of enemy submarines, and the unpredictable weather of the North Atlantic, each trip could be a nerve-wracking experience.
Many of the escort vessels were Corvettes, small vessels which, were said, would roll on a wet blotter, and were uncomfortable and often wet below decks.
In heavy seas, the mess decks where the crew lived could have several inches of water slopping around. This resulted in constantly wet clothing and bedding, (hammocks). Food was prepared in the galley aft and had to be carried forward along the open upper deck to the mess deck, forever resulting in cold meals.
Sailors of the Merchant navy faced many of the same perils as those of the Navy, but had their own problems, including sailing on ships full of high octane gasoline or ammunition. Some of the vessels used were not even designed for ocean crossing.
Although conditions were trying, these young men achieved results of which this nation can be proud. We should not allow the sacrifices of these young men to be forgotten. Without their contribution, the freedom that we take for granted could have been lost.
Let us remember the ships, officers and men of the Royal Canadian Navy lost during the Battle of the Atlantic.