Each year, traditionally on the first Sunday in May, Canada's maritime community pays tribute to the courageous Canadians who joined with the Allies during the Second World War to fight - and win - the Battle of the Atlantic. They did so against tremendous odds in the face of a determined foe and harsh elements.
On the 3rd of September 1939, the ATHENIA was sunk off the coast ofNorthern Ireland. One week later, we were officially at war. From thatday until the last of the German U-Boats surrendered after V-E Day, inMay of 1945, the Allied navies could not for a moment relax theirvigilance. The Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force andthe Merchant Navy fought a war that was as unforgiving as the NorthAtlantic spray is sharp.
The success of the Allied forces in Europe depended on convoys crossingthe Atlantic, carrying personnel and material. Allied nations dependedon the convoys for the food, medicines and raw materials necessary tosustain life.
Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force, and Merchant Navypersonnel endured bitter weather, tumultuous seas and a relentlesspursuit and attack by enemy submarines and warplanes to ensure the safepassage of the Atlantic convoys. The intensity of the battle can begauged from the loss of a 10,000 ton Allied ship every ten hours eachday of July 1942. The Royal Canadian Navy and the Merchant Service madenearly 26,000 safe crossings, carrying over 181 million tons of suppliesto Great Britain.
Once again we salute those who served in our Navy, our maritime Air Forces and in the Merchant Navy and we mourn those who paid the ultimateprice for freedom on or over the seas from 1939 to 1945.
The cost of Canada's victory in the Battle of the Atlantic was significant: our Navy lost 24 warships and 2210 of its members paid with their lives. Our colleagues in the Merchant Navy saw 76 Canadian owned or Canadian flagged vessels sunk, with the loss of more than 1700 of their own. Not to be forgotten are more than 900 members from the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force who also paid the price of freedom with their lives. Included in the Air Forces losses were some 350 aircraft from 19 participating squadrons.
In our Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration service, we pay solemn tribute to the Men and women who paid the ultimate price and keep the memory of them alive. It is important for us to preserve their legacy and pass it on to the next generation. They must never be forgotten. What they won is everything we enjoy today.