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Canada and World War 2

Canadians at Sea
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In 1942, Britain, as an island, was in grave danger. 50 million could not live, let alone fight, without supplies from outside. The job of the naval, and air, forces was to make sure that these supplies made it across the Atlantic safely.

The task of crossing the Atlantic Ocean with supplies for Britain was not an easy one. German submarines were unseen in the water. Many German submarine crews called the first few months of the war the "Happy Times" because they sank the Allied ships so easily. Cargo ships were being sunk at a rate of 20 per week, plus the Germans built 8 submarines for every 1 that they lost!

corvette.jpg
A Corvette during WWII

The RCN (Royal Canadian Navy) was a small force at the beginning of World War II with only 11 ships and 20 000 personnel, but by the end of the war Canada had the third largest navy with 400 ships and 113 000 personnel! Fifty or sixty ships would travel across the Atlantic in convoys. Many of these convoys were escorted by three or four corvettes (a fast, small vessel which accompanied supply ships). By the end of WWII, the RCN hadd escorted over 25 000 supply ships to Britain.

The contribution of the sailors on convoys has often been overlooked. They suffered some of the greatest losses during the war. When one of their ships was torpedoed, convoys had to go on and could not afford to stop and help survivors. Even in Canadian waters, the sailors were at risk. In 1942, German submarines came up alone the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and torpedoed 19 ships and 2 naval escorts. That same year another German submarine torpedoed a Newfoundland carferry, killing 136 people.

In 1942, the Allies lost 1164 ships. In the last 4 months of 1944, however, only 24 ships were lost, but the Germans lost 55 Submarines. The tide had clearly turned.

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Created by Sarah Lucas. Final History Assignment 2005-2006.