The Battle of the Atlantic (1940–1943)

Although the waters of the Atlantic witnessed many a naval battle throughout the Second World War, the longest and most important, the Battle of the Atlantic, reached its height between 1940 and 1943, pitting the Allies against the German navy and its formidable fleet of submarines, known as U-boats.

$90 Killed this U-BOAT! War savings stamps drive, 1943.

$90 Killed this U-BOAT! War savings stamps drive, 1943. Source

The Battle of the Atlantic’s crucial struggle was to protect the convoys of merchant ships against enemy German naval forces, which tried to block their way. Most of these convoys set out from North American ports and were bound for Great-Britain.

Convoy in the Bedford Basin, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 1, 1942.

Convoy in the Bedford Basin, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 1, 1942. Source

The Battle of the Atlantic saw U-boats penetrate deep into Canadian waters: the Royal Canadian Navy was actively involved in the battle, fighting fiercely to protect its merchant navy.

Freighter SS ROSE CASTLE, in convoy, torpedoed by U-boat, November 2, 1942, near Wabana, Newfoundland.

Freighter SS ROSE CASTLE, in convoy, torpedoed by U-boat, November 2, 1942, near Wabana, Newfoundland. Source

However, despite all efforts, enemy forces sunk over 70 merchant vessels, claiming the lives of over 1,600 Canadian crew members. Nevertheless, the Allies are considered to have prevailed in the Battle of the Atlantic since the Germans failed to stem the flow of merchant shipping convoys bound for Great Britain, which helped provide the supplies essential to the allied victory. Be sure to visit the Canadian War Museum for more information about this Second World War battle.

The Royal Canadian Navy’s contribution to this effort is well documented in the collection of Library and Archives Canada. Some suggestions and references for further research are provided below.

Since most convoys setting out from Canada departed from Halifax harbour, a large volume of records were produced by the Naval Control Service in Halifax. Documents available for consultation include the following:

Please visit our Flickr album for more photographs.

5 thoughts on “The Battle of the Atlantic (1940–1943)

  1. Pingback: Battle of the Atlantic (1940-1943) | Doc Alexander

  2. Hello,

    I recently ordered a genealogy package for a service member who died in WWII. I did not see a general waiting period on the website, but someone who ordered a package said it could take up to six to eight months; that was in 2011. Has the waiting list changed at all?

    Thank you.

    • Unfortunately, we are still experiencing delays in handling requests such as yours. We regret this delay and would like to assure you that we are making every effort to address this backlog and process requests in a timely manner. Your request will be processed in due course. If you have any other questions about the status of your genealogy package, we suggest you contact ATIP and Personnel Records via email: ATIPD@bac-lac.gc.ca, or by phone: 613-996-5115 or 1 866 578-7777 (toll free in Canada and in the United States).

  3. My brother was a merchant marine soldier passed away almost ten years ago just looking through his old mail i found stamps really hundreds of them the Battle of the Atlantic 1943 stamped across the center took my eye I would like to know of anyone who I should see about all stamp not sure if I can insure his artifacts

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