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.
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.
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.
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:
- Naval Control Service Officer, Halifax—Correspondence and returns re rescue ships, convoys, etc.1941–1945
- Naval Control Service Officer, Halifax—Reports of trips in convoys, etc.
- Information about multiple convoys on microfilm: Convoy Reports of Proceedings (c. 1939–1945)
- File produced by the Royal Canadian Navy between 1943 and 1944 — Comments on The Operation and Performance of HMC Ships, Establishment and Personnel in the Battle of the Atlantic (1943–1944)
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