This Week in History
The Battle of the Atlantic - War on the Homefront
For the week of Monday September 12, 2005
On September 16, 1939, two weeks after the initial outbreak of the Second World War, the first North Atlantic Convoy set sail from Halifax, Nova Scotia. This port would come to play an integral role in what Sir Winston Churchill named “The Battle of the Atlantic.”
Supply lines from continental Europe were cut off by the German occupation of major ports, so Great Britain became dependent on North America for many essential supplies. German U-boats, travelling in groups or wolf-packs, were a great threat to the allied shipping operations that delivered these supplies. The Allied nations adopted a convoy system to protect the valuable shipping industry.
Convoys travelling across the North Atlantic came from the eastern seaboard of the United States or from Montréal and Québec City up the St. Lawrence River, and assembled at either Halifax or Sydney, Nova Scotia. A convoy generally consisted of approximately thirty ships arranged in five or six parallel rows extending about 1.6 km across. The more sensitive cargo such as ammunition, fuel and soldiers were placed at the centre of the formation and the less valuable raw materials were placed on the outer reaches. The convoys would have armed escorts to neutralize and fend off attacks by the German U-boats. These escorts often took the form of Canadian built and manned Corvettes.
For its importance in the development of our armed forces, and in recognition of our contribution to the allied victory, the Battle of the Atlantic was designated a National Historic Event in 2000.
For more information, please visit the Veterans’ Affairs Web site commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
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