Battle of the Atlantic: Canada’s war at sea is a special collector’s edition of Canada’s Ultimate Story packed with compelling stories, stunning photos and detailed maps.
In September 1939, a U-boat attacked the British passenger ship SS Athenia—the first vessel sunk by Germany in the Second World War—and triggered an all-out sea war. The Royal Canadian Navy played a pivotal role in this critical campaign, which raged on open and treacherous seas from September 1939 to May 1945. “Battle of the Atlantic” takes you back to relive those events.
The western alliance was, from beginning to end, a maritime alliance. Britain and France, and later the United States, all depended on the use of the sea to muster and deploy resources on a global scale.
On the whole, submarines had things their way in the winter of 1940-41. Working in patrol lines and directed by excellent intelligence, U-boats hunted in packs. They swarmed the convoys, attacking on the surface at night, like motor-torpedo boats.
Virtually every Allied ship steaming between North America and the U.K. passed through the Canadian zone: 500-600 ships a month in 1942. The RCN quickly established convoys between Canadian ports and planned to institute them in the Saint. Lawrence River and the Gulf once the ice cleared.
Most Mid-Ocean Escort ships shifted to escorting convoys to North Africa for Operation Torch. In the winter of 1943, therefore, the North African route was the navy’s prime operational commitment, and the escorts were remarkably successful.
In late 1943, a wave of new construction of River-class frigates and improved corvettes was about to arrive. These eased anxiety about fleet modernization and provided the workhorses of the final stage of the war.