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European Tensions | War | Mobilization | Poland - France | Battle of Britain | Dieppe | Battle of the North Atlantic | Training the Empire | The Pacific | Quebec Conference | Hong Kong | Home Front | Italy | Conscription | Normandy | France | Netherlands | Germany

The Battle of the North Atlantic was the longest battle of the Second World War and possibly the most decisive of the conflict. It was also a battle in which Canada was not only one of the main combatants but it stretched deep into Canadian territory and impacted the homeland directly.

After Britain's European allies had fallen to the power of Germany's Blitzkrieg, the island nation was reduced to dependence upon the sea lanes which reached around the world to it's empire supporters and to neutral countries such as the U.S. which were essential to England's survival.

Germany's First World War strategy of using U-Boats to cut Britain off from these lifelines was improved and extended when the war did not come to Hitler's expected quick end after the fall of France. The battle began explosively with the sinking of allied shipping b the U-boats and the hunting of those U-boats by allied war ships.

In September of 1939 as war broke out, the Canadian Navy had only 13 ship with 1,819 sailors. The Canadian navy was expanded quickly and training of the naval personal stepped up to meet unquenchable demands. By December 1941 the Canadian Navy had more the 27,000 sailors in service in the North Atlantic, The German U-boats were quickly sinking allied ships and in the first year of this battle, over 1000 merchant ships were sunk by German U-boats. This was to be a battle marked by scientific advances. Both sides vied with one another to gain an edge in this gigantic struggle. From radar, to better ships to better electric batteries on the U-boats, to the breaking of the German code, it was a seesaw contest. When the U.S. entered the war in December of 1941 an additional effort was made to go after the U-boats.

In order to provide more protect for the allied convoys, Canada embarked on a crash program of building corvettes which were small then a destroyer but effective at finding and destroying U-Boats. By January of 1942 it looked as though the Germans were going to win the Battle of the North Atlantic as they were sinking more allied ships then could be built. In May 1942 the British broke the German naval code and were able to intercept u-boat and wolf pack attacks before they happened. As the addition of long range bombers and smaller aircraft carriers with air cover started to come on line the allies gained a little more space in the race to sink the u-boats before they got the merchant ships. In December 1942 the British broke another German code which enabled them to track the U-boats even more closely. The tide of battle was changing and the allies were now producing more ships then were being sunk and the U-boats were starting to experience severe loses.

Canada was providing half the escorts in service and the U-boat menace had begun to crumble by December of 1943. The battle was just about over and with the invasion of France in 1944 and the capturing of the U-boat bases on the French coast and the intense bombing of the U-Boat land bases, victory could be assured.

By 1945 the Canadian navy had over 400 ships and over 100,000 sailors in service. The Germans were defeated and the war was over in Europe. As the Canadian navy was beginning to reposition for the war in the Pacific the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan and the war came to an end in August of 1945.

 

 




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Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html