By Greg Curtis
(Cont’d from page 13) operational capability, affordability, and the cost and schedule risks associated with building the ship. The process was monitored by audit firm KPMG, as an independent third-party. First Marine International, a recognized firm of shipbuilding experts, provided ship construction costing expertise. Two viable ship design options were commissioned for the Joint Support Ships: an existing design and a new design by BMT Fleet Technology.
Canada will provide the design to Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd., to review in preparation for actual production. The Joint Support Ships will supply deployed Naval Task Groups with fuel, ammunition, spare parts, food and water. They will also provide a home base for maintenance and operation of helicopters, a limited sealift capability, and support to forces
The Battle of Hastings. The Battle of Trafalgar. The Battle of Gettysburg. The Battle of Britain. These names come to mind when one thinks of great conflicts that changed the course of history: decisive victories for some -- crushing defeats for others.
But most civilians are not aware of The Battle of the Atlantic, a fight that does not belong to any one year. From the earliest days of World War II in 1939, until its wearied conclusion in 1945, the Royal Canadian Navy played a crucial role in protecting the vital supply route between Canada and her mother country.
In fact, the success of the Allies was dependent on Canada's ability to escort the Atlantic convoys. German subs preyed upon Allied merchant vessels in an effort to sever the lifelines to Britain, assuming -- correctly at first -that vessels off the coast of Canada would be poorly defended. But despite tremendous losses to both shipping and life, the Canadians persevered.
While the campaigns of Europe have been the subject of countless books, and events in the Pacific Ocean have been immortalized on film, the saga of combat in the Atlantic theatre has only a small share of the glory. Perhaps it is just too great a story to tell. Perhaps the players never felt a need for fame. After all, they were Canadians, and we have always been a humble people.
Yet, the battleground of the North Atlantic was grim, dangerous, and unforgiving. Aside from the constant threat of enemy attack, storms were often merciless, and navigation was difficult at best without the modern equipment we take for granted today. The conflict reached its climax in March of 1943; that month, 108 Allied ships were sent to the bottom. But just two months later, the tide of war began to turn in our favour -- 41 U-boats were sunk during May alone. Soon, torpedoings could no longer outpace the production of new ships, and in the spring of 1945 the Third Reich ceased hostilities in the region.
From a mere 13 vessels, the Royal Canadian Navy had grown throughout the course of the war to become a massive and significant force. By the time peace was declared, the RCN comprised 373 fighting ships and over 110,000 members, including 6,500 women who served in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service.
While lost ships can be replaced, the lives of the brave men and women who sailed into eternity cannot. They have no tombstone. There is no grave for their loved ones to visit. Now, nearly three-quarters of a century later, even their photographs and letters are crumbling with age. But time will never erase their memory, their principles, or their courage. Whenever the sun's rays greet the Atlantic's rolling waves, their spirits will continue to shine.