By Greg Cur­tis

RCN News - - Front Page -

(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.

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