Cadet squadron crest pays tribute to bomber crews
When two Cansos from Gander blunted a U-boat attack on Feb. 24, 1943, it was the overture to the turn of the tide in the North Atlantic.
All the while, RCN and Royal Navy sailors were toughing it out in the corvettes, serviceable ships resembling whalers and only twothirds the size of destroyers. They were so low in the water and so perpetually drenched that the men joked they deserved submariners pay.
The naval base at St. John’s, code-named HMCS Avalon, was already “the most important Canadian naval base” along the “Newfy” to Derry run (Paul Collins, Front Lines of Defence).
In the air, the RCAF kept beefing up its con- voy screen and implementing better sub-hunting techniques. Squadron leader B.H. Moffitt’s sinking of U-630 in a Canso bomber out of Gander on May 4, 1943 was a parade example.
Flight Lieutenant Fisher, returning to Gander after escorting Winston Churchill in HMS Renown from the Quebec Conference, sank U341 in an opportune encounter.
Technology was making the difference. At sea, as 1943 moved along, escort vessels were equipped with better detection equipment, improved asdic, “huff-duff ” (High Frequency/Direction Finding), and sidefiring as well as back-firing depth charges. The new B-24 Liberators out of Argentia sported better homing torpedoes and the ability to work at night.
But losses were still heavy — 22 RCN ships went down all told. Victory at sea would never come cheaply.
The Gander Aviation Museum displays a Hudson bomber as one of its leitmotifs. And who could have thought that those spacious airfields built to win the Battle of the Atlantic would be home to thousands of stranded passengers on Sept. 11, 2001?
Air Cadet Squadron 589 in Carbonear sports a distinctive unit crest that shows a Hudson Bomber over Carbonear Island. It honours the men who flew them as well as recalling the squadron’s first commanding officer, RCAF veteran Hudson Davis. Canada’s peacekeeping forces of the 1950s and 1960s drew very much upon the confidence gained along the Western Atlantic. Sheer guts of the merchant marine The merchant marine perhaps deserves double honour in that they possessed scanty means of fighting back against the U-boat peril.
Admiral-historian Samuel Eliot Morison paid all of them this tribute: “The patriotism, the energy, and the sheer guts that kept these men of the merchant marine, and of the three escorting navies, to their allotted tasks is beyond all praise” (The Battle of the Atlantic, page 344).
Beyond all praise. So be it, lest we forget.