We are banded as shipmates

We are banded as shipmates

MARPAC Colleagues and Shipmates,

The May 6, 2018, Battle of the Atlantic Sunday is fast approaching and represents the 73rd Anniversary of Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic.

It also represents the longest campaign of the Second World War to which the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) provided the first immediate response and overseas deployment of forces for Canada.

First into action were two West Coast destroyers, HMC Ships St. Laurent and Fraser, who sailed from Esquimalt Sept. 1, 1939, to form the backbone of the convoy escort force gathering in the Atlantic.

Alongside Remembrance Day, this is the RCN’s most sanctified and reverent occasion to remember and acknowledge the battle and the terrible human cost it exacted on all sides.

It is a time to celebrate the all-volunteer force of young Canadians who rose up, stepped forward, and answered the call to duty despite knowing those costs. 

Beyond the big narratives, tactics and numbers normally associated with the study of a battle, even we who answer the call of duty today can still find it hard to comprehend the enormity of what it must have meant to the over 100,000 young Canadians of the RCN, RCAF, and Merchant Marine who put aside their lives and willingly went forward into battle.

What they did, and how they did it, is the great legacy we all carry on today, as the RCN remains a strong and capable volunteer force ready to answer the nation’s call. 

The sea is a great equalizer, and we all know how when you slip the lines and proceed to sea, we all share the same risks, challenges, and dependence on each other, like few other teams do, until we make it back safely alongside to our loved ones. 

Such an experience and legacy knows no mess deck divisions.

So this year, it has been decided that we should mark the Battle of the Atlantic weekend together, young and old, junior and senior, serving and retired, kicking off in the grandest of traditions with a combined mess dinner on Friday May 4. 

As sea-going professionals, it will easily resonate with all of us that underneath the great events of the history books, at the coal-face they were all sailors like us who worked hard and played hard while meeting their great duty. 

They fought the sea respectfully, they fought the enemy bravely, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice.

But they also bonded as shipmates, sailed the world, had grand adventures in foreign ports, and, on occasion, perhaps endured a Captain’s Table. Change the names and dates and I bet many of our own stories would be the same, and we all benefit from sharing these dits (stories).

Rear-Admiral Art McDonald
Commander Maritime Forces Pacific
Royal Canadian Navy

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