The Strathmore Legion held a memorial service for the 78th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic yesterday, which was the longest continuous battle of World War II.

Strathmore Legion President Donovan Arnaud explained the battle started on the first day of the war and continued until the very last, with the very first victim being a British liner torpedoed by a German submarine only 10 hours after the declaration of war.  Explaining that "every bit of naval warfare that occurred in the Atlantic during that period" is considered part of the Battle of the Atlantic, Arnaud said around 4400 Canadian and Newfoundland seaman, merchant mariners, and air force personnel lost their lives during the battle.

When most people think of notable WWII battles or moments, many point to very specific days, such as D-day for example. While these pivotal moments are without a doubt worth honouring and remembering, Arnaud believes it's also important to commemorate and remember the sacrifices that went into making those moments possible, such as the 6-year-long Battle of the Atlantic.

"Most people think of the invasion of Europe as all having occurred on June 6 (D-day). Well, that was just the beginning. If you go to Europe, just off the Normandy beach, you'll see the American cemetery. There are over 9000 soldiers buried there, many of whom were killed on the first day, but many, many more, 3/4 of them, maybe even more than that, died over the first two or three months of the effort to capture a beachhead and move all these armies into Europe. So when you look at the actual event, it occurred on a day but that was just the beginning of all of these things," Arnaud said.

The Battle of the Atlantic was mainly fought by the Canadian, American, and British navies, with some support from the Soviets as they all opposed German forces. However, Arnaud said the "King Kong" of the battle was the Merchant Navy.

"Without the Merchant Navy, World War II would have never happened, because you would never get all these soldiers over there, all that food, all that equipment, all that fuel, all that ammunition. The Merchant Navy were the real heroes, they were the target, and thousands of them died in trying to get all of this stuff over there and they were all civilians."

While the Battle of the Atlantic was fought by the Navy with the Merchant Navy being the key players, Arnaud added the air force also played a significant role in the Battle, as they would scan for German U-boats and bomb them once they surfaced. According to Arnaud, the U-boats modus operandi was to "run along the surface at a great rate of knots, and then as soon as they made contact with the ship, then they would submerge and come in and attack with torpedoes." In some situations, the U-boats may have let the civilians of the Merchant Navy escape on lifeboats before sinking the ship, if the Merchant Navy ship was not escorted by a military ship. 

Arnaud said in his experience, this is the first time the Strathmore Legion has held a memorial for the Battle of the Atlantic, but made sure to add this is not a definitive statement, as he wouldn't want to discredit any service that may have happened before that he is not aware of.  

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