Royal Canadian Legion member Al McRae distributes traditional navy tots of rum at last year’s Battle of the Atlantic service in Qualicum Beach.

Battle of the Atlantic remembered in Lantzville

Legions, veterans and dignitaries gather in Lantzville May 3 to commemorate the longest sustained battle in Canadian history

Veterans will gather May 3 to mark the 70th anniversary of The Battle of the Atlantic, the longest battle in Canadian history, in which more than 3,600 Canadian lives were lost.

“We lost a lot of sailors, and it was Canadian technology that clobbered the hell out of the German U-boats,” said past Parksville Legion president Dave Doskoch of the Second World War’s north Atlantic battle.

“The Americans were so concerned with Japan they focused on the west coast and a lot of people didn’t realize there where U-boats (submarines) right off the U.S. east coast,” he said of its importance.

The effort was mostly about escorting merchant ships across the north Atlantic to sustain the U.K. as the one foothold against Hitler in Europe.

The Royal Canadian Navy entered the war in 1939 with just 10 large ships and 3,684 personnel, but by the end in 1945 they’d leapt to a strength of 378 ships with more than 95,000 personnel while Canada’s shipping industry also ballooned, building 175 large merchant ships in less than six years.

Both navy and civilian losses were huge and the air force, which was bombing the U-boats, also suffered heavy losses. Over 100,000 people were lost in the north Atlantic overall.

“The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. “Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome.”

And so legions and veterans in Parksville Qualicum Beach have been gathering to mark the anniversary for ten years and this year they are expanding and will hold the ceremony at the new cenotaph in Lantzville along with the Nanaimo Legion.

With five Legions taking part, the ceremony will start in Huddlestone Park, just up the road from the legion on Lantzville Road where representatives of the navy, air force, merchant navy and army veterans will mark the occasion similar to Remembrance Day, said Doskoch.

Participants “will present a wreath to the Ocean” and be invited back to the Lantzville Legion for a hot toddy.

The event starts at 11 a.m. sharp, Sunday, May 3, people should get there early to get a seat.

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