Juno Beach Centre | Canada in WWII
   Arms & Weapons
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At Sea

 Men and Women of the Royal Canadian Navy
 The Ships
 The Merchant Navy of Canada
 Convoys
 Anti-Submarine Detection

From the very first days of WWII, Germany and the Allies fought at sea. The control of the ocean routes that carried all kinds of supplies to Great Britain soon became one of the war's key issues: for six years, a desperate battle is fought in the Atlantic, as Allied navies try to protect merchant ships against Germany's formidable U-boats.

When France falls, Great Britain calls upon Canada; the Royal Canadian Navy undertakes a dramatic effort to increase its strength and efficiency. Within six years, it will become one of the world's most powerful navies.

Men and Women of the Royal Canadian Navy

In 1939 the Royal Canadian Navy does not have the strength that the upcoming war demands. Having recalled the Reserve, the RCN then launches a cautious recruiting campaign, to avoid attracting too many inexperienced men. But as the war situation worsens, the RCN finds itself facing a full-blown crisis, as it needs more men and more ships. Learn More

The Ships

The Merchant Navy of Canada

The Allies must urgently increase their fleets, as well as replace losses resulting from mines, torpedoes, encounters with enemy ships, aerial bombings, accidents and storms. The Royal Canadian Navy, which started the war with only 13 vessels, had 450 ships in all, plus many smaller auxiliary units, when WWII ended. Learn More

Historians have often highlighted the essential and dangerous role played by the officers and sailors of Canada's Merchant Navy during the Battle of the Atlantic. These men sailed across the ocean on defenceless, sometimes slow ships, stalked by enemy submarines. Learn More

Convoys

The convoy system had proven itself to be a valid concept during WWI. When the war broke out in September1939, shipping by convoys was rapidly organized. The first convoy, HX-1, sailed from Halifax on September 16th for an uneventful crossing. As war went on, convoys got to be more frequent and larger. The largest of all, HXS-300, was made up of 167 ships. Learn More
Anti-Submarine Detection
Between 1939 and 1943, German U-boats have a clear advantage over Allied escort ships. They can close in on convoys without being detected, fire torpedoes and escape without too much difficulty. To counter their devastating attacks, Allied scientists will develop underwater (ASDIC) or surface (radar) detection systems. Learn More