Canada in the Second World War


Admiral L.W. Murray

Leonard Warren Murray, born in Granton, Nova Scotia, on June 22nd , 1896; died in Derbyshire, Great-Britain, on November 25th, 1971. Officer of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

 On 29 July 1942, Rear Admiral L.W. Murray is presenting awards to crew members of destroyer HMCS St. Croix, which sank enemy submarine U-90 on 24 July 1942.

On 29 July 1942, Rear Admiral L.W. Murray is presenting awards to crew members of destroyer HMCS St. Croix, which sank enemy submarine U-90 on 24 July 1942.
Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-037456.

Murray entered the recently founded Halifax Royal Naval College when he was 15-year old. Two years later he was appointed as midshipman on a Royal Navy vessel, the first of a long series of British ships on which he served during WWI and between the two world wars.

When WWII breaks out, Murray becomes Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff and holds highly important commands throughout the war. Promoted to Commodore, he is put in charge of the Newfoundland Escort Force (NEF) on May 31st, 1941, to be reorganized in February 1942 as the Mid-Ocean Escort Force (MOEF).

With the rationalization of the Atlantic Command, Murray is made a Rear Admiral and, on April 30th, 1943, Commander-in-Chief Canadian Northwest Atlantic. From his HQ in Halifax he commands all Canadian and Allied air and naval forces involved in convoy protection in that area. He was the only Canadian officer in charge of an Allied theatre of operations during WWII.

Murray was blamed for his failure to curb the excesses of Canadian sailors celebrating V-Day in Halifax; bitter, he decides to resign his command before the expiry of his term. The Royal Canadian Navy lost an outstanding officer, a man highly regarded by his peers and loved by the men under his command.

L.W. Murray left Canada for Great Britain in September 1945. He was called to the British Bar in 1949.

Except for the few months at sea in Assiniboine, my war work was a solid slog, mostly at a desk, averaging 15 hours a day with frequently a full 24. My job was to obtain the greatest possible result from relatively inexperienced personnel. There was little opportunity for anyone to step on another’s toes. They were spread too thinly and there was a more responsible job for each as soon as he felt confident of his ability to take it on. In the autumn of 1941 young volunteer reserve officers who had never seen salt water before the war took command of corvettes manned by 88 men—the number of white and black keys on a piano and each with his own peculiar note—and took their full part in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Experience had taught me this: to find out what you’re capable of, it is only necessary to get a chance to do it—and someone else must have enough confidence in you to provide that chance. In my dealings with the young RCNVR captains I did my best to give them the opportunity to find their own feet and they did it. Once having tasted success they never looked back. What a blessing that we had the bright young peoples to accept this kind of responsibility.
– Rear-Admiral L.W. Murray