St. Lawrence Victory with Roger Sarty

| January 23, 2019

Juno Beach and Beyond
St. Lawrence Victory with Roger Sarty

The St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence have long been crucial waterways connecting central Canada to the Maritimes and Europe. In the Second World War, German submarines threatened this vital supply line, especially in late summer 1942. This was the year from hell for the Royal Canadian Navy. Although America’s entry into the war would eventually help the Allies achieve total victory it added further burdens to an already stretched fleet. Early accounts of the war in the St. Lawrence described an embarrassing Canadian defeat. In February 1972, The Canadian Magazine published an article describing it as “The Second World War battle we lost at home” and “the war story our leaders kept quiet”. Thirty years of research has shown that nothing could be further from the truth. The Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force mounted a successful defence despite restrictions imposed on two growing services locked in a global war. Furthermore, Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s government shared losses openly in order to galvanize support for their wartime policies.

The Battle of the St. Lawrence was the only battle of the 20th century to take place in Canadian boundaries. Furthermore, it was the only Second World War campaign totally under Canadian control. As our guest, Roger Sarty, notes, the campaign was crucial to supplying Britain and the Allied forces poised for the liberation of northwest Europe.

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Consolidated Canso or Catalina flying boat from the after deck of a Fairmile, showing the vessel’s twin .50 calibre machine guns and depth charges, at Gaspé, June 1943 (LAC, e010859223).

Time Stamps

4:01 Getting the Project Off the Ground

5:20 1942: The Year From Hell for the RCN

7:22 Building the RCN and RCAF, 1939-1942

9:19 The Shifting Priority of the St. Lawrence

11:45 Anti-Submarine Warfare Tactics and Equipment

18:05 The First Attacks in the St. Lawrence

19:00 On A Shoestring

26:11 Managing Public Opinion

28:50 The Decision to Close the St. Lawrence

32:13 The Tragedy of the SS Caribou

39:20 Into 1943 and 1944

43:32 Victory in the St. Lawrence

Guest Biography

Roger Sarty is professor of naval, military, and Canadian history at Wilfrid Laurier University. In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked on the official histories of the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy as an historian at the Department of National Defence. In the early 2000s, he played a managing role in the redesign of the current Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.


The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:


Submarines Attack in the St. Lawrence

The Battle of the Atlantic

Victory in the Atlantic

British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Squadron Leader Small’s Attack on U-754

Weapons & Formations




Fairmile Motor Launches



Anti-Submarine Detection

RCAF Home Defence


Admiral Percy W. Nelles

Rear-Admiral L.W. Murray

Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz

W.L. Mackenzie King

Winston Churchill

Franklin D. Roosevelt


Juno Beach & Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the centre’s Digital Projects Coordinator.

Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel:

Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel:

Female veteran’s voice (Eileen Green, née Short) Courtesy of The Memory Project, Historica Canada:

Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel:

Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel:

Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada |

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Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at

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