Tradition returns to Battle of the Atlantic ceremony

A large crowd gathered under grey skies in Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park Sunday to mark 77-years since the historic Battle of the Atlantic.

Pomp and circumstance returned for this year’s ceremony after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

It was complete with the Stadacona Band of the Royal Canadian Navy, dignitaries, and a military fly-pass.

A Cyclone helicopter dropped a wreath just in front of Canada’s oldest warship, HMCS Sackville, as it conducted burials at sea just off-shore.

“Given the fact that we’re a few generations removed now, it is ever important to keep that history here, and make sure it doesn’t get lost in time,” said Master Sailor Kevin Dave.

It’s all part of a long-standing tradition in Halifax, marking the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War — the ships that sank — and the sacrifice of thousands of Canadians.

Throughout the battle from 1939 to 1945, 24 Canadian warships were lost. The human cost — more than 2,700 navy and air force and 1,600 Canadian Merchant Navy personnel died — according to a press release from the navy.

“It was such a huge sacrifice for Canada,” said Rear Admiral Brian Santarpia, the Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic. “And it means a lot to Canadian sailors to understand that we’re part of a legacy.”

After the names of the vessels lost were read, the last post played, and wreaths were laid to honour those who now live on in history.

Officials also paid tribute to Canadians who died in peacetime while deployed far from home.

“For myself, it’s very important,” said Navy veteran Allan Bell. “There’s nine names on there from Kootenay.”

Bell, a survivor of the deadly HMCS Kootenay explosion, says the gesture meant the world to him — a moment for him to think about the past, while war rages in Ukraine.

“The Battle of the Atlantic is still going, isn’t it? The war is over, but the Battle of the Atlantic is not ended. God knows what we’re going into now. We’re going into something.”