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Post-War Planning

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Canada and the War
Ribs of the merchant ship Victoria Park at Pictou shipyards, Pictou, N.S., 1942 - Public Archives of Canada - CWM Reference Photo Collection C30772
Ribs of the merchant ship Victoria Park at Pictou shipyards, Pictou, N.S., 1942
Photo : National Archives of Canada

The War Economy and Controls: Shipping and Shipbuilding

After the fall of France in May 1940 ( see The Invasion of Western Europe ), it became a priority to enlarge the Allies' merchant shipping fleet, to replace ships lost, and to make sure that there were naval escort vessels to guard convoys against German submarines. Britain was highly vulnerable, and North American arms and supplies were a lifeline.

Canada in 1940 had just started to build patrol vessels for the protection of its own coasts, but Britain soon placed orders for 26 ten-thousand-tonne cargo ships and soon after orders for naval escorts and minesweepers. This was just the beginning, as Britain made clear it needed Canada to build as many naval and merchant ships as it possibly could. The practically non-existent Canadian interwar shipbuilding industry - three shipyards employing fewer than 4,000 men - expanded to 90 plants on the East and West Coasts, the Great Lakes and even inland. More than 126,000 men and women were employed. In all, the shipyards built 4,047 naval vessels, most of them landing craft but including over 300 anti-submarine warships, among them 4 Tribal class destroyers, and 410 cargo ships. At its wartime peak in September 1943, the industry was able to deliver the ten-thousand-tonne SS Fort Romaine in a stunning 58 days from the start of construction.

The government also formed Park Steamship Company, a Crown company, to control the operation of its new, standardized cargo vessels. The Park fleet of 176 vessels made 936 wartime voyages carrying munitions and supplies all over the world.

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