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Canada and the War
Quarterdeck of R.C.N. frigate in rough seas off Halifax, N.S., January 1944 - Photo Credit: National Defence - RCN L-4521, CWM Reference Photo Collection - AN19910238-795
Quarterdeck of R.C.N. frigate in rough seas off Halifax, N.S., January 1944
Photo : National Defence

The Canadian Armed Forces: The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN)

By war's end, the Royal Canadian Navy had grown into one of the world's great navies -- 100,000 men and women and 365 warships. Just six years earlier, it had been tiny, with only 3500 permanent and part-time ('reserve') members and six modern destroyers and four minesweepers. The growth was rapid and enormous, and with it came huge problems in training people and readying ships for sea, some of which led to tragic losses of men and ships.

The Canadian navy's main work, using small, versatile Canadian-built antisubmarine warships known as corvettes, was as an escort force for the merchant ships whose Atlantic Ocean cargoes were vital to Britain's survival. This force played a decisive part in defeating the German submarines (U-boats) from deep in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Arctic Circle and the Mediterranean Sea. The RCN contributed mightily to other major operations, such as the landing of Allied armies on the coast of German-occupied France on 6 June 1944. ( See D-Day and the Normandy Campaign) One major Canadian warship also saw action in the bitterly-fought battles against Japan in the Pacific. The RCN lost 24 ships, mostly in the Atlantic, during the war.

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