The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C.
Speaker of the Senate
On September 3, 1939, the British passenger liner Athenia was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the shores of Ireland. From that day until the fall of the Axis powers in 1945, the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history would rage in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
To this day, Canadians gather on the first Sunday in May to commemorate the valour displayed and sacrifices made in what Winston Churchill dubbed the “Battle of the Atlantic.” This year on May 7, 2017, the Hon. George J. Furey, Speaker of the Senate, joined the naval community in honouring those lost at sea at the National Battle of the Atlantic parade and ceremony in Ottawa.
As the reviewing officer, Speaker George J. Furey inspected the parade and laid a wreath of behalf of Parliament in memory of those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom of Canada and her allies abroad.
Through the course of the six-year battle, Canadian sailors, merchant seamen, pilots and infantry played a pivotal role in repelling Axis forces at sea, and delivering vital supplies to a vulnerable Great Britain. Braving enemies and the elements, Canadian forces carried over 180 million tons of supplies to Great Britain on nearly 26,000 safe crossings.
Canada’s naval efforts in the Atlantic sustained the most strategic Allied stronghold in Europe, fueled the fight against the Axis powers and secured an Allied victory in all of Europe.
Victory on the seas, though, came at a cost.
The campaign would see 33 ships of the Royal Canadian Navy sunk, 1990 sailors killed, 330 wounded and 95 captured as prisoners of war.
“I laid the wreath not only in honour of those taken in the Battle of the Atlantic, but indeed for all the sailors, soldiers and aircrew who have lost their lives on naval duty in service to Canada,” said Speaker Furey
“Like all Canadians, I am forever grateful for the brave men and women in uniform, whose willingness to serve and protect ensures the freedom of our great country.”
The ceremony concluded, as it does each year, with chants of the Royal Canadian Navy motto, “Ready, aye, ready” – a pledge to pursue today’s challenges with pride and professionalism.
Speaker Furey lays a wreath at the National War Memorial on behalf of the Parliament of Canada.
Speaker Furey is led by officials to inspect the veterans, Canadian Armed Forces units and cadets participating in the parade.
Speaker Furey shakes the hands of WWII veterans before the ceremony.
The ceremony concluded with a march past of troops in front of the National War Memorial.