Halifax Remembers WWII Bravery

By Wendy Laursen 2015-08-17 04:06:05

This month, the maritime community in Halifax in Canada, continue a tradition designed to keep the city’s stories of historic bravery alive.

The Bamse Cup, a youth regatta to be held on Wednesday and Thursday, August 19 – 20, and the Convoy Cup Regatta, to be held on Friday to Sunday, September 11 – 13, will commemorate the history, stories and memory of the sailors, airmen, and merchant mariners whose bravery during World War II ensured Europe had a lifeline to North America.

The Convoy Cup Foundation, working with its sister foundation in Risør of Norway, is dedicated to making this important part of history accessible to successive generations. Each year, the regattas alternate between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Risør, Norway.

Bravery Remembered

World War II started on September 3, 1939, and two weeks later, on September 16, Halifax stepped up to take its place in history. Under cover of darkness, 18 merchant ships and four naval vessels slipped out of Halifax Harbour headed to war torn Europe laden with much needed military and civilian supplies.

For the next five and a half years, Halifax’s Bedford Basin was a marshaling area for further convoys which left as often as twice a week to cross the North Atlantic.

The ships faced attacks from German U-boats. Attempts to rescue seamen in the water were hampered by the necessity to defend ships which could be a U-boat’s next target. Many men who survived the initial explosions on the ships drowned or were burned alive in flaming oil slicks.

By the end of the war, over 300 convoys had sailed out of Halifax.

Nova Scotia built strong ties to Norway over this time. Following the invasion of Norway in June of 1940, members of the Royal Norwegian Navy and Army, and their Merchant Navy, maintained training, repair and recuperation bases in Nova Scotia.

A New Tradition

To commemorate those ties, Steiner Engeset, who was Norwegian Consul to Nova Scotia and longtime member of the Dartmouth Yacht Club, became the driving force behind the Convoy Cup which started in 2002.

Owners of recreational ships take up the banner of a merchant marine or navy ship that was lost on the voyages across the Atlantic. These ships then set out across the Bedford Basin, as their namesakes did over fifty years ago, re-enacting a convoy’s departure from the same waters.

HMCS Sackville is the symbolic flagship of this commemorative fleet. From it, veterans of naval conflicts, their families, local and international dignitaries review the fleet and receive each ship’s salute.

The Bamse Cup training regatta is hosted at the Dartmouth Yacht Club. The regatta takes its name from a famous Norwegian ship dog who served in the navy during World War II. In this way, the Convoy Cup also recognizes the invaluable contributions made by service animals big and small; in war and peace.

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