A crowd that nearly filled Bethel Presbyterian Church in Pictou Landing gathered last Sunday for a remembrance service to mark the epic Battle of the Atlantic.
The Royal Canadian Naval Association, Admiral Murray Branch in Pictou County, hosted the service, which included a gathering at the memorial beside the church. The indoor service was the first since before COVID and drew a mixture of veterans, sea cadets from Pictou County and elsewhere, and the association.
The Battle of the Atlantic has been described as the longest one of the Second World War and was considered crucial to the Allied victory based on the supplies delivered to the Allied war effort.
The service also honours Pictou County native and Rear Admiral Leonard Warren Murray, who played a crucial role in the battle. He was born in Granton and died in England at the age of 75.
Acting association commander Mike Simmons conducted the service and delivered the reflection.
He implored the congregation to remember how those who lived and died at sea during the battle that lasted virtually the entire length of the Second World War from 1939 to 1945, that they, not politicians, were the ones who defended and preserved Canada and its values.
“Politicians didn’t save us, they did. We have a legacy left to us by those who suffered,” he said, while alluding to those whose ships were sunk. “You’re in the water and there’s no bottom to touch. The water is freezing and that’s what they felt as they floated to the bottom. The only markers they have are the whitecaps on the ocean.”
Simmons recalled growing up in St. John’s, N.L., and watching ships loaded with black bags on the deck and realizing they were body bags containing those who were taken from the water.
“Open your eyes and feel the freedom you have,” he added. “Each of them died for Canada. These people gave us something to think about. Let us do what they fought for. Let’s unite as one unit.”
The memorial gathering outside included the Last Post and Reveille, ringing the bell for each ship lost at sea during the battle and a laying of wreaths.
Association past-president Bill Echlin noted the recent changes to the memorial that included a new concrete pathway, new repositioned flag poles and refurbished monuments. Paving for the parade area will follow, he said.
“It’s going to be a place to honour Admiral Murray and those who died in the Battle of the Atlantic for years to come,” he said.
The larger number of cadets resulted from a decision to conduct a regional learning session last weekend so they could attend the service.
Korinne MacDonnell of New Glasgow was among those who attended. She is the last member of the former Admiral Murray Sea Cadet Corps, whose remaining members joined the Royal William Sea Cadets. Cadets from units in Amherst and Truro joined them for the service.
“I’ll miss it,” she said. “I’m aging out so this is my last year but a good way to end it. It’s one of the best programs I’ve been a part of.”
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