Commemorating Canada’s Merchant Navy during the Second World War, 1939-1945

Parks Canada’s Home Port Heroes initiative invites Canadians to remember the sacrifices made by those who served in merchant navies during the Second World War and to celebrate the incredible output from Canadian shipyards in delivering on a massive program of cargo ships to reinforce the merchant fleets of both Canada and Great Britain.

Wartime shipping

The oceans were dangerous yet strategically vital trade routes during the Second World War. Merchant navies carried the raw materials, foodstuffs, armaments, and other goods that secured final Allied victory in 1945.

Dangerous seas

Throughout the war, Canadian, Allied, and neutral merchant fleets lost 4,200 vessels, mainly to enemy action. In excess of 62,900 sailors perished, including more than 1,600 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who are now commemorated in the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance housed in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Rising to the challenge

To support the Allied war effort, Canadian shipyards undertook an ambitious building program. Between 1941 and 1945, they completed more than 400 cargo ships. Of these, the Park Steamship Company Limited, a Crown corporation, operated some 180 vessels named after Canadian parks while many other Canadian-built merchant ships, named after forts from Canadian history, were supplied to Britain.

Today, a number of these places with namesake park or fort merchant vessels are preserved and presented by Parks Canada as part of Canada’s extensive network of national parks, national historic sites and national marine conservation areas.

Learn more about the ‘Park’ and ‘Fort’ ships.

Since 2003, September 3 is recognized as Merchant Navy Veterans Day honouring the contributions of those who served in this service. Their sacrifice is equally recognized as part of the Battle of the Atlantic, commemorated yearly on the first Sunday in May.

We will remember them…

Several national historic designations commemorate Canada’s Second World War merchant service and shipbuilding industry:

Role of the Canadian Merchant Navy during the Second World War National Historic Event

Battle of the Atlantic National Historic Event

Battle of the St. Lawrence National Historic Event

Shipbuilding at the Burrard Dry Dock Company National Historic Event

Crow’s Nest Officers’ Club National Historic Site of Canada