Battle of Atlantic commemoration draws hundreds

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/2011/05/01/battle-of-atlantic-commemoration-draws-hundreds

Second World War veteran Harold Chase still remembers the German enemy U-boats from the epic Battle of the Atlantic.

“Just thinking about it — the things we went through and the weather conditions in those little corvettes — just amazing that we’re still around,” he said after the commemoration at the War Memorial on Elgin St. Sunday.

The Royal Canadian Navy and the Merchant Navy crossed the ocean safely almost 26,000 times during often stormy and bitterly cold conditions.

They were carrying over 181 million tons of supplies to Great Britain.

Chase served in the second half of the six-year battle — the longest continuous military campaign of the war period — which ran from 1939 until 1945.

But attending the annual Battle of the Atlantic ceremony brings back painful emotions for the 87-year-old Ottawa resident.

“As I get older, the memories — think of guys, chaps that you knew, it’s rough,” he said with a distant look in his eyes.

During this battle, the Royal Canadian Navy lost 2,000 officers and 24 warships while more than 900 Air Force and Canadian Army personnel were killed.

Chase was the only one in his family who enlisted in the Second World War, following his father and two uncles who served in the First World War.

Going off to fight at the age of 18 made the young Nova Scotian grow up pretty quick.

When victory in the Atlantic was declared, returning home was “very strange at first.”

Chase moved to Niagara Falls, where he went to school for horticulture and landed work with the Niagara parks system.

“And that seemed to straighten things out,” he said.

“Back to normal civil life, if it could be called normal.”

Chase got married and eventually ended up in Ottawa, where he’s been for 30-plus years.

While he remains modest about his contributions to securing Canadians’ freedom, hundreds gathered downtown to mark the sacrifices made by those who, like Chase, fought on their behalf.

A parade march began at the Government Conference Centre and continued to the War Memorial for a remembrance ceremony at 10:25 a.m., that was followed by a reception.

Participants in the wreath-laying ceremony included Chief of the Maritime Staff Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, serving members of the Canadian Forces, the Central Band of the Canadian Forces, Central Region Sea and Air Cadets, Navy League Cadets, the Royal Canadian Legion Colour Party, local veteran organizations, and the Ottawa Children’s Choir.

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