At the outbreak of hostilities, the Royal Canadian Navy was a rather modest naval force comprising six sea-faring ships and 3 500 sailors. At the end of the war, it numbered 434 ships and boats, making it the third most powerful navy in the world, and some 90 000 sailors.
Of these, over 95% were Naval Reservists.
The Battle of the St. Lawrence
In 1942, German submarines sailed deeply up the St. Lawrence River. On September 11, corvette HMCS Charlottetown K244 was hit by two torpedoes.
“… the torpedo hit just below where I was standing. So I was thrown in the air, somersaulted, and fell back onto the remaining part of the boat. On my feet. […] I was 4 hours in the water, with a broken arm and leg.” — Léon-Paul Fortin
The attacking ship was Unterseeboot-517; her Commanding Officer was Paul Hartwig, who would rise to the rank of vice-admiral in the German Navy after the War.
In an interview he granted the Naval Museum in 2013, Hartwig confided that his crew was akin to a family. The watchword in the German Navy was unity and respect, even towards the enemy. He remembered one occasion when he told his men not to rejoice openly they had sunk a ship: “It could be our turn tomorrow,” he reminded them.