20 November 2012

The Longest Battle

Roger Litwiller
Roger Litwiller held the audience spellbound with his stories of the Quinte region's involvement in what may arguably be called the longest single battle in the history of mankind.

The Battle of the Atlantic.

Within three hours of WWII being declared, the first casualty, the British passenger ship SS Athenia on a voyage to Canada, was sunk.  An estimated 3,674 Allied vessels would share her fate; the last ships being lost just hours before the end of the war. It is estimated that 72,200 Allied sailors died in the battle.

The battle extended right into the St. Lawrence River and by war's end, the Royal Canadian Navy was the third largest naval power in the world, with 100,000 men and women and 400 vessels.

Among the ships that served were three corvettes, one frigate and two minesweepers that had names drawn from this part of Ontario. They were HMCS Napanee, HMCS Belleville, HMCS Hallowell, HMCS Quinte, HMCS Quinte II and HMCS Trentonian.  Together these ships span almost twenty-five years of history in the Royal Canadian Navy. You can read about these ships in Roger Litwiller’s book Warships of the Bay of Quinte.

But it was the stories of the young men that held the audience. Years of painstaking research and interviews with survivors of the battles has given Roger a rich and often frightening understanding of life and the young men aboard the ships. 

In his new book White Ensign Flying, scheduled for publication in the summer of 2013, Litwiller tells the story of HMCS Trentonian, much of it through his personal interviews with thirty of the men who served aboard her. Marc Magee's painting of HMCS Trentonian (shown below) for White Ensign Flying will be displayed permanently in the Trenton Public Library after the release of Roger's book.
HMCS Trentonian on her way to Normandy
A more detailed article about the meeting will be published in the January edition of the Society's newsletter Outlook. Additional information on Roger's books and contact information can be found on his Facebook page and web site.

Story Bill Kennedy/Nick White, pictures Nick White.

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