The Convoy Cup Foundation - Honouring Those Who Served
Bedford Basin – Historic Waters
On September 3, 1939, the world went to war for the second time in less than 25 years. Two weeks later, on September 16, Halifax stepped up to take its place in that war and in history. Under cover of darkness, eighteen merchant ships and four naval vessels slipped out of Halifax Harbour. Halifax convoy HX1, the first link in the lifeline to war torn Europe, was escorted clear of coastal areas by the naval vessels and followed by marine aircraft to the limit of their range. The fourteen merchant ships then crossed the North Atlantic unescorted as far as Ireland where the Royal Navy shepherded them through the dangerous waters to England. For the next five & half years, Halifax’s Bedford Basin was a marshaling area for convoys carrying much needed military & civilian supplies to Europe. Ships laden with armaments, air craft fuel, lumber, coal, & wheat left Halifax as often as twice a week to cross the reacherous North Atlantic. Death, it seemed, stalked the crews of the convoys.
The German U-boats were ruthless in their efforts to strangle the flow of supplies. Working alone, or in the feared “wolf packs” the Nazi submarines lurked in the shipping lanes and attacked the most vulnerable members of the convoys or ships traveling independently. Attempts to rescue seamen in the water were hampered by the necessity to defend ships which could be a U-boat’s next target. Many men who survived the initial explosions on the ships drowned or were burned alive in flaming oil slicks. Death came also in the form of gale force winds and winter storms. Life expectancy in the frigid waters was measured in minutes. Lacking today’s sophisticated radar equipment, ships collided in the fog and inky darkness of the mid-Atlantic. And yet, the convoys continued. In spite of the fact that the merchant marine held virtually no status,men continued to sign on Canadian men as well as men who had lost their homelands to the occupying Germans. The pay was poor and the danger constant, yet time and again, men who had lost friends or nearly lost their own lives manned the vessels that fed the Allied effort in Europe. By the end of the war in 1945, over 300 convoys had sailed out of Halifax. For five and a half years, Haligonians watched the ships steal into Bedford Basin one at a time to wait until a convoy was assembled. They grew accustomed to seeing the Basin full of ships in the evening, only to find it glaringly empty in the dawn of the next day. The people of Halifax became willing accomplices in maintaining silence about the movements of the convoys, ever mindful that “loose lips sink ships”. Nova Scotia has particularly strong ties to Norway in regard to the convoys of the Second World War. Following the invasion of Norway in June of 1940, members of the Royal Norwegian Navy and Army, and their Merchant Navy, maintained training, repair and recuperation bases in Nova Scotia. To commemorate those ties, Steiner Engeset, Norwegian Consul to Nova Scotia and long time member of the Dartmouth Yacht Club, became the driving force behind the Convoy Cup.
In September 2002, Steiner’s dream became a reality. The format for the competition consisted of two races – a Basin Race, as well as a 100 mile Ocean Race. World War II veterans & their families were guests of the Dartmouth Yacht Club power fleet to watch the start of the races on one of the calmest days ever seen in Halifax Harbour. The sailors persevered in spite of the wind (or lack of it), and the inaugural Convoy Cup Regatta went into the pages of history. In September 2003, a Convoy Cup Race was held in Risor, Norway. This year, 2010, the event returns to Halifax and has attracted the attention of sailors from Europe and the United States.
Honouring Those Who Served
The Dartmouth Yacht Club is proud to be the club of record for the Convoy Cup. As part of the 2010 Convoy Cup, the Dartmouth Yacht Club will re-enact a convoy leaving Halifax Harbour. Each vessel will represent a ship that participated in convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic, and will fly the country flag of the ship and a banner depicting the name of the vessel, etc. The event will conclude with a sail past of the Corvette HMCS Sackville. We are looking for sponsors for this event to commemorate the merchant ships that were lost while participating in Halifax convoys that left Bedford Basin in the years 1939 to 1945.
The original Convoy Cup races were established in 2002 by the Dartmouth Yacht Club, Royal Norwegian Consulate and the Camp Norway Foundation in Halifax, Nova Scotia. An ocean race, that started and finished in historic Halifax Harbour/Bedford Basin, was held along with the day races and other club events on Bedford Basin, the staging area for the World War II convoys. Now a semi-annual event is held at the DYC with a companion event held at the Wooden Boat Festival in Risor (Norway’s Convoy Town) on alternate years. The success and the growth of interest in these events, to commemorate and honour our convoy veterans who served their countries crossing the Atlantic during the Second World War, has been outstanding. There is interest expressed from several countries to hold additional Convoy Cup races.
For the Veterans