At night, the lights on Bill Emberly’s merchant navy cargo ship were blacked out, to ward off attack from German u-boats skulking in the ocean.
It took three harrowing weeks for convoys of ships to transport goods and personnel from Canada to Britain during the Second World War.
The sun is now setting on the aging veterans of Canada’s merchant navy fleet, as well as those military personnel who played a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic during the war.
For that reason, Emberly, who joined the merchant navy as a teen, is on a quest to create a Battle of the Atlantic monument that would be unique to the Island.
It would pay homage to Canada’s civilian merchant navy, the Royal Canadian Navy vessels that escorted the merchant ships and Royal Canadian Air Force bomber planes that patrolled the skies above.
“It was a six-year campaign, night and day, chased by submarines and everything else,” Emberly recently told Esquimalt council, when he requested to place the monument in the township’s Memorial Park.
“Britain was starving to death. The war could not have been won without that convoy fleet.”
The black marble memorial, valued at $7,000, would not cost Esquimalt taxpayers anything, Emberly said. He said he has people lined up to pay for the cairn and the installation of the monument’s base.
“It’s almost too late for even thinking about this,” said Emberly, 84. “The average age of the merchant seaman is 87 years.”
Between 50 and 60 merchant seamen, on average, pass away every year, he said.
“This is a thing that we should never forget; there was 60,000 to 70,000 men who died (in the battle).”
The monument would feature engraved images of a Canadian merchant navy cargo tanker, a navy corvette ship and an air force bomber.
“I think that we should be honouring all those who have helped make our life what it is today,” said Coun. Tim Morrison.
Esquimalt municipal staff have been asked to bring back a report to council, as well as seek input from the township’s parks and recreation and heritage advisory committees.
“I think it’s a worthy thing for us to consider, and we need to figure out how we might be able to do that,” Coun. Lynda Hundleby said.