Author Ted Barris is back in Huntsville this week to give a talk on the longest battle of World War II.
It’s the subject of his recently-published book, “Battle of the Atlantic: Gauntlet to Victory,” delving into the six-year fight against German U-boats to resupply a cut-off United Kingdom.
The Kiwanis Club of Huntsville Muskoka is hosting a three-course lunch-and-learn at the town’s Royal Canadian Legion on Oct. 21 at noon, with Barris taking centre stage. Kiwanis hosted his talk about The Great Escape on the incident’s 75th anniversary last year.
Barris says the book– and talk– seeks to tell the “human stories” of the military campaign, which lasted from Sept. 3, 1939 to May 8, 1945. He presented to a packed crowd in Haliburton last month.
One of those stories is the sinking of Merchant Navy ship SS Frederick S. Fales, which was staffed by Canadians such as Penetanguishene resident Herbert Bonin.
“One of the things I wanted to make sure the readers understood quickly was what it was like to be in a devastated convoy,” says Barris. He says a historian lent him several never-before-seen interview recordings with the men on that ship.
“I was able to piece together the convoy and the sinking of the Fales in almost chronological order,” says Barris. “So you really feel as if you’re there, because you’re getting the point of view from six different men who went through exactly the same sinking.”
According to Barris, Canada’s naval forces relied heavily on not just coastal communities, but sailors and shipbuilders from our country’s vast network of inland bodies of water.
“The Great Lakes play a great part in the story of the Battle of the Atlantic,” says Barris. “When Canada changes from only having in its operational fighting force 13 ships at the beginning of the war in 1939, to an industrial power, it has to turn to the seafaring communities around Canada for the ship building that will supply that demand.”
Corvettes– the U-boat-hunting light warships which became famous over the course of the war– were produced in shipyards across the country.
“So they go to the shipbuilding yards up the St. Lawrence, on the Pacific coast, and into the Great Lakes,” says Barris. “Places like Collingwood, and Midland, and Kingston on Lake Ontario, all of the Great Lakes shipyards begin to build corvettes.”
Barris says he’ll take attendees through these stories and more next Friday.
All funds raised by the event will go towards children’s programs in and around Huntsville, according to Rick Brooks, secretary-treasurer for Huntsville Kiwanis. Proceeds from the cash bar go to the Legion branch.
Tickets are $40 per person, by e-transfer to [email protected] or calling Brooks at 705-635-2101.