Merseyside engineering firm and shipyard Cammell Laird said it is “filled with immense pride” to announce it will be the main sponsor of the forthcoming commemoration weekend to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Cammell Laird Chief Executive John Syvret said the event running from May 24 – 28 is an opportunity for Britain to remember the ‘sacrifice and supreme effort’ of a ‘lionhearted generation’ who fought the cruellest conditions in the longest battle of the war (See notes to editors: ‘On the Waterfront background).
“We are immensely proud to announce that Cammell Laird, which played a fundamental role in the Battle of the Atlantic and the Second World War, will be the main sponsor of this truly historic event,” he said. “This will be the national focus for the country to pay tribute to the ordinary men and women who became giants to fight this terrible battle for their families and their country. For the veterans that remain, this will be an especially poignant event for them to remember their friends and loved ones who lost their lives more than 70 years ago.”
In total Cammell Laird built 106 naval vessels averaging one ship every 21 days during World War Two. The yard’s largest ever workforce of 12,000 also completed repairs on 2000 merchant vessels and 120 warships including nine battleships and 11 aircraft carriers.
Mr Syvret said during the dark days of the Battle of the Atlantic Cammell Laird reinforced its already close bond with the Royal Navy.
“Thanks to the Royal Navy, the Merchant Marine and Coastal Command’s ultimate victory in the Battle of the Atlantic and the winning of the war Cammell Laird is able to still work with the Royal Navy building and maintaining vessels that continue to protect British interests around the world,” he said. “Our largest single contract is a 25-year agreement with the Royal Fleet Auxillary (RFA) and we have just finished building the flight decks for the new HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH aircraft carrier. This continues our history of building aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. Just before the outbreak of war Cammell Laird launched the Ark Royal, the first naval vessel designed and built as an aircraft carrier. Significantly one of her first missions in 1939 was to the South Atlantic on a search for the German cruiser the Graf Spee. She also played a key role together with the Cammell Laird vessel HMS Prince of Wales in sinking the Bismarck in the North Atlantic in May 1941 before she was later torpedoed by a U-Boat in November 1941 near Gibraltar. The Prince of Wales, meanwhile, later took the Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Newfoundland to meet President Roosevelt to discuss the Atlantic Charter before being sunk by a Japanese torpedo off Malaya with the loss of 307 lives in December 1941.
“The 70th Anniversary commemoration gives us all the opportunity to recognise the huge contribution the Battle of the Atlantic made to the war effort and to preserving Britain’s freedom. It promises to be an unforgettable weekend.”
Commodore Richard Baum RN, naval regional commander for northern England, said: “I am extremely pleased that Cammell Laird will be supporting the BOA70 commemorations. It is entirely fitting and excellent recognition of the long and distinguished relationship the shipyard has with the Royal Navy. I am delighted that they have come on board and look forward to working with the Cammell Laird team in support of the special events we have lined up at the end of May.”
Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “It’s fantastic that one of the most famous names in shipbuilding has become the main sponsor of these important 70th anniversary commemorations.
“It seems fitting that a company which played a pivotal role in one of the fiercest battles of the Second World War is now supporting the city’s event which celebrates and honours the heroes of the Atlantic.
“As the national focus for the commemorations, it will be a very special bank holiday weekend in Liverpool, with hundreds of thousands of people descending on the city to not only enjoy the many free activities on offer, but also to reflect on the sacrifices so many made for the freedom we take for granted today.”
Merchant Navy spokeswoman Pamela Brown said: “No merchant ship was ever delayed in its sailing for wont of a crew during the Battle of the Atlantic, obviously showing the great commitment and allegiance to the Islands of Great Britain by the Merchant Marine.”
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest running battle of the Second World War and the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history.
It ran from the first day of the Second World War September 3 1939 until VE Day.
The human cost of the battle was immense. The Royal Navy lost 50,758 lives while the British merchant service lost more than 32,000 men. Many thousands of civilians on both sides of the battle were caught in bombing raids on shipyards and ports.
Germany lost an estimated 28,000 U-boat men – 60pc of those who served on frontline boats. Of the 859 U-boats that carried out war patrols 648 were lost, a third on their first voyage leading crew to call them ‘Iron Coffins’.
During the battle 15million tons of Allied shipping had been lost most of it to German U-Boats. 3500 merchant ships were sunk in the North Atlantic and British Home Waters – 70pc of all worldwide shipping losses.
Liverpool was heavily bombed during the war. The Luftwaffe attacked Liverpool on eight successive nights in May 1941 killing nearly 4000 people and seriously injuring another 4000, 10,000 homes were destroyed and more than 184,000 damaged.
Source: The Battle of the Atlantic – Andrew Williams (BBC 2002)