• Dariia Pasko

Not boring history - Merchant Mariners Memorial

To be honest, most history articles are boring. No doubt they are important, but usually hard to read and remember the details. Too many dates and names make it accurate, although not coherent nor engaging. Why do I start the article about Merchant Marines Memorial history like this? Simple – knowing the story of the place you are at is crucial, but it also can be an enjoyable piece of reading.

A note before telling the story – this article is based on the information written near the memorial and on several online sources. Photos are made by one of the associates.

Memorial’s history takes us back to the times of Second World War. What happened is that Sydney became an assembly port for convoys and even was called a lifeline to Europe. Ships delivered coal, steel and other vital materials. But why Sydney’s port is the one called the lifeline when other bigger ports such as in Halifax and New York have more capacity and resources?

Apparently, Sydney’s contribution is equally significant to other ports along the coast. However, Sydney managed to do that with ship shortage and lack of skilled sailors. Convoys usually consisted of merchant ships, which were never meant to be in the open sea. Storms and rains drowned old “trams”, but weather was not the only constraint. Germans attacked the ships and in total Sydney lost 226 of them. Human victims are even harder to count. Convoys could not stop to save the survivors, so only a few of them made it back home. Because of the demand for manpower in armed forces, people who sailed back and force to Europe were usually men in their forties and fifties, teenage boys and sometimes even women.

Despite all of that, Sydney made a powerful contribution by shipping resources to Europe. Memorial was opened to the public on May 1st 2016 to capture people’s dedication, efforts and will to help.

What conclusion can be made from the brief history of Cape Breton coast? From my point of view, this place combines wild masterpieces, vibrant history and open-minded people, who are ready to help a complete stranger if needed. Living on the edge of Atlantic Canada means not only hunting lobsters and cook poutine. It is also about spirit and unique culture which was born long ago and managed to keep its authenticity till nowadays.


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