Kathleen Flanagan Photography
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Edward Halley Dick and the Merchant Navy in 1942

During World War II, merchant mariners played a vital role in transporting food, equipment, and personnel to Britain and other Allied countries. Although not part of the armed forces, these men and women faced constant threat from enemy submarines, destroyers, and aircraft seeking to cut off supply lines. The largest threat came from German u-boats, which patrolled shipping lanes in groups and torpedoed passing merchant vessels.

It is estimated that 60,000 Allied merchant mariners died in service during the war. Most served on privately owned vessels contracted by the state. The Canadian government did not recognize merchant mariners as veterans, excluded them from war benefits, and barred them from programs designed to help members of the armed forces readjust to civilian life.

Edward Halley Dick was a member of the British merchant navy. His ship, the G.S. Walden, was part of a convoy of 41 cargo ships under escort by the Canadian military, east of Cape Race, Newfoundland, when a German u-boat fired two torpedoes at the convoy on August 3, 1942 at 3:05 am. The G.S. Walden was damaged, but managed nevertheless to reach port in Newfoundland. Edward Halley Dick, age 21, was the only casualty.

The u-boat that torpedoed G.S. Walden was under the command of Erich Topp who joined Germany's naval force in 1934. Topp's career as commander of U-552 was beset by controversy. In October 1941, U-552 sank the SS Reuben James. Not only was it the first US Navy warship to be lost in World War II, but the loss came at a time when the United States was neutral. The event, which caused a diplomatic row, is commemorated in song by Woody Guthrie. In April 1942, U-552 under Topp's command sank the freighter SS David H. Atwater off the US seaboard in a particularly brutal attack, characterized as a naval atrocity. Erich Topp died at age 91 on December 26, 2005 in Germany.

Edward Halley Dick, merchant mariner and the only son of Ruth and Walter Dick of Hull, Yorkshire, England, was killed on August 3, 1942, at age 21, when his ship was hit by a torpedo fired by a German u-boat.  His gravestone is located in the south-west section of the Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax.