THE CANADIAN WORLD WAR II TIMELINE
At the beginning of September is 1939 the German military forces invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war against Germany.
Canada was trying to get over the great depression and it neither looked for or strengthened itself from the events of diplomacy taking place in the world. Canada wanted peace but events would lead to Canada declaring war. This country detested war and well remembered the losses of 66,000 young men and women during the war years of World War I barely a generation ago.
Originally, the Government of Canada wanted to be part of the war with the responsibility of having ”limited liability” because at the moment Canada was a junior player with the Allies. Canada was willing to provide economic assistance through the manufacturing of foods, raw materials, and industrial production.
Canada wanted Britain and France to provide the majority of the soldiers for the land battles that would take place. What Canada had to do and it had to do it quickly was re-build its armed forces.
World War II was fought between 1939-1945 and the legacy it left was death and destruction. This conflict covered a great deal of the globe with Canada taking part in fighting in the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Artic, the middle east, the far east, north-west Europe, Italy and along the shores of North America and Newfoundland. The battles were not just confined to battlefield on the land as new weapons and technology made fighting possible in the skies, on and under the oceans resulting in death and suffering to all ages of peoples.
The following pages cannot provide you with full accounts of the causes of the war, the events, the heroism and its betrayal and deception but it will provide you with the battles the Canadians fought and their achievements.
Canada, as a young nation of 72 years was now in the midst of a second world conflict. In 1939 the population of Canada was 11,267,000 people. Over one million Canadians rose to the crisis and enlisted to serve their country. Thousands of Canadians fought between 1939-1945 on the battlefronts serving in the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy and with other Allied forces. They were defending the United Kingdom from the terror of Nazism, and they fought with courage and much determination at Hong Kong, at Dieppe, in Italy and north-west Europe. We were always on the front lines.
Our Canadians brought honour and deserved respect to Canada and most importantly they helped defeat tyranny and oppression that threatened to swallow the world. Our Canadians fought for our freedom and democracy, and it was for these things that so many died. Over the course of World War II 45,000+ lost their lives with another 55,000+ being wounded.
THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR
It began on September 1, 1939 at 4:45 am (10:45 pm August 31, 1939 in Goderich) when the Germany military forces began their lightning war or blitzkrieg by crossing the western borders of Poland. Britain and France then declared war on Germany. The Canadian Parliament met on September 7th and on September 9th agreed to support Britain and France and on September 10th King George VI announced to the Commonwealth that Canada had declared war.
Our Canadian coastal defences were rapidly manned, the militia regiments were mobilized, and thousands of volunteers rose to the need of their country. In December of 1939 units of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division bid the shores of Canada good bye and sailed for England.
When Poland collapsed there was a quiet period known as the “phoney war” and England built up her defences, prepared her armies, her navy and her air force. In Canada the recruitment process was increased. Then, in the summer of 1940 the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division arrived in England and now both the 1st and 2nd Divisions became known as the 1st Canadian Corps.
In April of 1940 the “phoney war” suddenly ended when German troops invaded Denmark and then invaded Norway. Canadian Engineers attached to British units in Norway could not stop the enemy and they had to withdraw. In less than two months the Germans had invaded Denmark and Norway and isolated Sweden. From the deep Norwegian fiords the German U-boats and heavy warships were in a position to destroy the Allied convoys taking supplies to Murmansk.
Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 10, 1940 and it was on this day that the German military invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and France. The Netherlands were overrun by May 20th and on May 27th Belgium surrendered.
The Germans were pressuring the English and French forces from all sides and these forces were being forced to the coast. This was there only hope for escape and these forces numbered. These desperate men numbered 378,000 and between May 27 – June 4, 1940 338,226 men were removed from the beaches. Over 40,000 men were not able to be evacuated and 17,000 soldiers had been killed during this period.
At this point the German forces were moving toward Paris and the Allies were stunned by the speed of the German advances, France was very close to collapse when Mussolini in Italy attacked on the Mediterranean front. On June 22, 1940 France surrendered.
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
July 10 – October 31, 1940
Great Britain was now along in the fight against Germany and the citizens of Britain and the Commonwealth forces in Britain awaited the enemy invasion. Churchill rallied his people. From the north cape of Norway to the Pyrenees mountains was a tremendous amount of coastline from which the German forces would threaten the lifeline of Great Britain. The Luftwaffe outnumbered the Raf by three to one. Then, for unknown reasons Hitler hesitated and then delayed the invasion of Great Britain known as “Operation Sealion”.
Had the invasion by the enemy commenced the British forces would have been found to be ill prepared and even with 338,226 men being taken off the beaches of Dunkirk they had to leave all their equipment. The 1st Canadian Division was the only prepared force able to defend Great Britain. Then, in July 1940 the Canadians became part of the 7th British Army Corps and it was comprised of Canadians, New Zealand and British troops. This force engaged in very intense training in preparation for the expected invasion.
However, before such an invasion would be able to be mounted the Luftwaffe would have to destroy the Royal Air Force in the air and on August 12, 1940 the Luftwaffe struck Britain’s radar stations, airfields and engaged the Royal Air Force in the air. If this German policy continued the Luftwaffe might have emerged victorious. The German tactics changed, and the Luftwaffe began mass bombing raid on London and the Royal Air Force was able to begin laying on staggering losses on the Luftwaffe. The German Luftwaffe was unable to control the air and Hitler then postponed the invasion of Great Britain to another time. That time never came. The Battle of Britain was over.
Hitler’s invasion plans were destroyed, and he now began a campaign to night bomb Britain into submission and this went on from October 7, 1940 until July of 1941. The citizens suffered from enemy bombing raids of their major cities but while this was going on the British were increasing their determination. Then in the late spring and early summer of 1941 the enemy aerial attacks became less frequent. The cities and citizens had survived the Blitz.
THE BATTLE ON THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
September 3, 1939 – May 8, 1945
As soon as the conflict began Britain not only faced serious threats from the air but also from the sea. The German Navy’s objective was to starve the British people into submission and to accomplish this they would have to destroy the sea communications and cut off their overseas supply line. Getting control from Narvik in Norway to the Pyrenees the German Navy set out from every harbour ad airfield to achieve their objective.
For the whole of the war the Royal Canadian Navy was one of the principal challengers against the enemy in the Battle of the Atlantic. Canada began the war with 13 vessels and 3,000 men. At the end of the war the Canadian Navy was the third largest in the world with 373 fighting ships and 90,000 men. In 1940 when Germany invaded France there were four Canadian destroyers in the English Channel and aided the forces being evacuated, landed troops and carried out demolition missions. Following the fall of France these destroyers joined the Royal Navy in protecting England’s southwestern approaches where enemy submarines were numerous. Then by July of 1940 all supplies coming to Britain had to be re-routed north of Ireland and through the Irish Sea.
This route too was full of dangers with enemy submarines attacks being frequent. In the “lend-lease” program between Britain and the United Stated 50 WWI destroyers were sent to the Royal Navy with Canada obtaining sis of them.
The Royal Navy was superior to the enemy Navy on the surface, but the real threat lay underneath the surface. By the spring of 1941 U boats were sinking ships faster than they could be replaced. The key to a strategic supply plan of Britain was to bridge the Atlantic and to transport as much good and men but to do that it would be imperative to organize and control the movement of ships and to protect them from attack.
Convoys were formed, and it was through this lifeline where Canadian airmen and seamen played such a vital role. This was serious, important and very dangerous work to be out on the Atlantic in all kinds of weather and facing many dangers. The result was that many died from enemy attack and from exposure from enemy attacks and accidents in high seas and fog.
At this time in the war protection was not sufficient to prevent attacks from the underwater enemy. Naval vessels were too few and maritime air support was too thin. As well there was a lack of technical modernization and training.
The German underwater threat paid the most attention to the weak points in the Allied defences and began to attack the convoys much further west as they now had newer longer ranged submarines and from their new bases along the coats of the Bay of Biscay. Ships were sunk when their escorts had to leave them because of their limits of endurance and in the spring of 1941 the U boats increased the scale of their attacks with 500,000 tons being sunk in June.
To counter this dangerous threat new vessels were constructed and new ways of locating the submarines were being formed. The Royal Canadian Navy then began to be outfitted with ships such as the corvette. This ship was like a whaler and could be quickly constructed. It could outmanoeuvre a submarine and it had long endurance. They became to be known as “wet ships” for as the seas broke over them, the seawater would seep through the seams, hatches and ventilators. They were crowded and the living conditions for the crew of 60 was terrible. They became a very valuable weapon against the enemy threat.
All the while the enemy submarines were probing and attacking further and further west and the Allies were now able to set up bases in Iceland and Newfoundland. The bases in Newfoundland were the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Navy. By July of 1941 the Newfoundland Escort Force totalled 12 groups and were escorting the convoys to 35 degrees west.
The Royal Canadian Air Force was flying patrols from Gander in Newfoundland since 1940 but now could support the Newfoundland Escort Force. Aircraft from both sides of the Atlantic were able to cover the whole of the Atlantic except for a 300 mile area in the middle.
The battle of the sea was continuing but new construction was still not able to keep pace with losses and the convoy escorts were always outnumbered by the wolfpack submarines of the enemy. For the first time it was possible the war could be lost on the Atlantic.
Very early in 1942 the Battle of the Atlantic moved to the North American seaboard. The German underwater terror was sinking ships from Halifax to the Caribbean and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. More than 200 tankers were sunk very close to the Canadian and American shores. Now the Royal Canadian Navy had to protect south bound convoys. The Navy had 188 ships and 16,000 men at sea and they provided 50% of the surface escorts for convoys to England. The RCAF had eight maritime squadrons and 78 aircraft to carry out increasing surveillance of the northwest Atlantic.
The support for the convoys was not anywhere near sufficient for the task at hand and the winter of 1942-1943 was desperate. The German submarine threat grew with attacks increasing and in that winter the loss of shipping could not be stopped.
February 10, 1942 Able Seaman William Laurence Albert WEBB - HMCS Spikenard – K198
As the Germans scaled back their attacks on the Atlantic coast he began to send large groups of submarines into the mid Atlantic. Despite the German submarine pens and submarine bases being attacked the U-boats forces increased. They now had 300 submarines available.
The Canadian escorts were able to hold their own, but wolf packs increased in size and the storms of winter roared across the Atlantic there were heavy convoy losses. In November of 1942 119 Allied ships went to the bottom.
The Royal Canadian Navy knew their ships and equipment was very inadequate to the threat. The Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft had proven valuable in the submarine threat but they did not have long range aircraft. This gave the enemy submarines the ability to roam as they pleased in the area known as the “black pit”.
During 1943 things began to move in favour of the Allies in the Atlantic. Much better and more frequent training, increased numbers of long range bombers and better equipment and all this aided in the formation of powerful support groups. Finally, the Allies were taking the lead in the Atlantic. The climax in the fight for control of the Atlantic came in March 1943 and in that month 108 merchant ships were sunk with a total of 569,000 tonnes of cargo and what was most worrisome was that 85 of those ships were in convoys or were stragglers. The only bright spot was U-boats were being sunk.
The Battle of the Atlantic began on the first day of the war and continued until the last day of the war but in the fall of 1943 and into 1944 it turned dangerous again. The enemy submarine was now equipped with an acoustic torpedoes and submarines now had schnorkels which allowed them to breathe underwater. For a time the U boat had the advantage again. In March of 1945 there were 463 U boats on patrol.
August 21, 1944 Ordinary Telegraphist Keith Ward JENKS - HMCS Alberni – K103
The Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force had helped turn the tide in the Atlantic. More and more Canadians were crossing the Atlantic to engage the enemy wherever he was. As they returned to the waters of Great Britain the training of the Canadians and their experiences to date became very evident to the war effort.
ATLANTIC COAST UNDER THREAT
In December 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour the United States withdrew many of its ships from the North Atlantic for duties elsewhere. This greatly weakened the fight against the German submarine threat. The Canadian naval vessels in Newfoundland were now faced with an impossible task.
During the winter of 1941-1942 on the North Atlantic the winter storms pounded the convoys and escorts and the casualty rate from other than enemy action increased. At this point of the war the convoys were still being sent north to Greenland with the majority of their time being spent in the darkness. Still they pressed ahead and sometimes the ships were covered in ice. The seamen knew if they had to go into the water they would survive a maximum of five minutes. Very few rescue ships were equipped to haul survivors out of the water and care for them and their equipment for saving lives was very inadequate.
Then, in January of 1942, the German Submarines changed their tactics and shifted their attention to the Atlantic coasts of Canada and the United States. The German Naval Command felt that the shipping here would be poorly protected.
Along the American coast, the U-boat commanders called it another “happy times” due to the amount of unescorted shipping there was. It was common practice for a U-boat to surface at night and with ships silhouetted against the skylines of the cities pick one target after another. From January 1942 until July of 1942 the total ships sunk numbered 400. Convoys began to organize on the East coasts and the Royal Canadian Navy was now tasked with handling the north – south convoys.
January 13, 1943 Able Seaman James Alexander GRAHAM - HMCS Cobalt – K 124
THE FIGHT COMES TO THE GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE
May 1942 – November 1944
During the spring of 1942 the Gulf of St. Lawrence was wide open and vulnerable and there was too few aircraft and ships to protect it.
May 11, 1942, just 6 miles off the Gaspe Bay Peninsula two ships were torpedoes and sunk. The war was now knocking on the doorstep.
Again, the Canadian Navy had to organize convoys and the air force tried to keep as many planes as possible above the convoys, but ships were still being lost. Shipping in the Gulf and river was crowded and there were positions where the U-boats could hide. As well, the equipment used for detection seemed to make defence methods not as effective as they should have been. Into early October of 1942 there had been 19 merchant ships lost along with two naval escort vessels.
The Government of Canada was now faced with the strong possibility of many U-boat attacks taking place within sight of land. The solution was to close the river and gulf to overseas shipping and it remained this way until 1944. Only small coastal boats and naval ships were allowed in or out.
The way this decision affected Canada was severe. Montreal was a port where tanks were built but in addition the port served the industrial rail corridor in Ontario and Quebec. The port had the facilities needed to load ships. A ship that sailed from Montreal could reach Liverpool a half day earlier than a ship sailing from New York.
The loss of this port and its facilities resulted in 25% less cargo being shipped from Canada with the result being the U-boats were victorious at no cost at all to them.
July 18, 1946 Able Seaman William Edward KESTLE - HMCS Battleford – K165
THE BATTLE TO SAVE HONG KONG
December 8, 1941 – December 25, 1941
Canadian army forces that were poorly trained and equipped were sent to Hong Kong ad were the first Canadians committed to land battle in World War II.
Tensions in the far east were increasing and Hong Kong as a result was vulnerable. It was known that they could not hold it against the Japanese or could it be held. Late in 1941 this thinking changed with the naïve belief that reinforcement would deter the Japanese in some way and have a strong morale effect in the far east.
The Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers sailed from Vancouver on October 27, 1941 with the feeling that any war with Japan was not imminent and these troops believed they were going for garrison duties. In a matter of five weeks Japan would simultaneously attack Pearl Harbour, Northern Malaya, the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island and Hong Kong.
The Crown Colony of Hong Kong consisted of Hong Kong Island and the nearby mainland of Kowloon and the New Territories. By December 7, 1941 the Japanese were controlling much of the area north of the New Territories-China border.
The number of men in Hong Kong numbered 14,000 from the navy and air force and non-combatants. The defence of Hong Kong would be carried out without air or naval support. The nearest air support was 1,400 miles away.
THE ATTACK AND INVASION OF HONG KONG BY JAPAN
The Japanese attack did not surprise anyone in Hong Kong. At 8 am on the morning of December 7, 1941 Japanese aircraft began their attack and the entire garrison was ordered to their battle stations.
The Japanese ground forces moved across the frontier of the New Territories and here they met the forces of the Hong Kong Mainland Brigade. There was very strong enemy pressure and the Brigade carried out demolition duties fell back to the Gin Drinker’s Line. Then during the night of December 9-10 the Japanese captured the key position of the Shing Mun Redoubt. “D” Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers were moved to the mainland to strengthen that sector. They saw some action on December 11. They were the first Canadian land unit to do battle in World War II. The Japanese pressed forward and soon the Gin Drinker’s line was not able to be defended and the troops withdrew to their defence positions on Hong Kong Island.
On December 13th, the Japanese demanded the surrender of all forces but this was abruptly rejected.
DEFENDING HONG KONG ISLAND
The defenders were now at their positions on Hong Kong Island and the West Brigade included the Winnipeg Grenadiers while the East Brigade included the Royal Rifles of Canada. Both Canadian units were used in the defence of the southern beaches.
The Japanese directed very heavy artillery fire onto the island and mounted destructive air raids while systematically shelling the pillboxes along the north shore. On December 17th, the Japanese again repeated their demand for surrender. Again the defenders refused even though they knew the fall of their positions was a certainty. There was no hope at all for any relief and the defenders awaited the next onslaught in isolation.
During the darkness hours of December 18th the enemy began their crossing of the Lye Mun Passage in assault boats, landing craft, small boats towed by ferry steamers. Large numbers came ashore along a two mile front and faced heavy machine gun fire from the defenders. The Japanese then fanned out to the east and west and began their advance up the valley to the high ground. Here the Royal Rifles of Canada met the Japanese who continued their advance and now reached as far as the Wong Nei Chong and Tai Tam Gaps.
The Japanese had the support of their artillery, total air control and had many reinforcements. The defenders were exhausted from the continuous attacks and that they held out until December 25th is a testimony to their resistance and will.
The Japanese had the high ground and the East Brigade with the Royal Rifles of Canada withdrew to the Stanley Peninsula and as they fell back important artillery pieces were lost. At nightfall on
December 19th the enemy separated the East and West Brigades by penetrating the defences and were able to reach Repulse Bay.
The East Brigade was seriously reduced in manpower and the Royal Rifles were exhausted yet in the next three days they tried to move north over rugged mountain peaks to link up with the Western Brigade ad clear the enemy from the high ground. They had to abandon their attempt to move north and on
December 23rd the depleted East Brigade began to withdraw to Stanley Peninsula. It was here, as Japanese pressures increased where the Royal Rifles of Canada on Christmas Day launched a final counter-attack and the attack broke down following heavy and crippling losses.
The Winnipeg Grenadiers with the West Brigade when two platoons were tasked on the evening of December 18th with seizing the hills known as Jardine’s Lookout and Mount Butler and here there was bitter and intense fighting. They were outnumbered and decimated. One Company of the Grenadiers held on firmly to its position near Wong Nei Chong Gap and denied the enemy the use of a north-south road. The Japanese suffered many casualties here and they delayed the enemy advance for three days. The Grenadiers and the West Brigade held out until the morning of December 22nd as food, water and ammunition was now exhausted and at this time they surrendered.
The final phase of the fighting on the western part of the island was a superb effort to maintain a continuous line from Victoria Harbour to the south shore. They were overrun and at this point they surrendered.
On December 25th at 3:15 pm and after seventeen days of defending against the Japanese the defence of Hong Kong was over.
December 19, 1941 Sgt. Charles Lewis JEWITT
Canadian casualties were tragic with 293 Canadian being killed, 493 Canadians suffering wounds and 1,189 becoming prisoners of war. The Canadians were imprisoned in Hong Kong and Japan and suffered the vilest of conditions. They suffered brutal treatment and near starvation. Many did not survive and 550 or 27% of the Canadians of the 1,975 who left Canada would never return home.
THE FIRST CANADIAN ARMY
Following the arrival of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in England in late December of 1939, the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division arrived in the summer of 1940 with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division arriving in the autumn of 1940. These first divisions were infantry with two armoured divisions and two armoured brigades following. Changes needed to take place with these additional forces and in early 1942, the First Canadian Army with two corps was formed. Canadian Generals would command this force.
The First Canadian Army role changes as well and after the first few months of intense preparations for the invasion that never came, the Canadians were forced to endure a long period of waiting. They waited and all the while they trained for the advance against the continent. A small Canadian-British force went to Spitzbergen beyond the Arctic Circle and as well Canadian tunnellers went to Gibraltar to help with the defences there. In April 1942, a small raid against Boulogne was not successful.
The next major contact with the enemy would prove to be as disastrous as the fight for Hong Kong
August 19, 1942
August 19, 1942 Pvt. Charles BENDALL; Pvt. Andrew Murray CUDMORE;
Major Gordon Howard McTAVISH
November 14, 1942 Pvt. William deLong DUCKWORTH
In the spring of 1942, the situation was depressing and shocking. The German forces had penetrated deep into Russia, the British Eighth Army in North Africa had been forced back into Egypt and in Western Europe the Allies were facing the Germans across the English Channel.
The invasion of the continent was two years away but it was decided to mount an attack on the French port of Dieppe. One of the objectives was to force the Germans to strengthen their defences along the Channel at the expense of other areas they controlled. The raid was also the testing ground for new techniques and equipment and all the while gain knowledge and experience for the invasion of the continent.
Plans were in place and the Canadians would provide the main assault force.
The Dieppe raid took place on August 19, 1942 and 6,000 troops were involved (5,000 Canadian) with the support of the Royal Navy and Air Force. The attack would take place at five points on a 10 mile front. The Canadians would be the frontal attack on Dieppe and would also go ashore at gaps in the cliffs at Puys to the east and Pourville to the west.
The eastern sector assault force encountered a small enemy convoy and all surprise was lost and any chance of success here was lost.
At Puys where the Royal Regiment of Canada came ashore the beach was very narrow and the enemy had the high ground on the cliffs. Any success had depended on darkness and the element of surprise but having had to deal with the enemy convoys they were hours late in coming ashore. When they did get to the beach the enemy machine gun fire and only a few of the Royals were able to get over the heavily wired sea wall and the head of the beach. Any that did get over found they could not get back. The rest of the troops including men from the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) were pinned on the beach by machine gun and mortar fire and later they were forced to surrender. Of those that landed at Puys 200 were killed and 20 later died of wounds. The rest became prisoners of war and the losses here were the heaviest by a Canadian battalion in a single day during the entire war. The failure to clear the eastern headland allowed the Germans to enfilade the beach and nullify the attack. The Royal Regiment at Puys came ashore with 554 men of all ranks and 65 men returned to England with two men dying from wounds. 200 men were killed on the beaches. The number of men that became prisoners totalled 289. The casualty rate for the Royal Regiment of Canada was 36% ad the percentage of prisoners was 52%. Their losses were 88% from killed in action and prisoners. 11% of the Royal Regiment would survive the raid and live to fight again in 1944.
To the west at Pourville, there was some degree of surprise with the guns being destroyed by the Commandos who were able to leave the beaches. Initial opposition facing the South Saskatchewan Regiment and Cameron Highlanders of Canada was light but resistance stiffened as they crossed the River Scie and advanced toward Dieppe. Heavy fighting and both units were stopped well short of the town. The Camerons were able to push toward an airfield but they too were halted.
During the attempted withdrawl the Canadians suffered many losses from heavy enemy fire coming from the heights at Pourville. The South Saskatchewans and Camerons successfully re-embarked with many wounded. The rearguard units were unable to leave the beach and when their ammunition was exhausted they surrendered.
The main attack involving the Essex Scottish Regiment and Royal Hamilton Light Infantry along with the Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal took place on the shingle beach directly across from Dieppe. The enemy placed on the high cliffs and buildings just waited for what they knew was coming. The Essex Scottish assaulted the open eastern section and met devastation from enemy machine guns. They were unable at all to breach the sea-wall and their losses were calamitous. The Essex Scottish came ashore with 553 men and only 51 returned to England or 9%. The men that lost their lives numbered 121 or 22%. Prisoners of war numbered 381 or 69%.
The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry came ashore at the west end of the promenade opposite the large casino and were able to clear a heavily defended building, nearby pill boxes and some got across the bullet swept boulevard and into the town and became involved in bitter street fighting.
The Calagary Regiment in their tanks were perfect targets for the enemy guns as once they were on the beach they could not move because of all the stones. The treads just would not grip anything solid. They were also stopped by the sea wall. Even though they were not mobile they continued to fire their cannons and their action contributed to the withdrawl of many of the infantry. Most tank crews were killed or became prisoners.
Some say this raid was nothing but a useless slaughter. Others felt it was a necessary mission that would lead to a successful invasion of the continent. Out of the carnage came new techniques, new ideas in fire support and new tactics that would reduce the casualties on June 6, 1944. The men who died on this raid were instrumental in saving lives on D-Day. Valuable lessons were learned but the cost was high in human lives. Of the 4,963 Canadians who began the raid only 2,210 or 44% were able to return to England. There were 3,367 casualties or 68%. 1,946 men or 39% became prisoners of war and 916 or 18% were killed.
TAKING BACK CONTROL OF SICILY
July 9, 1943 – August 17, 1943
In the spring of 1943 units of the Canadian forces had gained some valuable battle experience, but the Canadian Army in England had been waiting ad training and now the public and government demanded the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Armoured Brigade be included in the assault onto Sicily.
The Canadians would be part of the British Eighth Army under Montgomery. On the journey to Sicily they were torpedoed and 500 guns were lost. Late on the night of July 9, 1943 the Canadians were part of an invasion armada that numbered 3,000 ships and landing craft.
At dawn on the morning of July 10th the Canadians were part of the left flank of the five British landings that spread out over 40 miles ad they went ashore near Pachino close to the south tip of the island.
Resistance was light and the Canadians advanced over mine filled roads and choking dust. Resistance began to stiffen and the Canadians began to engage the enemy more often. The enemy was tough and they fought a delaying action from their position of height and impregnable hill positions. On July 15th near Grammichele they met the Herman Goering Division and eventually the 1st Infantry Brigade and the tanks of the Three Rivers Regiment took the town.
July 15, 1943 Trooper James Harold McTAVISH
The next towns to fall to the Canadians were Piazza Armenia, Valguarnera, Leonforte and Assoro. The terrain was mountainous and there was bitter fighting. The Germans made a determined stand on the route to Agira. The 1st Brigade made three attempts to dislodge the enemy but were not successful ad a fresh Brigade was brought up and they had overwhelming artillery and air support and they were able to move the enemy. After five days all the towns had been taken.
The Americans in the west and the British moving up the east coast pushed the enemy into asmall area around Mount Etna and the Canadians were able to take the towns of Catenanouva ad Regalbuto.
The final objective for the Canadians was to break through the main enemy positions and capture Adrano. The Canadians once again faced the enemy and the mountainous positions he was in. Mule trains were now required to move all types of needed supplies and equipment to the front as the fighting was now from rock to rock. The Canadians advanced steadily and with the approaches to Adrano cleared the way was open for the closing of the Sicily campaign. On August 7, 1943 the Canadians went into reserve and did not take place in the final phase. Sicily had been captured in 38 days of bitter fighting.
Many enemy troops had managed to escape across the Strait of Messina into Italy. The Allies then secured a necessary air base from which they could support the liberation of Italy. As well they had freed the sea lanes of the Mediterranean Sea and contributed in a large part to the downfall of Mussolini, ad following that Italy sued for Peace.
The Canadians had fought through 150 miles of hostile ground further than any other formation in the British Eighth Army and in the last two weeks of the campaign they had a large percentage of the fighting on their shoulders.
Canadian casualties were 562 men killed, 1,664 men were wounded and 84 men became prisoners of war.
THE FIGHT FOR ITALY
September 3, 1943 – February 1945
Following the overthrow of Mussolin, the Germans then seized control and it was the German military that the Allies would face in their advance up the Italian peninsula.
The enemy would take advantage of the mountain peaks and fast moving rivers and every Allied advance forward would prove to be difficult.
The 1st Canadian Division as part of the British Eighth Army ad the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade would lead the way across the Strait of Messina to the toe of Italy and then advance toward Naples.
The assault across the Strat of Messina began on September 3rd with the Canadians moving toward Reggio Calabria. They met little resistance as the Germans had withdrawn to establish their line of defence across the narrow and mountainous central part of the peninsula. The Canadians took Reggio, then advanced across the Aspromonte Mountains and the Gulf of Taranto to Catanzaro. In spite of rain, poor mountain roads, and German rearguards actions, they were 75 miles inland from Reggio in a week.
The Fifth American Army met heavy resistance on the beaches and a Canadian Brigade was diverted from the British Eighth Army to tackle Potenza. The breakout was accomplished by the Americans and the 1st Canadian Brigade proceeded to the east and joined the Airborne Division in the Taranto region, then pushed inland to the north and northwest.
By the end of September 1943 the enemy still firmly held the central and northern Italy but the Allied forces had overrun a large and valuable portion of southern Italy with their armies in a line from the Adriatic Sea om the east coast to the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast.
The Canadians now found themselves pushing north through the central mountain ranges and now the German military began to resist strongly and forcefully. At the village of Motta on October 1st was where the Canadians first fought against the Germans in Italy. Here, there was a series of bloody skirmishes before they moved on and took Campobasso on October 14th. Then on the next day they took Vinchchiaturo and the advance continued across the Biferno River. In addition, one unit from the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade played an important role on the Adriatic coast as support for a British assault at Termolli and its advance to the Sangro River.
October 2, 1943 Sergeant Albert Edward CHIPCHASE
October 23, 1943 Private Sidney Arthur KING
In 63 days the Canadians had advanced 450 miles and the German strength was now at par with the Allies. The Germans had the advantage of defence and they meant to make a stand from the coast south of Cassino on the Naples-Rome highway, to Ortona on the Adriatic coast. Things were not going to be easy.
On November 5th it was decided to strengthen the Canadians by bringing up the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.
At this point in the fight for Italy, the first winter snows began to fall and the British Eighth Army which included the Canadians struck hard at the Germans positioned along the Sangro River on the Adriatic coast. The aim was to break the stalemate. The Adriatic coast was cut by a series of deep river valleys. The British and Canadians were successful in pushing the enemy off the Sangro they were then faced with the same objective a few miles north. It was here along the Moro River where some of the most brutal, bloody and fierce battles in the war took place. The German military over and over again counter attacked and many times the fighting was hand to hand with no quarter given and the Canadians slowly advancing toward Ortona and the coast.
December 9, 1943 Pvt. Charles Stewart CANN; Cpl. Norman Michael McQUAID
Ortona was a medieval city with castles and stone buildings and was situated on a ledge overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The streets were steep and filled with rubble and this limited the use of tanks and guns. It was a struggle from hell for the Canadian infantry. During several days of vicious and bloody fighting on the streets the Canadians learned to “mousehole” where they would smash through the walls of houses into the next house, clear the enemy and repeat the process over and over again. It was successful and at Christmas of 1943 and at the same time a secondary attack to the northwest had caused the enemy to abandon Ortona as they were in danger of being cut off. The city fell to the Canadians on December 28th.
December 20, 1943 Cpl. Claude Eustace BELLESMITH
Winter had arrived and further advances were halted and during the lull the Canadians had reached their maximum strength of nearly 76,000 men.
January 1, 1944 Pvt. Almer Leroy HUNKIN
January17, 1944 Pvt. Arthur William PRIOR
January 29, 1944 Pvt. Alfred Joseph LAPOINTE
January 30, 1944 Pvt. Arthur Nicholas FOSTER
THE LIRI VALLEY BATTLE
During the spring of 1944 the defence line north of Ortona was still held by the Germans as well they held Monte Cassino which blocked the Liri corridor to the Italian capital. Thee Germans wanted Rome and built the Gustav Line and the Adolf Hitler Line.
During the months of April and May the British Eighth Army including the 1st Canadian Division was secretly moved across Italy to join the US Fifth Army in the struggle for Rome. In the valley below Monte Cassino, the Allies advanced o to the enemy positions. The 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade supported the Allied attacks. After four days of battles the enemy defences were broken from Cassino to the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast and the enemy moved back to their second defence line.
April 10, 1944 Lance Cpl. Joseph Lee James NICHOLSON
On May 16th the Canadians began to advance onto the Hitler Line and encountered very heavy enemy machine gun and mortar fire but still managed to breach the enemy defences and the tanks of the 5th Armoured Brigade advanced to the next objective which was the Melfa River. As a bridgehead was being formed there was some serious fighting taking place but once the Canadians were over the Melfa River the major fight for the Liri Valley was over. The enemy frll back quickly and now it became a pursuit and the 5th Armoured Brigade followed the enemy to Ceprano where the 1st Canadian Infantry Division continued the chase. At the end of May the Canadians occupied Frosinone and here the Canadians went into reserve. On June 4th Rome fell and two days later the invasion of north-west Europe began and it was imperative the Allies in Italy kept the enemy pinned down.
May 24, 1944 Pvt. Wilfred SCOTT
May 26, 1944 Trooper Kenneth Joseph WHITE
The Canadians were then withdrawn to rest and re-organize except for the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade who stayed with the British who advanced against the Germans to the north and their last line of defence.
ADVANCING TO RIMINI
The autumn and winter of 1944-1945 found the Canadians back on the Adriatic coast with their objective being to capture the Gothic Line. This was all that was separating the Canadians from the Po Valley and the Lombardy Plain. Northern Italy was full of factories that were producing supplies and the Germans were going to fight hard to prevent a break through. They had made this defence line powerful and it ran between Pisa and Pesaro. In this line of defence there were anti tank ditches, barbed wire, mines, emplacements for machine guns and mortars, anti tank guns, assault guns and tank guns wrapped in concrete. The plan called for an assault on the eastern flank of the enemy and they tried to make the German forces that an attack was coming from the west and this is where the Canadians were. However, the Canadians then secretly moved to the coast of the Adriatic.
August 10, 1944 Craftsman John Austin GALLAGHER
Late in August the whole might of the Canadians advanced onto the Gothic Line with the plan to take Rimini. Six Rivers would have to be crossed with the first being the Metauro River. The second river was the Foglia and it was going to be more difficult. It took some time to eliminate this threat as the enemy was very well dug in and in very late August two Canadian forces crossed the Foglia and passed through the Gothic Line. The Canadians then in early September were moving toward the Conca River.
August 26, 1944 Pvt. Harold G. SMITH
August 27, 1944 Pvt. Preston Harold LEDIET
The forces of Germany quickly reorganized and reinforced their positions along the Adriatic and the Canadian advance was now a slow, bitter and bloody fight. As they neared the Conca River they came under heavy attack from the 1st German Parachute Division and to the west the battle for the Coriano Ridge was happening. The Canadians took the ridge and for three more weeks there was fighting before the Canadians we able to take control of the hills at San Fortunato and this blocked the way to the Po Valley. Then on September 21 they entered Rimini only to find it deserted. The 1st Canadian Division went into reserve with the New Zealand Division and the 5th Canadian Armoured Division taking their place. They were going to move across the Lombardy Plain to Po and Bologna but that never happened because the heavy rains came. Rivers and streams overflowed their banks and the dust turned to deep mud. As well the enemy was still fighting back.
September 1, 1944 Pvt. William John MILLER
Late in September the hopes of moving into the Po Valley were dashed. The 1st Canadian Division was back at the front and the 5th Canadian Armoured Division went into reserve. For the first three weeks of September the Canadians fought in the swampy terrain of the Romagna River and were able to get through the enemy defences along the Savio River and still the German forces counter attacked. The Americans were making good progress and to stop that advance they took two divisions from the Adriatic and this allowed the Canadians to move onto the Ronco River. Then, the Canadians left the line for reorganization. They had fought for 2 ½ months. The 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade was still with the British. Their campaign would end in February 1945.
September 6, 1944 Pvt. Harvey Charles PARSONS
October 12, 1944 Lance CPL. Harold Louis MAIER
December 20, 1944 Pvt. Raymond Frederick WEIBURG
The Canadians returned to the front and the fighting on December 1, 1944 as the British were going to push one last time toward the Lombardy Plain. This month was a bloody month and the advance took them to the Senio River. The German military brought in reinforcements and with the help of the terrain and the weather they were able to stop the British Eighth Army. The Senio then became the winter line of the 1944-1945 winter.
January 6, 1945 Pvt. Glen Howard GILE
January 14, 1945 Pvt. Carl BLOOMFIELD
February 23, 1945 Pvt. Roy Frank PEARSON
In late February 1945 the whole of the 1st Canadian Corps began to move from Italy, through France and into north-west Europe where the war would end.
The German Army in 1944 was very dangerous and they were possibly the most effective fighting force in the world. They had been badly mauled on the Eastern Front. However, they were battle-hardened and strongly led.
As 1944 moved toward late spring the chances of an invasion taking place were increasing, the defences along the French coasts were strengthened and very large steel and concrete reinforced pillboxes were constructed, barbed wire was added, mines were laid, artillery firepower was increased, more machine gun nests were built, mortar pits were built and there were more obstacles placed on the beaches. New units arrived and these included elite Panzer divisions and SS troops. These enemy forces brought superior weapons such as the Panther and Tiger tank along with the lethal and death-dealing 88mm gun that could be used against aircraft or anything on the ground.
D – DAY NORMANY JUNE 6, 1944
This plan the Allies drew up was known as Operation Overlord. It was a plan that took the Allies two years to organize.
The task ahead was going to be extremely difficult and the casualties would be high. The German military had turned the coastline along the English Channel into a veritable fortress that included guns of all calibres embedded in concrete, tank traps, mines, barbed wire, machine gun nests, tanks and many thousands of defenders.
For quite a period of time the Allies had been training in England, they had been planning the operation, they gathered the necessary equipment and supplies needed, they planned on building an underwater fuel line across the Channel, they were using prefabricated concrete harbours and all branches of the service were well aware of what was expected of them.
Canadian forces were some of the first forces going into action. For months previous the Royal Canadian Air Force had been bombing important enemy targets such as roads, bridges, railways, airfields along with command and communication centres. On D-Day they were part of the 171 Allied squadrons in the air. The Canadian Group 6 bombers had been hitting the enemy coastal installations. Royal Canadian Air Squadrons No. 441, 442 and 443 were the first Allied squadrons to fly from France since 1940.
The Royal Canadian Navy assisted the invasion with 109 ships and 10,000 sailors. Canadian minesweepers cleared mines from the sea lanes in the channel
The areas that would be used as landing sites were hit with an all night bombardment, the parachute forces including 450 Canadians were dropped in the hours of darkness prior to daylight The Royal Canadian Navy ships offshore were bombarding the enemy beaches and overhead in the skies above the Royal Canadian Air Force bombed gun emplacements and Canadian fighters struck targets farther from the beach.
The beach where the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade would come ashore was known as Juno Beach. To the west of Juno were the British Gold Beach and the American beaches Omaha and Utah. To the east of June was the British Sword Beach.
Juno Beach “Mike” sector: The 1st Hussar tanks arrived on shore in good order and provided the Regina Rifles with their covering fire. The advance bombardments here had failed to eliminate the shore guns and they could only de destroyed only by a direct hit through the observation slits. The tanks worked in tandem with the infantry they fought their way off the beach into the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer where house to house battles took place. The Regina Rifles reserves died on their way to the beach after striking a mine.
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles plus a company from the Canadian Scottish of the 7th Brigade made it ashore in good shape as the naval guns had quietened the shore guns at their location. The company of Winnipeg Rifles at the western edge or Courseulles-sur-Mer found that the bombardments had missed their targets and they were under heavy gunfire all the way in. Even so, they waded ashore and many died in the water or on the beach. They lost 75% or 95 of the 127 men in the company. Those remaining advanced past the beach defences, cleared the land minefields and occupied coastal villages such as St. Crois-sur-Mer and Banville and by that evening had consolidated themselves in Creully.
Juno Beach “Nan” sector: Both the Queen’s Own Rifles and the North Shore Regiment of the 8th Brigade came up against enemy gun positions with one enemy gun inflicting heavy casualties on the North Shore Regiment and destroying a number of Fort Garry Horse tanks before it was eliminated. The rest of the North Shore made it ashore but once ashore they needed sis hours to take the village of Tailleville.
The Queen;s Own took the heaviest beating of any Canadian unit for the preliminary bombardment had only touched a few enemy gun positions. The rest were waiting. The Duples Drive tanks were late due to the weather and came on the beach after the Queen;s Own and when they did they were looking at the muzzles of the enemy guns. Only a few tanks made it into action that day.
The Queen’s Own were 30 minutes late hitting the beach and the men a sprint for the seawall 600 feet away. The sprint was in the open with no cover. One company met an 88mm gun and 100 men were killed.
A second company landed in front of an intact enemy position and quickly lost 65 men and three men were able to eliminate the threat with grenades.
They then advanced and took the village of Bernieres and progress then became slower and they did not take Ben-sur-Mer on the main road until later in the day.
June 6, 1944 Rifleman Robert Pearson PAPPLE
The reserves consisting of the Canadian Scottish and the Chaudieres came on the beach shortly after the initial landings with the Canadian Scottish taking light casualties. However, the men of the Chaudieres came on the beach in high tide, their landing craft struck mines and the men threw their equipment off and swam to shore.
The Canadian front was five miles between St Aubin sur Mer and Courseulles sur Mer and once ashore would begin their push through an opening between Bayeux and Caen, then advance onto the Carpiquet airfield about 10 miles from shore. The original hope was for the British to take Caen and Bayeux with the Canadians being astride the railway and road lining those towns.
The 9th Brigade came ashore at midday and included the Highland Light Infantry, The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders and the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and once ashore moved to Bernieres via Beny sur Mer and to Villons-les-Buissons just four miles shy of Caen. Their advance was held up by enemy fire. When they stopped they were just shy of the airport at Carpitquet which had been the final objective of the Division.
The mighty German Atlantic Wall had holes all through it where the Allies penetrated inland. On June 6th 14,000 Canadians came ashore. Canadians killed were 359 or 2.5%. Wounded numbered 715 or 5%.
At the close of June 6, 1944 155,000 troops were shore, 6,000 vehicles were ashore which included 900 tanks, 600 guns and 4,000 tons of supplies.
GERMAN FORCES FIGHT BACK
June 9, 1944 Pvt. Alex McKENZIE
The 7th Brigade with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and Regina Rifles moved forward on June 7th advanced and took their D-Day objectives.
The North Nova Scotia Highlanders of the 9th Brigade along with the Sherbrooke Fusiliers
(27th Armoured) were ordered to occupy two small villages on the fringes of Caen. At the village of Buron they faced German Panzer troops and there was intense hand to hand fighting before the enemy was driven back.
The Canadians then bypassed Buron and advanced toward Authie and here they ran into 12th SS Panzer Division consisting of very fanatical Hitler Jugend. They were 18 years old and led by strong and resilient officers and all had been on the Eastern Front. They gave no quarter.
They attacked the Canadians with one company of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders being totally destroyed. The shells from the Canadian tanks bounced off the armour of the enemy tanks and many Shermans were destroyed. There was hand to hand fighting and losses for both sides was extreme. The Canadians were driven out of both villages and had been barely able to survive this fight.
On June 8th SS troops attacked the Regina Rifles and Winnipeg Rifles, both were surrounded and both were running short of ammunition and the Winnipeg Rifles retreated under heavy fire from the village of Putot-en-Bessin. That same night the 1st Hussars and Canadian Scottish were able to retake the village but at a very high cost.
The Regina Rifles from SS tanks and infantry. The enemy overran the battalion’s front line and infiltrated the HQ area. They fought all night. The sky was lit up from burning buildings and burning tanks. Anti-tank guns and the arrival of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers rescued the situation.
Between June 6-8 the casualties inflicted on the North Novas, Sherbrooke Fusiliers, Winnipeg Rifles, Regina Rifles and Canadian Scottish numbered 600 men. The Canadians had bent but did not break. The Canadians knew now what to expect from the enemy but that they could hold their own against him. For the moment the Canadians had been stopped but the German forces had paid dearly.
June 9, 1944 Pvt. Arnold Richard ARCHIBALD
On June 11th the Canadians went against the enemy but the gains were small. The Chaudierie and the Fort Garry Horse joined British units in an attack against the SS in the town of Rots. Tragedy fell on the Canadians at Les Mesnil Patry when the Queen’s Own Rifles riding on the 1st Hussar tanks as they attacked the village were hit by well concealed tanks and artillery. Nineteen Canadian tanks were destroyed and the two regiments had 114 men killed and 65 men wounded.
Between June 6-11 the 3rd Canadian Division and the 2nd Armoured Brigade had suffered 1,000+ killed and 2,000 men wounded. Even so the Canadians had secured their bridgehead.
June 11, 1944 Trooper Arnold David BOWES; Lance Cpl. Gordon Ivan NICHOL
June 16, 1944 Gunner Roy Elgin PIERCE
Through the months of June and into early July the fight for supremacy continued and the Canadians were planning on enlarging their bridgehead. The Canadians would be experiencing some of the most bitter fighting as they would come up against the German Panzer divisions in the upcoming fights for Carpitquet and Caen
June 22, 1944 Pvt. Lawrence Sylvester BUTTERS
June 27, 1944 Pvt. Harold Stanley MOHRING
The German Command was now very disorganized with Rommel’s forces being rapidly wittled down and Hilter still believed the main invasion attack would come at Pas de Calais. Still the enemy was dangerous, deadly, resourceful and stubborn.
The plan called for the Canadians and British preventing the German armour and infantry units from going anywhere and then taking the city of Caen. This meant that the Canadians would be facing the best that Germany had.
In early July of 1944 the Canadians were to capture the airfield at Carpitquet which was defended by the 12th SS and the Canadians had met them before and knew what they should expect. The 3rd Canadian Division would attack with 4 infantry battalions, an armoured regiment and every piece of artillery available to them.
It was not enough for on July 4th as the Canadians advanced they were hit with artillery and tank fire. Those remaining from the Chaudieres had occupied the village and now there was close quarter fighting.
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles suffered as they crossed the runway at Carpitquet as they were taking fire from enemy bunkers and pill boxes. They advanced twice under pressure but that night they had to withdraw. During the night of July 4/5 the enemy threw mortars and artillery fire into them and also mounted several brutal counter attacks. Some of the Chaudieres became prisoners but the remaining Canadians held their positions. The Royal Winnipegs had 40 men killed and 92 men wounded. The North Shore Regiment had 46 killed and 86 men wounded.
July 5, 1944 Rifleman Benjamin William CHURCHILL
Caen was still under the control of the German forces with the Canadians and British scheduled to attack very late on July 7th. The advance was to begin with a very large bombardment from 100s of bombers.
The enemy had been badly bruised from the bombings of the previous night and most of them were well dug in around the outskirts of Caen. What had happened during the night was that the bombing only aided the German defenses.
As the Canadians advanced they again ran into the 12th SS and The Highland Light Infantry in battle for the first time fought all day and at the end of the say casualties numbered 250 men. More Canadians were killed here than on the Juno Beach. The North Nova Scotia Highlands took Authie and the 9th Brigade captured the HQ of the 12th SS.
July 8, 1944 Pvt. Arthur James FRAISER; Lance Sgt. Wilfred Laurier HEDLEY;
Lance Cpl. Wellan Anthony SMITH
O July 9th the Canadians cleared Caen of enemy snipers, mines and booby traps. Caen fell due to the persistent efforts of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.
Most of the enemy had escaped over the River Orne and the Canadians would meet them again.
More than a month passed before what was the objective of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division on June 6th was captured. On July 10th Caen fell to the Canadians.
July 11, 1944 Lt. Donald King HASTINGS; Gunner Gordon Berry McGUIRE
THE WEARING DOWN OF THE ENEMY
The Canadian and British holding action in the east was draining the German resources at a steady rate. Advancing was a slow and bloody process and again they would attack the enemy to give the Americans time to break out.
Shortly following this the 2nd Canadian Corps arrived and during the fighting south of Caen all Canadians in France were in the battle. The objective of the 2nd Corps was to break from Caen across the River Orne, enlarge the terrain captured and to keep the enemy busy so they would not move against the Americans.
July 17, 1944 Lance Cpl. Russel Keith WILLIAMSON
On July 18th the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division again bore the brunt of the fighting and they experienced hand to hand fighting with the enemy in the ruins of the industrial areas of Caen and on July 19th the division had crossed the River Orne and reached the suburbs of Caen.
The 2nd Division on July 20th set out to capture Verrieres Ridge which was a hill that rose 286 feet and it overlooked the main road running south from Caen. It was defended by the SS who just two days prior had destroyed one of the best units in the British Army. This is what the 2nd Canadian Division was about to meet.
As the Canadians advanced they were able to gradually push the enemy flanks back but in the centre there was nothing but chaos. The South Saskatchewan Regiment advanced in the rain resulting in no air cover for them. From their advantage of the heights the Germans raked the Canadians wit their fire and they were precise about it. Shortly 200 men of the South Saskatchewan’s were dead and the remainder were in retreat. Two companies of the Essex Scottish were also falling back but the remaining Essex Scottish stood where they were and stopped the enemy counter-attack.
July 21st was a wet and rainy day and this is when the enemy hit the Essex Scottish which created a salient between them and the Mont royal Fusiliers. Disaster was close at hand until the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) with the support of a heavy artillery bombardment and two armoured regiments recaptured lost ground. The front was then stabilized. The German forces still held Verrieres Ridge and the South Saskatchewan’s and the Essex Scottish had taken 450+ casualties.
The 2nd Canadian Corps casualties numbered 2,000+ over four days of fighting.
July 21, 1944 Trooper Ross F. WHITTARD
July 23, 1944 Pvt. Allan Henderson GAULEY
THE JULY 25TH CATASTROPHE
On this day the Canadians were still trying to keep the German military forces near Caen, but poor weather was delaying the American offensive. The 2nd Canadian Corps was again tasked with attacking Verrieres Ridge.
Early in the morning the advance began and immediately there were problems. They were under heavy fire from all sides. Mining tunnels and ventilation shafts allowed the Germans to move around inside them to wherever they wanted to go. The Canadians used artificial moonlight by beaming searchlights off the clouds but this only made it easier for the enemy to see the Canadians. The North Nova Scotia Highlanders from 9th Brigade – 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the Fort Garry Horse from the
2nd Armoured Brigade were hit hard with only 100 surviving men from the North Shore Regiment and 4 tanks making it back to the lines.
It was not over. The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division’s Royal Hamilton Light Infantry were able to take the town of Verrieres but the Royal Regiment of Canada’s lead Company made a push there were met by the fire of 30 enemy tanks. The Black Watch went up Verrieres Ridge and were swept by enemy fire and 60 men were able to reach the top. They did not know it but the enemy had laid a trap and when the trap was spring only 15 men of the Black Watch were alive.
Just prior to sunset the enemy counter attacked and this swallowed the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. A number of enemy tanks broke through but the RHLI held their positions.
As July 25th closed the staggering toll on the Canadians was 450 men killed and 1,050 being wounded. This was the worst day in the war for the Canadian Military except for the 1942 Dieppe raid.
July 25, 1944 Trooper Hector John LAMONT; Trooper Robert John McNALL;
Pvt. William Logie NICOL
THE BEGINNING OF THE BREAKOUT
Canadian and British forces had accomplished their objective of keeping the enemy near Caen and in doing so had weakened the German forces that would be facing the Americans. The Americans had finally been able to begin their push on July 25th and they broke through the German lines and begin to spread across the countryside.
The German Army was in a difficult situation and the commanders should have withdrawn behind the River Seine but Hitler decided his army would attack the American front and believed the Americans would break. It was not possible for that to happen as the German forces did not have the required manpower nor did he have the equipment needed to be successful.
The Allies at Bletchley Park in London had deciphered the German codes and knew exactly what was going to take place.
Knowing the enemy plan allowed the Allies to make a plan to lure the Germans into a powerless position and overwhelm them in a encircling movement with the possibility being there to destroy the German Army in Normandy.
The Canadian and British would then have to close the enemy escape path and they would drive south from Caen to the town of Falaise and link up with the Americans.
It was up to the First Canadian Army to carry out this operation. The badly mauled 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was pulled off the line and replaced by the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. As well the
1st Polish Armoured Division would be involved as well as the 1st British Corps.
The preparations were in place to close out the Normandy campaign.
July 31, 1944 Pvt. Harry CUMMINGS
The Canadian plan was to advance during the night of July 8th following an air bombardment and break through to the Falaise road junction and then use radio beams, searchlights and tracer fire to steer them. The Canadians also were going to use the Sexton self propelled guns into personnel carriers and lance the enemy lines.
Soon after they advanced it began to unravel with the Canadians getting lost in the darkness from the dust and smoke from the air bombardment. There were high casualties, but the majority reached their objective villages where the Canadians had previously been devastated. They also reached the deadly Verrieres Ridge by noon and they threw back the enemy counter attacks.
There were some rewards in the beginning but there was battlefield uncertainty and the enemy resistance stalled the advance. Air support was supposed to have broken the stalemate but the Americans misjudged and dropped their bombs on the Canadians and Poles with the lost of 300 men killed.
August 5, 1944 Pvt. William Donald GREIG
August 8, 1944 Lance Sgt. Clifford Alfred TAMAN; Sgt. Gordon Wilmot WALLACE
The Alqonquin Regiment from the 4th Armoured Brigade rode on the tanks of the British Columbia Regiment to take and hold the high terrain near Quesnay Wood that rose above the Caen / Falaise Road. Again they became lost in the dark of August 9th they ran into the very depleted but still dangerous SS Panzer Division. Now the Canadians were cut off, there in open ground, there was not one place to hide and no chance to dig in. The Canadians as usual fought well but were demolished one by one and over the course of that day the casualties were 240 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner. They lost 47 tanks.
On August 10th the Queen’s Own Rifles and the North Shore Regiment advanced to try and eliminate the enemy in Quesnay Wood. During the advance the Hitler Youth waited until the last moment and pounced on the Queen’s Own. From the other side of the road they pounced on the North Shore Regiment. They sustained 44 men killed and 121 men wounded or captured.
August 10, 1944 Guardsman William Alexander GRAHAM
The German offensive on the American front was a futile advance and, against the orders of Hitler the enemy was now beginning to flee to the east. The noose was getting smaller and tighter and never-ending air attacks on the fleeing enemy was taking its toll. The longer the noose remained as it was the enemy could escape.
August 12, 1944 Trooper Arthur McLEAN; Pvt. Ward Andrew PAFF
The Canadian Operation Tractable began on August 14th with a daylight assault planned under a smokescreen with two armoured divisions leading with the support of infantry. Air and artillery support were to aide them as they moved forward. As the advance moved the Allied air bombardment once again fell on the Canadians and Poles with 400 casualties being taken. As the advance moved forward in clouds of dense smoke and dust, the enemy shells fell on the tight columns. The Canadian tanks kept progressing until the Laison River where the tanks got bogged down in the mud along the banks and the river bed but with some ingenuity, they crossed the river.
Falaise had to be taken quickly and speed and secrecy was important. The resistance from the Germans was dissolving and on August 15th the Canadians once again met the 12th SS Panzer or what was left of it. The Canadian Scottish faced and suffered their worst battering since D-Day.
August15, 1944 Trooper Merrit Edison POLLOCK
The Canadian and American lines came to within 18 miles of one another on August 15th. In between them was the space where the enemy was felling east. The Canadians now had to plug those 18 miles between Falaise and Argentan and in doing so the enemy would be surrounded on all sides. The German army was determined to break through but the Canadians were just as determined to stop them.
THE NOOSE IS TIGHTENED
The Canadian Infantry Division on August 16th advanced to capture Falaise and the 4th Canadian and
1st Polish Armoured Divisions rushed to block the enemy retreat just east of Falaise. The Americans and Free French moved toward Chambois. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division took Trun from the north on August 18th. They then formed a defensive line along the Falaise to Trun road to stop the enemy from breaking out. The 1st Polish Armoured Division moved further east to stop the enemy from breaking into the noose and aiding their comrades. The rest of the division moved to Chambois and joined up with the Americans.
August 17, 1944 Cpt. James McLean McKAGUE
The noose around the German was closed except for a few little holes that needed to be plugged. The Poles to the east were positioned on a wooded hill and here they were determined to have the enemy submit. The battle would be unforgiving and brutal because during the month 20 enemy units had managed to get by the Canadian forces. They were on the other side of the surrounded Germans and they continuously attacked the Poles. The situation with the 1st Polish Armoured Division was they were surrounded, they were low on ammunition, low on food and know on fuel but they held, and they fought. They were relieved by the Canadian Grenadier Guards. The Poles had lost 2,300 men but their actions had sealed the fate of the German forces in Normandy.
Meanwhile, the Canadians to the west had eliminated the threat of an enemy retreat to the east. On
August 18th the South Alberta Regiment and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada left Trun and moved to St. Lambert-sur-Dives and at this position was the only remaining escape road for the enemy forces.
During August 18-19 the 4th Canadian Armoured Division were alone and the enemy outnumbered them but they still waged war against the fleeing German army. Major David Currie of the South Alberta Regiment (29th Armoured Regiment) was in a position where all of his officers had either been killed or wounded. The Division was near Saint-Lamburt -sur Dives. While the South Albertas were battling the enemy, Major Currie went among his men and directed their fire and also directed the fire of his few remaining guns. He himself eliminated a German Tiger tank.
When this battle was over the men with Major Currie had destroyed 7 enemy tanks, destroyed 12 of the dangerous 88mm guns, destroyed 40 enemy vehicles and had killed, wounded or captured 2,000 of the enemy. For his actions over those two days Major Currie was awarded the Victoria Cross.
By August 25th the Germans realized they could not hold France any longer as their armies were weakened but not yet destroyed and had moved toward their own borders to make their last stand.
The Canadian were the vanguard of the Normandy campaign victory. Germany had lost 300,000 men, most of the enemy equipment had been obliterated including 2,000+ tanks, and the backbone of the Germany Army west was no more.
Canadian losses numbered 5,021 men killed and 13,424 men either wounded or prisoners of war. The Canadian 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions suffered more than any other Allied units in Normandy.
The Canadians were amateurs when they landed at Juno Beach and they came up against the Professional German soldiers. Even so, the Canadian forces were victorious.
August 27, 1944 Lt. James Owen COMBE
August 29, 1944 Pvt. Floyd Henry SHANK
THE COASTS AND THE PORTS
September 1, 1944 – September 30, 1944
The areas along the coasts of France, Belgium and the Netherlands had to be cleared of the Germans and the First Canadian Army prepared to move toward this objective.
The Canadians on the east flank moved quickly through France on their way to Belgium.
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division liberated Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais and the Cap Gris Nez. Everything except Dunkirk had been cleared of German occupation by the end of September. The cities of England were now free of the threats from the V1 & V2 rockets as these launching sites had been destroyed.
February 14, 1945 Able Seaman Bensen Gordon DICK - 29th Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla
German forces knew what the situation was and what the outcome of the war would be in late August of 1944 and wisely evacuated Dieppe prior to the advance of the 2nd Canadian Corps. On Friday September 1, 1944 the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division arrived at and entered Dieppe. The Division re-organized here and contemplated on the disaster of August 1942. There was a victory parade on Sunday September 3rd and on this day recover their fallen comrades in a figurative manner.
Following the parade, many visited the cemetery the Germans made to bury the Canadian dead from 1942 and held a memorial service for their fallen comrades.
September 9, 1944 Rifleman Alan Clayton FISHER
September11, 1944 Private Milton Edward EVERS
September 15, 1944 Lieutenant George Victor ELLIOTT
September 17, 1944 Private Clare Donald SURERUS
September 18, 1944 Guardsman Edward Charles TRIEBNER
September 19,1944 Private John Andrew HORSEBURGH; Lance Sgt. John Alexander SWEET
September 20, 1944 Corporal Norman Hilton SAUNDERS
September 23, 1944 Craftsman Dennis Joseph COLLINS
September 24, 1944 Private Charles Wallace BOWEN
September 25, 1944 Rifleman Alpine Alexander McEWEN
THE BELGIAN LIBERATION - THE SCHELDT
September 3, 1944 – November 28, 1944
The city and port of Antwerp were in the hands of the Allies but the port could not be used as the German military controlled all the entrances to the harbour that stretched to the North Sea. The Allied forces urgently needed the harbour for their supply line. The only supply line was the original one from the Normandy beaches and it still had to be used.
The Frist Canadian Army now had a job to do which was clear the enemy from banks of the Scheldt River, the South Beveland isthmus and peninsula as well as from Walcheren Island.
It was going to be a difficult challenge for the Canadians, with its demanding terrain of dykes, canals and flooded land and they were facing a determined enemy
Step One: the area north of Antwerp had to be cleared and then close the South Beveland isthmus.
Step Two: clear the Breskens “pocket” which was behind the Leopold Canal.
Step Three: this was the reduction of the Beveland peninsula.
Step Four: the capture of Walcheren Island.
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division advancing north of Antwerp and went forward successfully to the isthmus where enemy troops met them and stopped the advance. Heavy fighting took place and the casualties taken were heavy but the Canadians attacked over open and flooded terrain. Woensdrecht fell on October 16th which was at the entrance to the South Beveland. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division was moved north of the Scheldt and made a rapid move toward Bergen op Zoom.
On October 24th the isthmus had been sealed off.
There was heavy fighting along the south shore of the Scheldt and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division faced fanatical enemy resistance as they fought their way across the Leopold Canal to Breskens. This phase began on October 6th and up until October 9th there was a small bridgehead that was always in danger of being eliminated. On October 9th the hold the enemy had was broken and the Canadians broadened their bridgehead. Troops and tanks crossed the Leopold Canal forcing the enemy to fall back into concrete emplacements along the coast. By November 3rd following some brutal fighting the Scheldt was in the hands of the Canadians.
October 5, 1944 Cpl. William Elmer WESTBROOK
Walcharen Island was a huge obstacle to the use of the port of Antwerp by the Allies. The enemy had very strong defences and the only way there was by using the long and narrow isthmus. In addition to this all the surrounding lands were too saturated for even movement by foot. As well there was not enough water to use storm boats. The attack came from across the causeway, from the east and from the sea and the RAF breached the dykes in the hope it would hamper the enemy defences.
October 14, 1944 Pvt. William Kent COWAN; Pvt. Sidney TAYLOR
October 17, 1944 Pvt. Donald McLennan MURRAY
On October 31st the causeway was attacked and a bitter struggle followed but the Canadians were able to establish a small secure position and in partner with waterborne advances the push forward continued. Middleburg was the capital of the island and it fell on November 6th will all enemy resistance ending on November 8th.
The port of Antwerp received its first supply convoy on November 28th. The harbour had been take will all its facilities intact.
Canadian casualties suffered during the clearing of all the North Sea ports had cost the Canadians 6,000 men either killed, wounded, missing or becoming prisoners of war.
THE GERMAN FATHERLAND
With the Scheldt under control of the Canadians and its Allies a new responsibility was assigned to the Canadians which was to hold the line along the Maas River and the Nijmegen salient. That meant the Canadian front the Canadians were responsible for ran for 220 miles from the Dunkirk on the North Sea Coast of France to south of Nijmegen at the German border.
During the winter of 1944-1945 the Canadian forces planned and prepared for the continuation of their offensive against Germany. It was a static period of approximately three months but there were some violent clashes against German forces. At Kapelsche Veer there was a clash requiring considerable effort on the part of the Canadians as they were facing German paratroopers. There was a lot of enemy movement which raised alarm bells and this was because of a German offensive in the Ardennes of Belgium that became known as the Battle of the Bulge.
December 13, 1944 Lance Sgt. Ross Elwood MACHAN
December 24, 1944 Pvt. Wilbert Carl HART
The offensive into Germany called “Operation Veritable” was to begin on February 8th with the First Canadian Army to advance from the area of Nijmegen and moved south-east with the objective of clearing a corridor between the Maas and Rhine Rivers. They would then join up with the Americans on the Rhine Rive opposite Wesel.
The First Canadian Army then received additional men and equipment and now their objective was to clear the Reichswald Forest, break through the Siegfried Line, the clear the Hochswald Forest defences and then close this area up to the Rhine River.
The advance of February 8th began with an attack from air attacks and an artillery barrage against the enemy positions. It was crushing, devastating and smothering. The advance was slow and difficult as they were hindered by mud and terrain that was flooded. At times the infantry had to deal with water waist high. The Americans moving up from the south were delayed because of the conditions of the terrain.
February 11, 1945 Pvt. Lloyd HOOD; Pvt. Thomas Joseph RYAN
February 19, 1945 Cpl. John Earl McSPADDEN
The perimeter defences of the Siegfried Line fell and the “water rats” of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division maid impressive gains across the flooded ground. The advance to the Reischswald Forest was difficult as was the clearing out the enemy from the pine forest. The Canadians continued to advance and push and on February 21st the much touted Siegfried Line fell.
February 21, 1945 Trooper Robert James ELLIOTT
The strong enemy defences located in the Hochwald Forest and at the Balberger Heights was still blocking them but they used the same tactics with the enemy in the Hochwald as they did at the Reichswald to clear the enemy from the forest.
March 2, 1945 Pvt. Richard Kenneth YOUNG
March 5, 1945 Pvt. Leonard Theodore HOFFMAN
March 24, 1945 Pvt. Melvin TAYLOR
Enemy resistance was strong up until March 10th at which time the Germans blew up the bridges across the Wesel River and continued their retreat to the east bank of the Rhine River.
THE NETHERLANDS AND LIBERATION
September 1944 – May 1945
The Allies felt that the final chapters in the war were drawing to a close and on March 23,1945 the Allies began their advance across the Rhine into Germany. The 1st Canadian Army was not part of the crossing the 9th Infantry Brigade from the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division took part in the Rhine Crossings at Rees. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion successfully landed east of the Rhine near Wessel. A few days later the 3rd Infantry Division crossed the Rhine and advanced to Emmerich.
The Allies now had the numbers on their side and as they had crossed the Rhine and it was behind them they used all their power to advance deeper into Germany itself.
The responsibility of the Canadians at this point was to open up the supply route north through the city of Arnhem and then move forward and clear northeastern Netherlands, the coastal belt of Germany to the east to the Elbe River and then western Netherlands.
The 2nd Canadian Corps was tasked with clearing northeaster Netherlands along with the German coast and the 1st Canadian Corps would deal with the enemy north of the Maas and remove that threat.
March 7, 1945 Trooper Lyle Alexander EVANS
March 8, 1945 Pvt. Robert Henry SALLOWS
March 26, 1945 Lt. Roderick Alexander FINLAYSON
The 2nd Canadian Corps drive to the north was rapidly brought to speed as when they crossed the border into the Netherlands the citizens were ecstatic.
The 4th Canadian Armoured division on the right crossed the Twente Canal and on April 5th captured Almelo. They then began a curve and went back into Germany at Meppen.
April 6, 1945 Pvt. Clifford Roy FAWCETT
In the middle was the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and they crossed the Shipbeck Canal and then moved forward in a straight line to Groningen which they reached on April 16th.
The 3rd Canadian Division had the left was tasked with the clearing of the Ijssel River and following some bitter fighting arrived at Zutphen and occupied this town. The they advanced and took Deventer, Zwolle, Leeuwarden and reached the North Sea on April 18th.
The 2nd Corps operations then moved to the eastern part of the Netherlands and into western Germany. The 4th Canadian Armoured Division had make their large swing back into Germany and crossed the Ems River and secured Meppen. Following this they and the 1st Polish Armoured Division advanced onto Emden, Wilhelmshaven and Oldenburg. The 3rd Canadian Division moved on Emden while the 2nd Canadian Division advanced from Groningen to Oldenburg in Germany.
April 17, 1945 Lance Cpl. George Francis KELLY
April 20, 1945 Lance Cpl. George Melville STRAUGHAN
The 1st Canadian Corps which included the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 5th Canadian Armoured Division had the responsibility of the area north of the Mass River. Cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam were in this area. Here the people had just gone through the “hunger winter” of 1944-1945 and much of the population was starving. There was no food or fuel and any transportation was no where to be found. The Dutch people were now eating tulip bulbs as they tried to survive and by 1945 the people were living on 320 calories per day. Over this period many thousands had perished from the cold and from starvation.
April 15, 1945 Pvt. Earl Robert MUGFORD
As the advanced they assaulted Arnhem beginning on April 12th and following fierce and brutal fighting the town was liberated. The 5th Canadian Armoured Division then made a rapid advance northward to the Ijsselmeer River about 30 miles away to cut off the enemy that was in Apeldoorn who were facing the
1st Canadian Division. On April 17th the Canadians liberated Apeldoorn.
April 22, 1945 Pvt. James JAMIESON
On April 28th, the enemy forces had been pushed back to a line between Wageningen and Amersfoort to the North Sea. This was the Grebbe Line. On this day a truce had been arranged and all fighting stopped in the western Netherlands. A number of days later food supplies began to reach the starving population.
Hilter committed suicide and Berlin was surrounded by the Russians.
On May 5, 1945 in the village of Wageningen the Germans surrendered to Canadian General Foulkes and General Simonds of the 2nd Canadian Corps accepted the German surrender in Bad Zwischenahn.
The formal unconditional German surrender took place in Riems, France on May 7, 1945.
May 1, 1945 Private Robert James MONTGOMERY
May 16, 1945 Private Harold Connell IRWIN
August 30, 1945 Captain Kelso James JOHNSTON
THE CONTROL OF THE SKIES
The Royal Canadian Air Force was not adequately manned or supplied in 1939 but by the end of the war in 1945 they were the fourth largest air force in the Allied forces.
Canadian squadrons participated in every major air operation overseas, beginning with the Battle of Britain to the bombing campaign over Germany. They also played an important training role toward the protection of the Atlantic convoys and transportation. Our Canadian pilots flew everything from the Dakota, to the Hurricane, Spitfire, Mosquito to the Wellington, Halifax and Lancaster aircraft.
During the course of the war over 17,000 women served and more than 235,000 men served their country in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
They were deployed in Canada’s home defence on the Atlantic and Pacific coats, in Iceland, in Great Britain, in the Far East, Europe, Italy and in North Africa.
They were involved in the Battle of Britain, the Battle of the Atlantic, the German bombing campaign, flying over the “Hump” in the Himalayan Mountains and over the Norwegian fiords.
In addition, thousands of Canadians served in the Royal Air Force.
Their service during the war covered service in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the overseas theatres of war and the Canadian costal theatres of war.
THE CHALLENGES FACED ON THE SEAS
The Royal Canadian Navy protected the Atlantic and Pacific shores of Canada, served along the Atlantic seaboard, in the Caribbean, in the Mediterranean, in the North Atlantic, in Norwegian waters, in the Barents Sea and in the waters around Great Britain during the war years of World War II.
The front line for the Canadian Navy was our own shores protecting Canada from the U-boat threat from the German Navy and from the treat of a Invasion from the Japanese Navy.
The Royal Canadian Navy was involved in the Battle of the Atlantic from the first day of the war until the final day of the war. They were involved in the ill fated raid on Dieppe, in the North African theatre of war, in the Sicilian and Italian theatres of war and in the landing on the continent on D-Day.
They performed convoy duties, manned landing craft flotillas, attacked enemy ships and submarines where ever they were, laid mines and operated Motor Torpedo Boat Flotillas.
During the D-Day lands 60 Canadian destroyers, minesweepers, corvettes, frigates and motor Torpedo boats helped protect the invasion armada. Following the invasion of the continent there was much to accomplish such as protecting the supply lines, there was heavy coastal warfare, search and pursuit missions in the channel were carried out, enemy ships were attacked, ports along the European coast were liberated and carried out escort duties fending off enemy ships and submarines.
As the war was swinging in the favour of the Allies, the U-boat threat will still there, and this meant that Canadian anti-submarine forces had to remain in European waters. At this point in the war there was 426 naval escort vessels in the British home waters and of that number 106 were Canadian.
From the first day of the war the Atlantic threat was severe, and the Pacific coast received little attention. Following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour, Hong Kong and Singapore the west coast of Canada became more vulnerable.
During the summer of 1942 the Royal Canadian Navy performed convoy escort duties and helped the American Navy and their assault on the Aleutian Islands following the Japanese invasion there.
Canada began the war with 6 destroyers, 5 minesweepers and 2 training ships. When World War II ended the Royal Canadian Navy had 373 ships with most being constructed in Canada. When the war began the manpower of the Royal Canadian Navy was 1,800 with a reserve force of 1,200. On the final day of the war there were 105,874 men serving and 7,126 women serving in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Reserve.
During the war years the Royal Canadian Navy shared in the sinking of 29 German and Italian submarines
During the course of the war 1,190 Canadian sailors paid the supreme sacrifice.
THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH AIR TRAINING PLAN
Canada is the second largest country in the world and it was far away from the war in Europe. An agreement was signed in early 1940 that would bring men from the Commonwealth to train as pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, fitters, riggers and mechanics. Canada had expertise and it had the facilities but most of all it had the necessary space for this plan.
Knowledgeable people had to be found, airfields needed to be built and aircraft manufactured.
Everything was in place and in the spring months of 1940. Training went on for the next 2 ½ years by which time 3,000 students were graduating each month. When the war ended 131,553 had been produced and out of that number approximately 72,300 were Canadians.
February 27, 1941 Sgt. William Henry PREST
September 4, 1943 Squadron Leader John Grant MacKENZIE
THE ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE IN THE DEFENCE OF CANADA
The Royal Canadian Air Force Eastern and Western Commands were patrolling the northwest Atlantic and northeast Pacific prior to Canada declaring war on Germany. The Eastern Command was tasked with protecting Canada from the air and protecting the European convoys. As the war progressed bases were constructed along the length of both coasts.
The Eastern Command provided the majority of the air protection for the northwest Atlantic and when long range aircraft made an appearance this protection was extended many hundreds of miles from the Atlantic coast. In addition, heavy transport squadrons were formed to provide heavy transport and mail service to those Canadians overseas.
The busiest period in the defence of Canada occurred during 1942 and into May of 1943 when the enemy submarine force moved to the Atlantic coast. The danger remained until May 1945 when the last U-boat crew surrendered.
Eastern Air Command sank 6 enemy submarines, flew many thousands of hours from isolated posts, covered boundless square miles of the Atlantic often in stormy and foggy conditions, attacked submarines and all of this was a help to those convoys carrying materials east toward England.
May 6, 1942 Sgt. Monty Holt BROTHERS
Western Air Command was quiet until Japan entered the war on December 7, 1941. From the first quarter of 1943 until the summer of 1943 the Royal Canadian Air Force had two fighter squadrons and a bomber reconnaissance squadron. These squadrons flew with the Americans during the invasion of the Aleutian Islands by the Japanese forces. They were also responsible for an air transport route Alaska, the Aleutians and into Russia.
December 16,1942 Pilot Officer Percival John BIGGS
March 26, 1943 Leading Aircraftsmen Edward Kitchener McMICHAEL
May 21, 1944 Pilot Officer Donald Keith SUNDERCOCK
Following that, the Northwest Air Command was created in mid 1944 to administer and maintain all the facilities and airfields.
THE ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE OVERSEAS
During the early period of the war the Royal Canadian Air Force could only commit three squadrons to duty in England. The defence of Canada and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan commitments prevented further squadrons from going overseas. By the end of hostilities, the Royal Canadian Air Force had 48 squadrons serving Western Europe, in the Far East and in the Mediterranean theatres of war.
Many more thousands of Canadians went to England and flew with the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force and with Coastal Command.
The Royal Canadian Air Force was part of the Royal Air Forces Fighter Command and Bomber Command. But as the war progressed and more squadron went overseas all Canadian Bomber and Fighter Commands were formed.
October 31, 1942 Flight Sergeant Charles Edward MUTCH RAF Fighter Command
August 3, 1943 Flying Officer Ralph Balkwell DELBRIDGE
August 12, 1944 Flying Officer George Talbot SCHWALM
February 2, 1945 Flying Officer Gerald Leroy PASSMORE
February 3, 1945 Flying Officer John Francis WARRELL
April 9, 1945 Flight Sergeant Harold Crawford DAER
December 18, 1945 Flight Lieutenant William Archie YOUNG RAF Transport Command
By D-Day there were three RCAF Spitfire wings and a dive-bombing wing. The responsibility of RCAF bomber squadrons had broadened substantially. The first bombing mission for the RCAF was in the summer of 1941, then a year later they took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid over Germany and by 1945 the RCAF was sending 200+ bombers out over the enemy targets.
October 15, 1941 Flight Sergeant John Emerson WEIR
December 18, 1941 Flight Sergeant Walter Merrill BAKER
February 8, 1942 Flight Sergeant Edward George JENNER
February 12, 1942 Pilot Officer Henry Gordon ANDERSON
May 9, 1942 Flight Sergeant Charles Melville SHANNON
May 19, 1942 Pilot Officer Maldwyn Wyn WILLIAMS
June 17, 1942 Flight Sergeant John Thompson HUNTER
July 6, 1942 Flight Sergeant Ernest Edward MITTELL
August 1, 1942 Flight Sergeant Elwin THOMAS
October 1, 1942 Flight Sergeant Alexander McKenzie MOWBRAY
November 9, 1942 Flight Sergeant Donald Frederick BURCHELL
November 10, 1942 Warrant Officer 1st Class Harold Alexander ELLIOTT
Then early in 1943 there were 11 RCAF bomber squadrons in England and Group 6 Bomber Command was formed and it was totally Canadian. At first the casualties were harsh. Between early March of 1943 and the end of June 1943 the losses numbered 100 aircraft or 7% of strength. However, things changed through better training and equipment, there was more crew experience and fighter protection to the target and back. At the beginning of 1945, Group 6 could say they had the lowest casualty rate of any group in Bomber Command.
January 9, 1943 Flight Sergeant Harvey Adam DUNN
January 14, 1943 Flying Officer George Andrew McQuillan
February 13, 1943 Sergeant Roy KENNEDY
February 25, 1943 Flying Officer George Howard WHEELER
March 27, 1943 Warrant Officer 2nd Jack MacArthur NEWTON
April 10, 1943 Warrant Officer 2nd Harold Logan HUETHER
March 30, 1943 Flight Sergeant William McManus BISSETT
April 10, 1943 Flying Officer Harry Bertram ELLIOTT
May 28, 1943 Flight Sergeant James Young HOUSTON
June 19, 1943 Flight Sergeant Jack Walter FEAGAN
June 25, 1943 Warrant Officer 1st Leo Frederick O’LEARY
July 4, 1943 Warrant Officer 2nd William Harold PYM
August 11, 1943 Flying Officer John Garfield SPEIR
August 17, 1943 Flying Officer John David HAWKINS
August 26, 1943 Flight Sergeant Frederick Terrance COOPER
September 30, 1943 Flying Officer Allan Charles McKAY
October 22, 1943 Sergeant John Terrance COSTELLO
November 3, 1943 Flight Lieutenant Donald Elliott HICKS
January 3, 1944 Warrant Officer 1st Leslie James ADAIR
January 21, 1944 Flying Officer Robert John McMEHEN
January 27, 1944 Flying Officer Alvin Donald Grant BELL;
Pilot Officer James Graham BROADFOOT
March 26, 1944 Sergeant Burton Orval BROPHEY
April 10, 1944 Flying Officer Thomas Ferguson WILSON
May 9, 1944 Flying Officer William Harold WILSON
May 28, 1944 Pilot Officer Frank Gerrard DEVEREAUX
June 6, 1944 Pilot Officer Graham William DURNIN
June 7, 1944 Flying Officer Alvin Edward LINDENFIELD
June 13, 1944 Flight Lieutenant Henry Carbee McIVER
Flying Officer Russel Nelson WILSON
June 19, 1944 Flight Sergeant Rayburn William Thomas ULENS
June 22, 1944 Flying Officer Alvin van Dyke CORLESS
Sergeant James Ivan MAGOFFIN
July 21, 1944 Flight Lieutenant John Phillip Sergeant CALDER
July 29, 1944 Pilot Officer Alan Howard DURNIN
August 4/5, 1944 Flying Officer Ramsay McKenzie HABKIRK
August 8, 1944 Flight Lieutenant Clifford Waldrun HICKS
August 21, 1944 Pilot Officer Donald Stuart WHITING
August 26, 1944 Pilot Officer David Russel BARNARD
August 30, 1944 Flight Lieutenant Roland Bartle MOTZ
November 1, 1944 Flying Officer James FRASER
January 2, 1945 Warrant Officer 1st Richard Verdun WESTON
February 24, 1945 Pilot Officer Lewis Alexander RUSSELL
March 4, 1945 Flying Officer George Henty LLOYD
March 6,1945 Flight Lieutenant Vanegmond Robert BELL
March 21, 1945 Pilot Officer Leonard Earl BAXTER
Flight Lieutenant Allan Frayne PENHALE
April 24, 1945 Flying Officer Peter Joseph BAKER
November 5, 1945 Flight Sergeant Arnold Emerson STINSON
Bomber Command suffered a high death toll. The men who flew these missions were an exceptional group of individuals. They flew night after night deep into enemy territory with dangers such as night fighters and anti-aircraft fire always there. During the course of World War II 9,980 Canadian men lost lives.
May 24, 1942 Flight Sergeant George Thomas KING
May 31, 1942 Flight Sergeant Edwin Albert YOUNG
August 25, 1942 Flight Sergeant Robert Douglas McKENZIE
December 15, 1942 Flight Lieutenant Albert Robert McCALLUM
January 13, 1943 Flight Sergeant Franklin Charles ZURBRIGG
October 14, 1943 Warrant Officer 1st Robert Hardwick PREST
December 13, 1943 Warrant Officer 1st Willis Elnor Ross MACHAN
March 6, 1945 Pilot Officer John William WETTLAUFER
Seven Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons served in Coastal Command in missions against the German Navy and especially against the U-boat threat. They covered an area from Gibraltar up to Iceland. There was a coastal fighter station in Northern Scotland and this squadron carried out reconnaissance missions and escort missions across the North Sea to the Norwegian coast. Later in the war when they were based in Norway they attacked enemy shipping to southern French ports. And still another squadron attacked the enemy based on the Frisian Islands and along the Dutch coast.
May 6, 1945 Leading Aircraftsman William Charles CRAIG - 2nd Tactical Air Force
Canadians based at Malta played a role in keeping Malta in Allied hands as the whole Mediterranean area was controlled by the Axis. 25% of the pilots in Malta were Canadian.
One squadron flew with the Desert Air Force in Egypt and flew bombing missions into northern Italy and protected the vital anchorage at Alexandria. They also flew cover for the invasions of Sicily and Italy.
May 7, 1944 Pilot Officer Orval Percy LAWSON
A number of Canadians served with the British 14th Army and were attached to British and Indian Infantry or Armoured Regiments.
Canadians also served in highly qualified groups as the “Sea Reconnaissance Unit” which was a group of military divers who spearheaded assaults across the Burmese Rivers. Another group numbering 180 men was known as the “mule skinners” and they escorted shiploads of mules from North America to the jungles of eastern India and western Burma. They escorted 1,600 mules during this period.
Royal Air Force Squadron 43 carried out bombing raids over Burma against the Japanese and this squadron flew Blenheim Mk IV aircraft. In November of 1942 this squadron was bases at Ondal -West Bengal.
Canadian served with the Royal Air Force 159 Squadron which conducted bombing missions, mine-laying missions, reconnaissance missions and transport missions over Siam, Indo-China, Burma, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. They flew B24 Liberator Mk VI aircraft.
The Royal Air Force Squadron 354 was in Coastal Command and three days prior to it being disbanded it was based at Cuttack – Orissa and they flew B24 Liberator Mk VI aircraft.
One Canadian Squadron was attached to Royal Air Force Coastal Command and they flew PBY Catalinas and were based in Ceylon. The squadron carried out reconnaissance, convoy protection, anti-submarine and life saving missions.
Two Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron flying Dakota Transport aircraft were attached to Transport Command. The push was on to force the Japanese out of Eastern India and Burma. The terrain was mountainous and jungle and these squadrons contributed to supplying the British Army from the air. Both squadrons were based at Gujarat in India. These two squadron flew 62,000 operational hours, carried 56,000 tons of supplies for an army of 300,000 men and ferried 27,500 passengers.
At the beginning of World War II air force personnel numbered 3,100 and by the end of the war 249,624 had served. Those who lost their life numbered 17,100 with 9,980 of those in bomber command dying.
Of the remaining 7,120 men who died 4,000 died from training or other causes. The rest we lost as prisoners of war.
February 9, 1945 Flight Lieutenant William Gerald SCHROEDER
August 9, 1945 Pilot Officer Frank Albert CASSON
Canadians fought behind enemy lines as agents for the British administrations that worked quietly and slowly at first but with ever growing potency and escape routes were organized and operated as were sabotage networks. Those agents knew what was in store for them should they be caught. Under the Germans and Japanese there seemed to be no such thing as rules for conduct, honour, capture or surrender. Terrorism is a deliberately planned weapon to be used against people.
To volunteer to go behind enemy lines to try and peace and democracy to the occupied country was a decision many made knowing and understanding completely that no quarter would be given.
William Stephenson was a Canadian from Winnipeg who was the chief of the British Security Coordination and it became a world wide intelligence operation during World War II. The objective was the opposition and confrontation of Nazism by engaging in underground warfare.
His code name was “Intrepid” and he was to middle man between Britain and the United States. This operation provided a very essential military backup and the use of political measures during the fighting of World War II.
Canadian men and women were part of this group. They worked behind the lines in occupied countries supporting the underground Resistance movements.
Canadian secret agents came from three groups of society – French Canadians, Italian Canadians and the final group was Eastern European Canadians and Chinese Canadians and they served in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Italy, Burma, Malaya and Borneo.
These Canadians served with the following…..
S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) and this was the larger group and had 14,000 members at its peak during 1944. It came to be in 1940 to fight fascism in Europe and Asia. Agents were smuggled into a country where they linked up with local resistance fighters, trained them and organized them into fighting units with the goal of harassing the enemy and weakening his abilities prior to the Allied advance. During the course of the war 1,800 agents went behind enemy lines and of this 1 1/2% or 25 were Canadians.
M.I. (Military Intelligence) was the smaller group and dealt more with Allied prisoners of war and airmen shot down over occupied countries. Their goal was the assist them so they could escape by providing agents with radio communications, money and needed supplies.
Whatever group an agent was with the training was grueling and intense. They trained in parachute jumping, the use of high explosives, how to climb mountains, Morse code, how to kill the enemy quietly and the art of blending in with the local population. They were briefed on a new identity, provided with local contacts, a code name, forged identification papers, ration cards as well as work permits. These men and women were constantly watched during their training and appraised for such important qualities as endurance, self-reliance, resourcefulness, discretion, good judgement and language skills.
Agents were parachuted in during the hours of darkness and agents in addition to their training above learned ju-jitsu, learned how to build a wireless radio set, they were given fountain pens with tear gas and buttons with compasses hidden in them.
August 5, 1944 Flying Officer Harold Leonard BROWN
CANADIAN MERCHANT NAVY
During World War II, Britain was totally dependent upon shipments of foods and materials to fight the war from Canada and the United States. The Nazi U-boat was a serious obstacle and threat to the North America lifeline.
Merchant Navy sailors had a challenging task of supplying that sea-borne lifeline. The odds were very much against them not only from below the waves but from surface raiders, the enemy air forces, mines and the weather. They carried foods, munitions, fuels, and troops across the seas of the world.
The North American sea lanes along the coasts and the North Atlantic sea lanes proved to be a battleground of grim proportions.
Prior to the war the Allies naively thought that new technology would prevent the enemy submarines from using unrestricted warfare. This did not take place because there were too few naval vessels and patrol aircraft available. As well there was a lack of training technical modernization.
Again, as in World War I, winning the war meant that the supplies and men had to get to Great Britain safely. Converted passenger ships, freighters and tankers moved to and from Ports in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and the Far East. The merchant navy and its sailors were extremely vulnerable.
One thing that was in place was the convoy system which looked after the movement of ships and the organizing of convoys was planned and would be quickly available should there be a need. There was a need and it was implemented rapidly.
About the end of August in 1939 the merchant fleets were placed on war footing and placed under naval control. In Canada, Halifax was selected as the main assembly point for fast convoys moving to and from Great Britain.
At the outset of the war Halifax Convoys were coded HX and they were escorted until they were safely away from the coastal area and then they had air cover up to the range of the aircraft. Following that they were alone until the Royal Navy met them at the southwest corner of Ireland and they would be escorted to port.
In the beginning, only ships that could sail at 9 knots or about 10.5 mph. However, the crisis on the Atlantic became worse and all types of ships were pressed into service. With older ships the speed of the convoy was lowered to prevent stragglers from losing the convoy and being the target of the U-boats. Then, in August of 1940, changes were made to the convoy system with the convoys sailing from Halifax being the fast convoys and slow convoys were to sail from Sydney in Cape Breton. Those ships able to sail at 15 knots or more than (18 mph) sailed independently.
Convoys sailed west to east to Great Britain and east to west to Canada. Merchant ships often had deck guns on their decks. This gave them some protection against U-boats and aircraft but none if they came across an enemy surface raider.
The convoys had to deal with mines, submarines, aircraft, surface attacks, collisions, weather, ice and shoals.
Every week during the war the convoys sailed from Canada.
February 18, 1941 Seaman Robert David James HOPSON SS Empire Blanda
September 20, 1941 2nd Radio Officer Andrew Jordan LAING SS Cingalese Prince
June 27, 1941 2nd Engineer Lewis ELLIOTT SS Portadoc
March 1, 1942 Radio Operator Alex Dougall STRANG SS Carperby
November 2, 1942 Captain Walter James MacDONALD SS Rose Castle
At the beginning of the war in 1939, Canada had 38 merchant ships capable of sailing on the ocean and they averaged 6,000 tonnes and they had a cargo capacity of 290,000 tonnes. These ships were manned by about 1,400 Canadian seamen. The fleet included 11 cargo ships and “Lady Boats” from Canada Steamships, 10 tankers with Imperial Oil. When enemy ships were captured, they too became part of the fleet.
The estimation was that a 10,000 tonne cargo ship could carry foodstuffs that would feed 225,000 people for a week. Cargo would also include aircraft, aluminum, clothing, fuel, guns, jeeps, lumber, munitions, steel, tanks, trucks along with everything else Great Britain needed to survive. The German Navy realized this and many cargo ships were sunk.
Canada had a large Great Lakes fleet and comprised many ships of 6,000 tonnes or less and even they became ocean ships. Over the course of the war 133 Great Lakers sailed on the oceans with the first 25 sailing in 1940. They were used to shore up the British coastal fleet. About 6 took part in the Dunkirk evacuation. Only 9 of the first 25 ships saw the end of the war. Other Great Lakers carried bauxite from South America to the Canadian aluminum smelters.
Many Canadian seamen sailed on foreign ships. On June 15, 1940 the Canadian ship Erik Boye was the first Canadian ship to be sunk by U-boats. Many more would follow her to the bottom.
As the war continued the Canadian Merchant fleet was always receiving new ships but it was during the early years of the war that our merchant fleet suffered the most. They say that 88% of the casualties suffered on the Canadian merchant fleet happened took place before the end of 1942.
The Canadian merchant fleet was involved from the first day of the war until the last day of the war and during that period 72 ships were lost.
CANADIANS MEETING THE NEED
Between the last quarter of 1941 until the war ended in 1945 three hundred and fifty-four cargo ships of 10,000 tonnes, forty-three cargo ships of 4,700 tonnes and six cargo ships of 3,700 tonnes for a total of 612 cargo ships.
Canadian ship building yards also built 281 escort ships such as corvettes, destroyers and frigates,
206 minesweepers, 254 tugs and 3,302 landing craft.
In 1939, Canada had just four shipbuilding yards with nine berths capable of building a 10,000 tonne ship. By the end of the war there were ten yards building ships with a capacity of 38 berths.
By the middle of 1943 shipbuilding yards were building ships faster than the enemy could sink them.
The Canadian yards at the start of the war employed 2,000 skilled workers doing mainly repair work and by 1943 the work force had increased to 85,000 men and women with 57,000 in the building of merchant ships.
Eventually, over 300 Canadians businesses were involved in the ship building industry.
Ships were being built but skilled seamen to operate them did not come easy.
During 1940-1941 more than 25,000 casualties were suffered in the Allied Merchant Navy fleets with most of those being from Great Britain. By the end of the war in 1945 about 12,000 deep sea merchant seamen had been found. Some at 15 & 16 had tried to enlist into other service branches but were too young so they joined the Merchant Navy. Others were too old for the armed service but became merchant seamen. Still there were others who were in between the younger and the older and they had tried to enlist in the armed service but were rejected for minor physical problems and there were some who only wanted to join the merchant fleet.
Life on the merchant ships was not pleasant and should the ship meet an armed surface raider, be attacked from the air or be torpedoed the chance of survival was slim.
In Halifax, the Naval Control Service arranged the set up of the Naval Boarding Service and this consisted of boarding parties to inspect the ships prior to leaving for England. They would check the hull, the engines, guns, and lifeboats. While they did this they heard of problems from the crew and if serious these were reported to the higher authorities. This took place as well in Sydney, St. John’s and Montreal.
When the men were ashore they were provided with decent accommodations, recreation and additional comforts and a Merchant Seamen’s Club was formed and built in Halifax.
During 1941, manning pools to ensure they was a reserve of seamen for when they were short of men were organized as well as training schools. When a man joined the manning pool he was assured of food, accommodation and pay while ashore between ships.
Many of the men had never been to sea they went to training school to learn the basic training as unlicensed crew members with advance training given for navigation, engine room officers, radio officers and cooks.
CANADIAN WOMEN AT HOME
Contributions made by Canadian women were extraordinary and supported the war effort in many varying roles across the country.
IN THE HOME
Life at home was a test of the woman’s ability because rationing was in effect limiting the amount of and making it more difficult to find such items as eggs, butter and sugar. The weekly rations for food were
1 1/3 ounces of tea, 5 1/2 ounces of coffee, 1/2 pound of sugar and 1/2 pound of butter. Other food items were also as scarce and all of this was needed to look after the people of Great Britain and the fighting man. Products as metals, gasoline, rubber and nylon were much needed for the war effort. Men donated cookware and other items that were then recycled. The spirit of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” was encouraged. Women did a great job of doing more with less.
Women had to maintain their traditional role and fill new roles from the demands of the war. Many ran their home and did volunteer work and joined women’s institutions. They gave blood and they bought war bonds. Many had gardens that were known as “victory gardens” and the fruits and vegetables grown helped feed the local population.
Many women joined “relief clubs” and the packaged up little “ditty bags” that would include chocolate, razor blades and sewing kits.
ON THE FARM
Those on the farm also had their pressures as the need was growing to contribute to the war effort. Many young men who worked on farms were now serving their country and many women had to run the family farm, raise the children while the male family members were overseas.
The children worked by the side of their mother and together they made sure the farm survived and flourished, with such responsibilities as caring for the livestock, milking the cows, planting, harvesting and looking after the finances.
WOMEN’S ASSOCIATIONS and the HOME FIRES
These associations certainly did their part in the war effort. The members helped their neighbour whenever they could. During the course of the war they made socks, mitts and scarves for the men overseas, made bandages and quilts. They also sent books, newspapers and special treats to overseas hospitals. They arranged “welcome home” events for those coming home and were in many cases the leaders in the creation of local war memorials. The women also raised many millions of dollars during the war. They set up farm labour pools and encouraged urban women to volunteer on the area farms. They also canned fruits and vegetables for the men overseas.
When the men left their jobs and enlisted these jobs needed to be filled and the women stepped up to meet the increasing demand for workers in an economy that was geared to war production. When the war began 600,000 women worked in industry as mostly clerical. In 1945, there were 1,200,000 women employed with many performing make jobs.
Many new factories were started and they manufactured guns, aircraft, ships, ammunition and much more. During the course of the war women performed the male jobs and they did it very well.
During 1943-1944 there were 439,000 women working in the service sector, with 373,000 women in the manufacturing sector and 4,000 in construction.
Women were physically smaller than the men and excelled in precision work in electronics, optics and instrument assembly.
Women during 1941-1942 joined the women’s branches in the services and over 50,000 women served their country. They served as mechanics, wireless operators, parachute riggers, photographers and clerks
CANADIAN YOUTH DEALING WITH WAR
Canadian youth made contribution along with sacrifices during the war years…..
They were inspired by their parents, teachers and friends to support the war effort at home in any way possible.
The majority of Canadian men were overseas resulting in a huge shortage of workers for Canadian farms to harvest the crops and the young Canadians worked long hours to ensure there was a steady food supply.
Schools did not count attendance or introduce new subject matter in schools until the crops were off the fields.
The age for getting a licence was lowered to 14 to that young people could operate farm trucks and other vehicles.
Teachers asked their students to write letters overseas to tell of what was taking place on the farms at home.
Great Britain sent many thousands to Canada so they would be safe from the effects of the war and these students lived with and went to school with Canadian youth.
Our youth scrimped and saved for the war effort and they learned to recycle and collect metal, rubber, fat and grease that were in short supply and these products were then made into new products.
The youth collected tons of scrap and many even recycled their own toys.
They brought any loose change they had to school and bought War Saving Stamps and these were used for post war redemption.
The Boy Scouts and Girl Guides conducted fund raising activities and one Scout Troop collected 510,000 pounds of recovered scrap and the money collected was used to buy a truck and an ambulance for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
THE MANUFACTURING OF CANADIAN WAR MATERIALS
Canada was at war and there was an immediate challenge of creating from scratch in many cases – a strong manufacturing base to produce what the branches of the service needs so much.
When Germany invaded the European countries Britain had 80,000 military vehicles of every description and then following the Dunkirk evacuation following the loss of 75,000 of these vehicles Britain had only 5,000 vehicles remaining.
Britain was now virtually defenceless on the ground and it then turned to Canadian industry to replace the material that had been lost.
Canadian manufactured 800,000 military vehicles, 50,000 tanks, 40,000 guns for the army, navy and anti-aircraft units along with 1,700,000 small arms.
Of those 800,000 military vehicles produced 21% or 168,000 went to the Canadian Army who then had a ratio of one vehicle for every three men and it made the Canadian Army the most mechanized field force in the war.
Canadian Pacific manufactured 788 Valentine tanks in Montreal with General Motors building the motors.
By the end of the war Canadian Pacific and the Montreal Locomotive Works had built over 5,200 tanks. The Montreal Locomotive Works also built 2,150 “Sexton” self propelled guns.
General Motors developed a heavy utility vehicle body that was used as personnel carriers, ambulances, machinery truck or a light wireless truck.
Industries across Canada manufactured aircraft engines and other aircraft parts for such aircraft as the Mosquito, the Lancaster and the Hurricane.
By the end of the war 4,000 aircraft a year were being built and 120,000 people worked in these plants. Over the course of the war 16,000 aircraft were produced.
NEW SCIENCES & TECHNOLOGIES
Scientific and Technical innovations and research provided the Allies with an advantage during this conflict.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Canada was much of the centre for research and development being done by the National Research Council, the Canadian Armed Forces and numerous Canadian corporations. They were part of weapons research, nutrition, medicine, atomic energy and of course Huron County had the radar base.
Examples of the work that was done are as follows
Research on magnetism and how to demagnetize ship hulls to protect them from mines.
The Canadian Anti-Acoustic Torpedo gear was developed as a defence against enemy acoustic torpedoes.
The research of protecting the hulls of ships from salt water corrosion.
Anti-fog windshield was developed for service vehicles.
Anti-fur was developed for improved artic clothing.
The development of synthetic rubber was started but not completed by 1945.
The development of aiming systems for artillery and anti-submarine mortars.
Carrying out research of high velocity projectiles and their fuses.
The development of an anti-roll stabilizer for anti-submarine weapons.
Nuclear research led to the development of the Candu Reactor.
Ionospheric sounding stations were installed during the war to help predict optimum frequencies for long distance communications and for direction finding against enemy U-boats.
Canada developed the use of nylon for parachutes.
Canadians developed an electro-thermal de-icer for aircraft propellers.
Canadians developed a procedure to make much better powdered eggs, milk and preserved bacon.
These items are still in use around the world today.
During war the responsibility for microwave radar development was Canada’s and our scientists developed the Plan Position Indicator which is still in use today. Over the period of the war we provided 9,000 radar sets to the Allies.
During the course of the war there were specialized electronic training programs to meet the need for skilled scientists and technicians. Canada produced a large number of skilled people in electronics.
Under the British Commonwealth Air training Plan, a 100 acre farm was purchased in 1941 by the Royal Air Force in the Township of Tuckersmith in the County of Huron – Ontario. Ten miles to the west was Lake Huron and the shores here were high bluffs which was terrain similar to England. The objective of radar was to intercept enemy aircraft before they arrived over England.
In 31/2 months this land went from farmland to a training camp with road and 40+buildings on site.
During the war, 7,000 men and 750 officers were fully trained.
In 1943, the Royal Canadian Air Force took control of the base and it became No. 5 Radio School.
DEVELOPMENTS IN MEDICINE
Scientists in Canada researched seasickness and motion sickness which led to new drugs which would help these sicknesses.
Penicillin production was improved through new developments and now mass production of the drug was available.
Overseas, there was a great need for blood serum and it was now available due to work being done at the University of Toronto.
The Banting Institute made improvements to oxygen masks, and conducted research into the effects a pilot who suffered from fatigue and cold.
Research into night vision led to the development of red lighting being adopted by the Royal Canadian Navy and Air Force.
CANADIAN PRISONERS OF WAR
Over the course of the war there were approximately 9,000 Canadian soldiers, airmen, naval sailors and merchant navy sailors held in prisoner of war camps in Germany and Eastern Europe. Life in the camps was difficult but the food was adequate, and they were treated humanely.
However, those prisoners in Japanese concentration camps located in south-east Asia and the far east were treated brutally and were starved, tortured, used as target and bayonet practice, forced into hard labour to fell trees, build runways, build huts and dig wells.
The war was over and now the Canadian Government began the process of bring the men home and helping them to make to switch from military life to civilian life.
A point system that covered months of service, whether the service was overseas or in Canada, if a man was married or not and a higher score brought a man home faster.
Soldiers who had previously volunteered to go to the Pacific came home first.
When he arrived home a soldier received 30 days leave prior to his discharge.
Once a man was discharged, he received immediate benefits that were designed to give him and his family a firm financial base on which they could build their lives.
Veterans received clothing money of $100.00
Veterans were paid a War Service Gratuity of $7.50 for each 30 days of service, $ .25 per day for being overseas, and one week of pay for each 6 months of service outside Canada.
A spouse of a man who died overseas received 75% of what her husband made and the children received additional benefits with one benefit being financial support for schooling.
BACK INTO THE WORKFORCE
The law stated that a man upon his return to Canada could go back to the job he had prior to the war. Many men did not have jobs prior to the war and many more found their old jobs were not suitable anymore.
The Veteran’s Land Act helped a veteran purchase a home or business.
The Government provided vocational training.
The Government provided financial assistance to any veteran wishing to attend university.
Veterans received assistance if they wanted to renovate their home, start a business or purchase furniture.
For those men who had difficulty finding work, the Government provided then with financial assistance.
THE CANADIAN ADENDUM
It had been sis year of war and 1,000,000+ Canadian men and women stood up, volunteered, and served their country when Canada needed them.
The quality of the Canadian contribution to the war effort was exceptional with all branches of the service contributing greatly to the final victorious outcome.
Canada contributed very much financially, and her industry output was very impressive. Out efforts across many fronts earned Canada the respect of the free world.
We were a military power with the Army having 6 Divisions, the Royal Canadian Navy was the third largest of the Allied forces and the Royal Canadian Air Force was the fourth largest amongst the Allied nations.
September 26, 1940 Pvt. William Allan BOWERS military vehicle accident/Canada
April 30, 1941 Cpt. John Robert TOWNSHEND ship he was on torpedoed
July 29, 1941 Sgt. Gordon Thomas TOPHAM died from perforated appendix
July 19, 1942 Signalman Chester George WINTLE motorcycle accident in England
March 18, 1943 Pvt. Clarence James O’REILLY died from guard duty accident
June 15, 1943 Pvt. Issac Laverne HARNESS died from the effects of cancer
September 27, 1943 Signalman William HAEBERLE motorcycle accident in England
August 20, 1944 Signalman Worthy Reginald RYAN drowned while in Newfoundland
June 4, 1945 Cpt. Robert Ian Orde STEWART died from wounds/pneumonia
September 7, 1945 Bombardier Harold Hector CHESNEY motor accident in Canada
October 24, 1945 Private Thomas William GROVES served in Italy. Died in Canada
March 12, 1946 Flight Sgt. William Ernest KEW Instructor BCATP
March 22, 1946 Flight Sgt. Eldon W. BUCKINGHAM died of tuberculosis/meningitis
THE AFGHANISTAN WAR TIMELINE
2001 – 2014
During 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan on behalf of the communist government of the day in a bid to eliminate the anti communist Muslim guerrillas and their forces stayed in the country until early 1989.
The Soviets controlled the cities, towns and villages and those who opposed them moved around the countryside with ease. Those who opposed the Soviets were known as mujahideen or “those who engage in jihad”. These forces were able to neutralize Soviet air power with weapons from the United States.
The Soviets had lost 15,000 men and when they left the country Afghanistan returned to non aligned status. For three more years until 1992 the Soviets backed the Afghanistan government.
However, in 1994-1995 a new threat appeared in the name of the Taliban and this group was an ultraconservative political and religious group. They quickly controlled the war lords in the south of the country, took control of the capital Kabul and now controlled the country. The Taliban allowed Islamic militants from the al-Qaeda group into the country. This group was led by Osama bin Laden who had organized many terrorist attacks including the attacks on the United States. The Taliban then refused to extradite bin Laden to the United States.
Then, following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 the United States invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001 and stayed until 2003 at which time the Iraqi War began. The Taliban was not eliminated nor was al-Qaeda eliminated.
As a result, countries of the United Nations including Canada sent military personnel to Afghanistan to stabilize the government.
This country is ancient, rugged and mountainous with many ethnic groups and self-seeking groups and peace and stability have been difficult to have.
The Canadian contribution began in October 2001 when Royal Canadian Naval Ships were tasked with supporting and defending the international fleet in addition to searching out unknown craft operating illegally, and this took place in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
The Royal Canadian Air Force performed surveillance of the seas, identified merchant shipping, moved manpower and equipment and removed casualties from the area.
Corporal Matthew David James Dinning – April 22, 2006 – Gumbat, Afghanistan.
Canadian commandos arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001 followed by soldiers in January 2002 and these forced were based in Kandahar. The objective was to eliminate the Taliban and eliminate the terrorists from the al-Queda organization.
The Taliban was toppled and now the goal was to establish a stable and permanent government and Canada was then part of the International Security Assistance Force which was based in Kabul. While there Canada was responsible for the western portion of the city, assisted in the operation of the airport and helped in the rebuilding of the Afghan Army.
Then, in 2005 the Canadians went back to Kandahar where it was more explosive and the Taliban was still a presence began to increase their activities. Quickly, Canadian soldiers became targets of attacks.
Quickly, more Canadian soldiers arrived to cope with the increased terrorism taking place and they took part in ground operations that included large-scale offensive operations. This was a very treacherous period for the Canadians.
Canadian combat ended in 2011 and now they began the training of the Afghanistan Army and Police.
Canadian forces left the country in the spring of 2014. They reached out in an attempt to build trust with the population, engaged in humanitarian projects as digging wells, rebuilding schools and making sure the people had medical and relief supplies.
During this mission Canada lost 158 men and women killed and 2,000+ wounded mentally and physically.