Search for "prisoner of war"

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Corinne Kernan Sévigny (Primary Source)

At only 16 years old, Corinne Sévigny enlisted with the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during the Second World War. Sévigny served as a driver and was one of millions of women who helped with the war effort either overseas or at home. Read and listen to Sévigny’s story in which she details the extraordinary accomplishments of her fellow women-at-arms.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War

In 1939, Canada found itself at war for the second time in a generation. As in the First World War (1914-18), thousands of Indigenous soldiers and nurses volunteered for the war effort at home and abroad, serving with distinction in the Canadian army, navy, and air force. At least 3090 First Nations soldiers enlisted in the Canadian military in the Second World War, with thousands more Métis, Inuit, and non-Status Indian soldiers serving without official recognition of their Indigenous identity.

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Indigenous Peoples and the First World War

Indigenous soldiers, nurses, and ordinary civilians made a major contribution to Canada’s First World War effort. More than 4000 First Nations soldiers fought for Canada during the war, officially recorded by the Department of Indian Affairs (see Federal Departments of Indigenous and Northern Affairs). In addition, thousands more non-Status Indians, Inuit, and Métis soldiers enlisted without official recognition of their Indigenous identity. More than 50 Indigenous soldiers were decorated for bravery in action, including the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) soldier Francis Pegahmagabow, Inuit soldier John Shiwak, and Cree soldier Henry Norwest.

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Brock Chisholm

George Brock Chisholm, CC, CBE, psychiatrist, medical administrator, soldier (born 18 May 1896 in Oakville, ON; died 4 February 1971 in Victoria, BC). After earning honours for courageous service in the First World War, Brock Chisholm became an influential psychiatrist. He introduced mental health as a component of the recruitment and management of the Canadian Army during the Second World War. He directed the army’s medical services, served in the federal government as deputy minister of health, and became the founding director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO). His vocal attacks on methods of indoctrinating children with societal myths made him a controversial public figure. He was an often provocative advocate of world peace and mental health. 

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John Watkins

John Benjamin Clark Watkins, diplomat, scholar (born 3 December 1902 in Norval (now Halton Hills), ON; died 12 October 1964 in Montreal, QC). John Watkins was Canadian ambassador to the USSR from 1954 to 1956. In 1955, Watkins organized a historic meeting between Canadian External Affairs Minister Lester B. Pearson and Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union.

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Igor Gouzenko

Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, Soviet intelligence officer, author (born 26 January 1919 in Rogachev, Russia; died 25 June 1982 in Mississauga, ON). Igor Gouzenko was a Soviet cipher clerk stationed at the Soviet Union’s Ottawa embassy during the Second World War. Just weeks after the end of the war, Gouzenko defected to the Canadian government with proof that his country had been spying on its wartime allies: Canada, Britain and the United States. This prompted what is known as the Gouzenko Affair. Gouzenko sought asylum for himself and his family in Canada. His defection caused a potentially dangerous international crisis. Many historians consider it the beginning of the Cold War.

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Charles Stanley Monck, 4th Viscount Monck

Charles Stanley Monck, 4th Viscount Monck of Ballytrammon, governor general of British North America, captain general and governor of British North America from 1861 to 1867 and governor general of Canada from 1867 to 1868 (born 10 October 1819 in Templemore, County Tipperary, Ireland; died 29 November 1894 in Charleville, Enniskerry, County Wicklow, Ireland). Monck supported Confederation and became the first governor general of the Dominion of Canada.

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Chinese Canadians of Force 136

Force 136 was a branch of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. Its covert missions were based in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia, where orders were to support and train local resistance movements to sabotage Japanese supply lines and equipment. While Force 136 recruited mostly Southeast Asians, it also recruited about 150 Chinese Canadians. It was thought that Chinese Canadians would blend in with local populations and speak local languages. Earlier in the war, many of these men had volunteered their services to Canada but were either turned away or recruited and sidelined. Force 136 became an opportunity for Chinese Canadian men to demonstrate their courage and skills and especially their loyalty to Canada.

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1972 Canada-Soviet Hockey Series (Summit Series)

For many Canadians, the eight-game series between Team Canada and the national team of the Soviet Union in 1972 provided the greatest moment in the country’s sporting history. Most expected that Canada would handily defeat the Soviet Union, but this confidence quickly disappeared when Canada lost the first game. The series was tied heading into the final game in Moscow, which ended in a dramatic fashion, with Paul Henderson scoring in the final seconds to give Canada the victory. The series would have a lasting impact on hockey in Canada and abroad.

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Barney Hartman

Bernard Conrad Hartman, CM, skeet shooter, pilot (born 2 November 1916 in Swan River, MB; died 30 October 2016 in Ottawa, ON). Barney Hartman was considered the greatest skeet shooter in the world. He won a silver and four bronze medals in international amateur competition and was the Canadian amateur 12-gauge champion for seven consecutive years. He claimed nearly 30 world records in various categories and as a professional boasted the world’s best average in nine of 12 years. He once broke a string of 2,002 consecutive clay targets without a miss and had a career success rate above 99 per cent. A Member of the Order of Canada, he was inducted into numerous halls of fame, including Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Armed Forces Sports Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.

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Derek Holman

Derek Holman, CM, composer, organist, choir conductor, professor (born 16 May 1931 in Illogan, England; died 20 May 2019 in Ottawa, ON). Derek Holman worked at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Croydon Parish Church and the Royal School of Church Music in the United Kingdom before moving to Canada in 1965. He was organist-choirmaster at Toronto’s Grace Church on-the-Hill, choirmaster at Bishop Strachan School and a professor at the University of Toronto. He was perhaps best known for his collaborations with Robertson Davies, including on the children’s opera Doctor Canon’s Cure (1982). Holman was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Church Music in 1972 and a Member of the Order of Canada in 2002.

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Canadian War Art Programs

Since the First World War, there have been four major initiatives to allow Canadian artists to document Canadian Armed Forcesat war. Canada’s first official war art program, the Canadian War Memorials Fund (1916–19), was one of the first government-sponsored programs of its kind. It was followed by the Canadian War Art Program (1943–46) during the Second World War. The Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artists Program (1968–95) and the Canadian Forces Artists Program (2001–present) were established to send civilian artists to combat and peacekeepingzones. Notable Canadian war artists have included A.Y. Jackson, F.H. Varley, Lawren Harris, Alex Colville and Molly Lamb Bobak.

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Barton Myers

Barton Myers, RCA, FRAIC, architect (born 6 November 1934 in Norfolk, Virginia). Barton Myers is considered one of Toronto’s most influential architects, even though he hasn’t worked in Canada for more than 30 years. His architecture is notable for its activist stance on city design. He is passionate about the health of cities and the need to balance preservation and renewal. Much of his early seminal work in Canada is focused on mixed-use prototypes, infill housing and the sensitive combination of old and new to create richly layered urban environments. His innovative approach breathed new life into neighbourhoods slated for the wrecking ball and left a lasting mark on the city of Toronto.

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Tom Thomson

Thomas John Thomson, painter (born 5 August 1877 in Claremont, ON; died 8 July 1917 in Algonquin Provincial Park, ON). Tom Thomson was the most influential and enduringly popular Canadian artist of the early 20th century. An intense, wry and gentle artist with a canny sensibility, he was an early inspiration for what became the Group of Seven. He was one of the first painters to give acute visual form to the Canadian landscape. His works portray the natural world in a way that is poetic but still informed by direct experience. Many of his paintings, such as The West Wind (1916–17) and The Jack Pine (1916–17), have become icons of Canadian culture. He produced about 50 canvases and more than 400 sketches in his short professional career. His legend only grew after his untimely death at the age of 39.

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Diane Jones Konihowski

Diane Helen Jones Konihowski, OC, pentathlete, administrator (born 7 March 1951 in Vancouver, BC). Diane Jones Konihowski won gold medals for Canada in women’s pentathlon at the 1975 and 1979 Pan American Games and at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. She was considered the gold-medal favourite for the 1980 Olympic Summer Games in Moscow, which Canada boycotted. She also served as director of the Canadian Olympic Committee and as Canada’s chef de mission at the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney. A winner of the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s top female athlete and an Officer of the Order of Canada, Jones Konihowski has been inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

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Vancouver Asahi

The Asahi was a Japanese Canadian baseball club in Vancouver (1914–42). One of the city’s most dominant amateur teams, the Asahi used skill and tactics to win multiple league titles in Vancouver and along the Northwest Coast. In 1942, the team was disbanded when its members were among the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were interned by the federal government (see Internment of Japanese Canadians). The Asahi were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.