Search for "Second World War"

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Murray Hyman Kirsh (Primary Source)

Murray Hyman Kirsh served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. After his grandparents were killed by Nazis in Europe, Kirsh felt it was his duty to enlist to serve in the war. From 1942 to 1944, Kirsh served on the home front as a military officer guarding Allied prisoners of war. Listen to his story of German POWs trying to escape during his watch.

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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Inuit

Inuit — Inuktitut for “the people” — are an Indigenous people, the majority of whom inhabit the northern regions of Canada. An Inuit person is known as an Inuk. The Inuit homeland is known as Inuit Nunangat, which refers to the land, water and ice contained in the Arctic region.

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Canada and the Holocaust

The Holocaust is defined as the systematic persecution and murder of 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews, including Roma and Sinti, Poles, political opponents, LGBTQ people and Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), by Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Jews were the only group targeted for complete destruction. Nazi racial ideology considered them subhuman. Though Jewish Canadians did not experience the Holocaust directly, the majority endured anti-Semitism in Canada. Jewish Canadians were only one generation removed from lands under German occupation from 1933 to 1945. They maintained close ties to Jewish relatives in those lands. These ties affected the community’s response to the Holocaust. There was, for instance, a disproportionate representation of Jews in the Canadian armed forces. Jewish Canadians were also heavily involved in postwar relief efforts for displaced persons and Holocaust survivors in Europe.

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Mary Riter Hamilton

Mary Matilda Hamilton (née Riter), artist (born 7 September c. 1867 in Teeswater, ON; died 5 April 1954 in Coquitlam, BC). Mary Riter Hamilton was a painter who exhibited her works in Europe and across Canada. Shortly after the fighting stopped, Hamilton travelled to Europe to paint First World War battlefield landscapes before they were cleared (see War Artists). She produced over 350 works in three years, which are a document of the destruction and devastation caused by the war.

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Representing the Home Front: The Women of the Canadian War Memorials Fund

While they may not have had access to the battlefields, a number of Canadian women artists made their mark on the visual culture of the First World War by representing the home front. First among these were the women affiliated with the Canadian War Memorials Fund, Canada’s first official war art program. Founded in 1916, the stated goal of the Fund was to provide “suitable Memorials in the form of Tablets, Oil-Paintings, etc. […], to the Canadian Heroes and Heroines in the War.” Expatriates Florence Carlyle and Caroline Armington participated in the program while overseas. Artists Henrietta Mabel May, Dorothy StevensFrances Loringand Florence Wyle were commissioned by the Fund to visually document the war effort in Canada.

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Viscount Byng of Vimy

Field Marshall Julian Hedworth George Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy, Commander of the Canadian Corps from 1915 to 1917 and Governor General of Canada from 1921 to 1926 (born 11 September 1862 in Hertfordshire, United Kingdom; died 6 June 1935 in Essex, United Kingdom). Byng led the Canadian Corps to victory at the Battle of Vimy Ridge during the First World War. As governor general, he is best known for his role in the King-Byng Affair, when he formally refused Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s advice to dissolve Parliament and call a federal election.

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Princess Louise Margaret, Duchess of Connaught

Princess Louise Margaret Alexandra Victoria Agnes of Prussia, Duchess of Connaught and Strathearn, vice-regal consort of Canada (1911–16) and philanthropist (born 25 July 1860 in Potsdam, Prussia (now Germany); died 14 March 1917 in London, United Kingdom). The Duchess of Connaught sponsored Red Cross hospitals for the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.

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Jeremiah Jones

Jeremiah “Jerry” Alvin Jones, soldier, farmer, truck driver (born 30 March 1858 in East Mountain, NS; died 23 November 1950 in Halifax, NS). Jeremiah Jones was a Black Canadian soldier who served during the First World War. Jones was 58 years old (13 years above the age limit) when he enlisted with the 106th Battalion in 1916. As did many other underage and older enlistees at the time, Jones lied about his age when he signed up. Jones was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal by his commanding officer for his heroic actions during the Battle of Vimy Ridge; however, he did not receive the medal during his lifetime. Thanks to advocacy of Senator Calvin Ruck and members of the Jones family, Jones was awarded the medal in 2010, 60 years after his death.

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Editorial: Canadian Art and the Great War

Canadian painting in the 19th century tended towards the pastoral. It depicted idyllic scenes of rural life and represented the country as a wondrous Eden. Canadian painter Homer Watson, under the influence of such American masters as Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt, created images that are serene and suffused with golden light. In On the Mohawk River (1878), for instance, a lazy river ambles between tall, overhanging trees; in the background is a light-struck mountain. In Watson’s world, nature is peaceful, unthreatening and perhaps even sacred.

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Tony Golab

Anthony Charles “Tony” Golab, CM, football player (born 17 January 1919 in Windsor, Ontario;  died 16 October 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario). Known as the “golden boy” of Canadian football, Tony Golab was a hard-charging, versatile player with the Ottawa Rough Riders. He played with the team from 1939 to 1941 and again from 1945 to 1950, serving as an RCAF flight lieutenant and pilot during the Second World War. Golab played offence and defence for Ottawa, where his spirited style made him a fan favourite. He appeared in four Grey Cup games, winning in 1940, and was named Canada’s male athlete of the year (now known as the Lionel Conacher Award) in 1941. He is a member of the Order of Canada, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Editorial

Japanese Canadian Internment: Prisoners in their own Country

Beginning in early 1942, the Canadian government detained and dispossessed more than 90 per cent of Japanese Canadians, some 21,000 people, living in British Columbia. The majority were Canadian citizens by birth. They were detained under the War Measures Act and were interned for the rest of the Second World War. Their homes and businesses were sold by the government to pay for their detention. In 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the wrongs it committed against Japanese Canadians. The government also made symbolic redress payments and repealed the War Measures Act.

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Sir Robert Borden

Sir Robert Laird Borden, lawyer, politician, prime minister of Canada, 1911–20 (born 26 June 1854 in Grand Pré, NS; died 10 June 1937 in Ottawa, ON).

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Documenting the Second World War

When Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939, tens of thousands of Canadians enlisted to serve in the armynavyair force and supporting services. The military scrambled to buy equipment, train recruits and prepare for war. Little thought was given, at first, to documenting the war effort. By 1940, however, the military was recruiting historians, most notably Charles Stacey, to collect records and write accounts of Canadian operations. In the following years, artists, photographers and filmmakers also served with the various branches of the armed forces. Today, their diligent work provides a rich visual and written catalogue of Canada’s history in the Second World War.

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Sam Steele

Sir Samuel Benfield Steele, CB, KCMG, mounted policeman, soldier (born 5 January 1848 in Medonte, Canada West; died 30 January 1919 in London, England). As a member of the North-West Mounted Police, Steele was an important participant in the signing of Treaty 6 and Treaty 7, the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the North-West Rebellion and the Klondike gold rush. His military career began as a private in the Red River Expedition, included service in the South African War as an officer commanding Lord Strathcona’s Horse and as a major general during the First World War.

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Wop May

Wilfrid Reid (Wop) May, OBE, DFC, aviator, First World War flying ace (born 20 March 1896, in Carberry, Manitoba; died 21 June 1952 near Provo, UT). Wop May was an aviator who served as a fighter pilot in the First World War. May finished the war as a flying ace, credited with 13 victories, and was part of the dogfight in which the infamous Red Baron was gunned down. After the war, May became a renowned barnstormer (or stunt pilot) and bush pilot, flying small aircraft into remote areas in Northern Canada, often on daring missions. May flew in several historic flights, carrying medicine and aide to northern locations and assisting law enforcement in manhunts, including the hunt for Albert Johnson, the “Mad Trapper of Rat River” in 1932.