Search for "World War II"

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Second World War (WWII)

The Second World War was a defining event in Canadian history, transforming a quiet country on the fringes of global affairs into a critical player in the 20th century's most important struggle. Canada carried out a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic and the air war over Germany, and contributed forces to the campaigns of western Europe beyond what might be expected of a small nation of then only 11 million people. Between 1939 and 1945 more than one million Canadian men and women served full-time in the armed services. More than 43,000 were killed. Despite the bloodshed, the war against Germany and the Axis powers reinvigorated Canada's industrial base, elevated the role of women in the economy, paved the way for Canada's membership in NATO, and left Canadians with a legacy of proud service and sacrifice embodied in names such as Dieppe, Hong Kong, Ortona and Juno Beach.

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"Dear Old Pal of Mine"

“Dear Old Pal of Mine” is a pop song from the First World War with music by Gitz Rice and lyrics by Harold Athol Robé. Released by the Victor record label, it was originally recorded in New York City on 1 May 1918 with Irish tenor John McCormack and the Victor Orchestra under conductor Josef Pasternak (Victor 755). It was among the Irish tenor’s most popular 78s. The song is held in the collection of the US Library of Congress.

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Internment in Canada

Internment is the forcible confinement or detention of a person during wartime. Large-scale internment operations were carried out by the Canadian government during the First World War and Second World War. In both cases, the War Measures Act was invoked, which gave the government the authority to deny people’s civil liberties, notably habeas corpus (the right to a fair trial before detention), and to hold them in camps across the country. More than 8,500 people were interned during the First World War and as many as 24,000 during the Second World War — including some 22,000 Japanese Canadians.

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Wartime Home Front

The two world wars of the 20th century were total wars that involved the whole nation, and the "home front" became a critical part of Canada’s effort.

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Remembering D-Day: The Making of a Heritage Minute

On 6 June 1944, Canadian Forces landed on Juno Beach. D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion of all time and marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War. In 2019, Historica Canada released a Heritage Minute telling the story of 47-year-old Major Archie MacNaughton, a First World War veteran and leader of the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment’s A Company. In this article, Anthony Wilson-Smith, president of Historica Canada, reflects on the making of the D-Day Minute.

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Women in the Labour Force

Women are considered labour force participants only if they work outside the home. In the past women have been expected to be in the labour force only until they marry; this reflects the historical, idealized notion of a society in which the man is the breadwinner and the woman the homemaker.

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Remembrance Day in Canada

Remembrance Day is a yearly memorial day that is observed in many Commonwealth countries, including Canada, to remember those who died in military service, and honour those who served in wartime. It is observed across Canada each year on 11 November — the anniversary of the Armistice agreement of 1918 that ended the First World War. On Remembrance Day, public ceremonies and church services often include the playing of “Last Post,” a reading of the fourth stanza of the poem “For the Fallen,” and two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. Wreaths are laid at local war memorials and assemblies are held in schools. The red poppy is a symbol of Remembrance Day that was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. Red poppy pins are sold by the Royal Canadian Legion and worn by millions of Canadians in the weeks leading up to and on 11 November.

Editorial

Canadian Soldiers and the Liberation of the Netherlands

In the final months of the Second World War, Canadians were tasked with liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. In April 1945, the First Canadian Army began clearing the northern and western Netherlands, where many had suffered from food and fuel shortages in what became known as the “Hunger Winter.” Over 1,000 Canadian servicemen died in April 1945 during the last push to liberate the country. The Dutch people greeted their Canadian liberators with cheers and gratitude and continue to honour their sacrifice today.

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Canada and the Battle of Hong Kong

Hong Kong was the first place Canadians fought a land battle in the Second World War. From 8 to 25 December 1941, almost 2,000 troops from Winnipeg and Quebec City — sent to Hong Kong expecting little more than guard duty — fought bravely against the overwhelming power of an invading Japanese force. When the British colony surrendered on Christmas Day, 290 Canadians had been killed in the fighting. Another 264 would die over the next four years, amid the inhumane conditions of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps.

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Conscription in Canada

Conscription is the compulsory enlistment or “call up” (sometimes known as “the draft”) of citizens for military service. The federal government enacted conscription in both the First World War and the Second World War, creating sharp divisions between English-speaking Canadians, who tended to support the practice, and French-speaking Canadians, who generally did not.

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Baby Boomers in Canada

Canada's birthrate ballooned from the end of the Second World War until about 1965, thanks to improving economic conditions and a related trend over the same period toward larger families. The result was a 20-year bulge in the population known as the baby boom, a generation whose demographic influence has shaped Canada's economy and society and continues to do so as its members age and move into retirement.

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Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain (10 July to 31 October 1940) stopped the German air force from dominating the skies over England early in the Second World War, preventing a planned invasion by Germany. Hundreds of Canadian air and ground crew participated in the battle.

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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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Propaganda in Canada

Propaganda refers to messaging that aims to spread or “propagate” an ideology or worldview. Psychologists have described propaganda as “manipulative persuasion in the service of an agenda” or communications that “induce the individual to follow non-rational emotional drives.” During the First World War, propaganda was used to recruit soldiers and supporters. The Second World War saw it take a dark turn toward using outright lies to spread hateful ideologies and practices (see also Fake News a.k.a. Disinformation). During the Cold War, governments in the West and East used propaganda to try to spread the ideologies of capitalism and democracy, or communism and the Soviet Union. Contemporary propaganda, most often encountered on social media, is used to marshal support for, or opposition to, various political, economic and social movements.

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Canada and Gas Warfare

Poison gas was used throughout the First World War by almost all armies. The various types of gas, delivered by canisters, projectors, or shell, killed, maimed, denied ground and wore down morale. By 1918, soldiers of all armies encountered gas frequently while serving at the front. Canadian soldiers were among the first to face the death clouds, at the Second Battle of Ypres, and they would have a fraught relationship with gas throughout the war. This article will examine the interaction of Canadian armed forces with poison gas, with a focus on its use in attack, the development of a defence doctrine to protect against it, and its impact on individual Canadians. It will also look at how gassed veterans fared in the war’s aftermath and the creation of chemical weapons in Canada during the Second World War.