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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Lady Byng of Vimy

Marie Evelyn Byng, Viscountess Byng of Vimy, viceregal consort of Canada (1921–26), author (born 11 January 1870 in London, United Kingdom; died 20 June 1949 in Essex, United Kingdom). Lady Byng donated the Lady Byng Trophy for good sportsmanship to the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1925 (it was renamed the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy after her death in 1949). She returned to Canada during the Second World War and wrote about her impressions of the country in her 1945 memoir, Up the Stream of Time.

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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.

Editorial

The Somme

It is one of the most haunting place names in history — a small, marshy French river — synonymous now with misery and death. In the summer of 1916, around the Somme valley north of Paris, the British Army began one of the largest campaigns of the First World War. Five hellish months later, more than one million soldiers, including almost 25,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders, had been killed or wounded in a series of battles that gained little for either side (see Battle of the Somme).

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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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Billy Bishop

William Avery (Billy) Bishop Jr., VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED, First World War flying ace, author (born 8 February 1894 in Owen Sound, ON; died 11 September 1956 in Palm Beach, Florida). Billy Bishop was Canada’s top flying ace of the First World War, and was officially credited with 72 victories. During the Second World War, he played an important role in recruiting for the Royal Canadian Air Force and in promoting the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

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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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Archie MacNaughton

John Archibald (Archie) MacNaughton, soldier, farmer (born 7 October 1896 in Black River Bridge, NB; died 6 June 1944 in Normandy, France). Archie MacNaughton fought in both the First World War and Second World War. MacNaughton rose to the rank of major and was a well-respected officer with the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment. When he was 47 years old, MacNaughton led North Shore’s “A” Company into Normandy on D-Day. He was killed in action while pushing inland from Juno Beach.

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Canadian Songs of the First World War

Canadians composed thousands of songs between 1914 and 1918, many of which were intended for the home front. Hundreds of these songs were directly related to the First World War. Popular songs expressed themes such as patriotism, national identity, sentimentality and gender roles and expectations. While early songs stressed patriotism and images of an ideal soldier to encourage recruitment, sentimental songs became more popular by the end of the war, reflecting the loss and sacrifice of Canadians on the battlefront and at home. There was also a shift from songs that supported Britain and the British Empire to those that expressed a Canadian identity.

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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.

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Tommy Prince

Thomas George Prince, war hero, Indigenous advocate (born 25 October 1915 in Petersfield, MB; died 25 November 1977 in Winnipeg, MB). Tommy Prince was Canada's most-decorated Indigenous war veteran, having been awarded a total of 11 medals in the Second World War and the Korean War. Although homeless when he died, he was honoured at his funeral by his province, his country and the governments of France, Italy and the United States.

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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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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.