World War II

Mackenzie King's manpower policy

The federal government of prime minister Mackenzie King used St Jean Baptiste Day, an important holiday in French Canada, as the occasion to clarify its manpower policy for the benefit of French Canadians.

Telephones at war

This bi-monthly magazine included features on air raid precautions in telephone exchanges, operators training in rifle skills, employees in uniform, and fund-raising and charitable activities.

Politics in wartime

In this radio broadcast, Union Nationale provincial cabinet minister Anatole Carignan criticized federal cabinet minister Ernest Lapointe for ignoring the wishes of Quebec. Carignan was defeated in the 1939 Quebec provincial election.

At war with Japan

After the surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Canada lost no time in declaring war on Japan.

Widening the war

On 7 December 1941, the federal government announced that a state of war existed between Canada and Romania, Hungary, and Finland.

Keeping Canada secure

As the enemy threat against Canada faded, civil defence workers turned their energies to other matters, including fighting forest fires and promoting mine safety.

View PDF: PDF icon CDB Sep 1944.pdf

The advance through Italy

The messages from Generals Alexander and Leese were sent to the troops at the end of a period of bitter fighting in Italy. In the weeks that followed, Allied troops (with the Canadians in reserve) would continue the advance, eventually capturing Rome in June 1944.

1 Canadian Corps leaves Italy

Early in 1945, Canadian units were withdrawn from the campaign in Italy so they could join the Canadian divisions fighting in north-west Europe. On their departure, the army commander thanked them for their work since the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.

Guarding Canada against aerial attack

The Aircraft Detection Corps was made up of volunteers, each armed with binoculars and a handbook of aircraft silhouettes to aid in identification. Upon spotting an enemy aircraft, they were specifically requested to telephone the details to the authorities, rather than sending them through the mail.

Certificate of Honour

First World War veteran Eli Spencer also served in uniform during the Second World War, and was given this certificate (along with a wallet-size version) by the city of Ottawa in recognition of his service.

Overseas at Christmas

This Christmas card, produced by the Salvation Army, used an idyllic Canadian wilderness scene rather than any holiday imagery.

Coming home to Winnipeg

As Canadians returned home from overseas after the Second World War, most communities devoted considerable effort to organizing homecoming ceremonies - including the distribution of cards of thanks such as this one.

Tea from the Salvage Corps of BC

In this wonderful image (probably from 1943), women of the Canadian Red Cross Society serve snacks from a mobile canteen provided by the Salvage Corps of British Columbia. The occasion is not identified, but the patrons include Air Raid Precautions workers, policemen, and labourers.

Change of command in Italy

Richard McCreery took over the Eighth Army in Italy (including I Canadian Corps) from Oliver Leese, and remained in command through the rest of the campaign.

The end in Italy

Canadian units had played a major role in the Italian campaign, but most of them had been transferred to north-west Europe when this message was conveyed from the Supreme Commander (and future governor-general of Canada), Harold Alexander.

The offensive moves through north-west Europe

These messages were conveyed to Canadian units before and after the breakout from the Normandy beach head and the move east into Belgium, before the crossing of the Rhine River, and at the defeat of Germany.

A last Christmas at war

For the unidentified soldier who sent this card home in 1945, the best Christmas present was the knowledge that this was the last wartime Christmas to be spent away from home.

Shopping for uniform hats

One of the unintended consequences of war was a steep rise in demand for military uniforms, hats, badges, and other paraphernalia, demand that manufacturers were happy to meet.

Thanks from the Canadian Red Cross

Tens of thousands of Canadian women gave freely of their time and energy during the world wars, expecting nothing in return and often getting nothing more than a card of thanks and acknowledgment.

Marching to victory

This patriotic marching song featured an advertisement from General Motors of Canada which highlighted its manufacture of trucks for the war effort.

View PDF: PDF icon On to Victory.pdf