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Canada & World War II. Canadian History 11. Declaration of War. September 1, 1939: Hitler invades Poland - Blitzkrieg : lighning war – depends on surprise – quick and violent attack - destroy reserves and communications of enemy – avoid a long war Hitler could now focus on the West.

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canada world war ii

Canada & World War II

Canadian History 11

declaration of war
Declaration of War
  • September 1, 1939: Hitler invades Poland - Blitzkrieg : lighning war – depends on surprise – quick and violent attack - destroy reserves and communications of enemy – avoid a long war
  • Hitler could now focus on the West
  • September 3 1939: Britain declares war on Germany
  • Canadian PM William Lyon Mackenzie King waits one week before asking the Canadian Parliament to declare war on Germany

Democratic countries (Allies)

  • Britain
  • France
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • United States (Pearl Harbour)
the phoney war sept 1939 may 1940
“The Phoney War”: Sept. 1939 – May 1940
  • While a “state of war” exists between the “Axis Powers” (Nazi Germany & Italy) and the Allies (Britain & France), no fighting occurs until May 1940
  • During this time, German army worked on their attack plan et trained the soldiers for the war to come
  • Jan. 1, 1940: First Canadian battalion arrives in Britain
waiting for the next move
Waiting for the next move…
  • The Allies were content with waiting for Hitler’s next step- the French waited behind the Maginot line while the British forces took position along the Belgian border
  • Near the north west- Germans took their position along the Siegfried line
  • The Phoney war came to an end April 9th 1940 when, without warning, Germany attacked Norway and Denmark, two neutral nations.
  • May 10 – Germany attacked the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France.
  • The main attack was when German troops and armored columns punched through the impassable Ardennes and rolled up behind them - the allies were trapped
the miracle of dunkirk
“The Miracle of Dunkirk”
  • Germans overpower Allies surrounding British, French and Belgian troops at French port of Dunkirk
  • Creating a hole in the French lines of Maginot and the Allied forces in Belgium, the Germans moved directly towards the ocean – British and French forces retreated westward. The Germans encircled the French and the British, trapping them at the port of Dunkirk.
  • Britain sends troops to assist in the defense of France
dunkirk operation dynamo continued
Dunkirk (Operation Dynamo) continued…
  •  The British decided to try to evacuate them by sea. The navy put out a call for help from the civilian population and boats from all over Britain began appearing to help, fishing boats, yachts, pleasure boats, row boats.
  • Under constant aerial attack the navy and civilians evacuated nearly 340,000 men straight from the beaches.
  • They had to leave behind all of their heavy equipment but that could be replaced. 
  • May 27 – June 3: Troops hastily evacuated to England, abandoning equipment on the beaches
fall of france
“Fall of France”
  • German forces continued southwards, taking over Paris by mid June. June 17th,
  • June 22: France negotiates armistice and surrenders to German forces on June 25
  • Nazi troops occupy France
  • Great Britain now turns to Canada: 3 main roles in the war: a) army; b) Aerial Force c) Canadian Marine – by end of war – 3rd largest navy and 4th largest aerial force
blitzkrieg and battle of france
Blitzkrieg and Battle of France

war in the air
War in the Air…
  • Canada\'s Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF):
    • 1939 - consisted of 40 modern aircraft and 5000 personnel
    • by 1945, Canada possess the 4th largest air force in the world, with 164,000 personnel
  • British Commonwealth Air Training Plan:
    • 1939-45 – airmen from around British Commonwealth trained at more than 200 bases in Canada
    • More than 130,000 pilots, navigators, wireless operators, air gunners trained in Canada – almost 50 % of Allied air personnel
    • Canada chosen because of unlimited, safe air space and proximity to Britain
    • formal plan took effect on April 29, 1940
the battle of britain
“The Battle of Britain”
  • July 1940 – May 1941: Hitler launches bombing raids on England in effort to force British surrender
  • Sept. 1940 – May 1941: City of London targeted in “the Blitz”
  • Undermanned Royal Air Force (RAF) survives sustained attacks

Hitler now had control of France ; the only thing in his way was Great Britain – which was protected by the English Channel and their huge navy

  • Hitler figured Great Britain would have no choice but to ask for peace. But Dunkirk gave the British and the Allies hope and courage to fight until the end. Out of frustration, Hitler ordered Operation Sea Lion – invasion of GB. The Luftwaffe had to gain air control in order to guarantee the crossing of the English Channel.
  • July 10th, 1940 – Luftwaffe begins the attack – for every one Allied airplane – 4 German but with every airplane lost by the Allies there were 2 lost for the Germans
battle of britain continued
Battle of Britain continued…
  • The new invention – the radar – allowed the British to discover the German plan of attack and to prepare for its defence. In September, Germany changed their tactic – bomb industrial centers and the ports
  • At the same time, the British started bombing German cities – allowing GB to regroup
  • By October, Hitler realized that he was not going to win the war so he started to focus on an attack of Russia (Operation Barbarossa – hoping to seize natural resource – grain, coal, iron and oil) – there was now a war on two fronts.
war in the air canada s role
“War in the Air” – Canada’s Role
  • British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP)
  • October 1940 – March 1945: Over 130 000 air crew (including 50 000 pilots) from Britain, Canada, Australia & New Zealand train at airfields across Canada
  • Over 50 % of trainees were Canadian

Training School, Brandon, Manitoba

war in the air canada s role1
“War in the Air” – Canada’s Role
  • Canadian air crew served with the RCAF & RAF
  • One of the six RAF Bomber Command groups flying in Europe was Canadian.
  • Participated in controversial bombing raids on German cities of Hamburg – July 1943 - (left) and Dresden – February 1945 (right).
war at sea canada s role
“War at Sea” – Canada’s Role
  • Canada plays central role in North Atlantic convoy system
  • War supplies and military personnel transported across North Atlantic Ocean from New York & Halifax to England
  • Canada provides naval escort for supply convoys

Bedford Basin, Halifax, NS

war at sea
War at sea….

Fall 1940: German U-boats are hunting for Allied merchant navy convoys. As soon as a U-boat locates a target, she sends its coordinates to her HQ and start stalking her prey. Other U-boats in the area, notified by radio, zero in on the target. A pack is formed. The German submarines\' low profile makes them almost invisible on the surface of the sea. When signal is given, at night, the U-boats attack. A first blaze lights up the sky: a torpedoed ship is sinking. While the escort ships try to intercept the attacker and rescue survivors, other submarines get closer and start firing; some may even be daring enough to slip through the convoy\'s columns. Attacking while on the surface allows U-boats to make full use of their speed and manoeuvrability. As soon as they are located, they dive and disappear in the deep.



At sea, war starts as early as September 3rd, 1939, the very day that Great Britain and France declared war. On that day, the German submarine U-30 sank a British liner, Athenia, which was making for Montreal with 1103 passengers and 115 crew on board. There are 128 dead, including four Canadians. 

Determined to preserve national sovereignty, the King government makes protecting Canadian shores its priority. But the RCN does not have enough ships to patrol Canadian coastal waters, let alone respond to the Royal Navy\'s request for assistance.


Destroyers are bought from Great Britain, as well as merchant ships, to be converted into warships. War demands that Canada\'s shipbuilding industry be revived: in 1940 the government gives its approval for the construction of 90 small warships. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) also plays a role in protecting coastal areas and air patrols become more frequent. In 1939, forces at the Dartmouth Air Base are increased and airfields are constructed in Sydney and Yarmouth.

The first convoy, HX-1, sails from Halifax on September 16th, 1939, and reaches Great Britain safely. Merchant ships are still relatively safe when they leave North American harbours as Germany has only 24 short-range U-boats, based in the North Sea. Their hunting grounds are mostly the waters surrounding the British Isles. Canadian escort ships accompany tankers and freighters up to a point off the coast of Newfoundland, where the Royal Navy takes over.


By 1942, the decisive phase of the Battle of the Atlantic was at hand. As this phase of the war opened, the technical balance on both sides was about even. Great strides in technology allowed both the Germans and the Allies to raise the notch in the stakes of the Atlantic.

  • Better training, battle experience, improved radar for underwater detection of submarines and protection provided by patrol aircraft eventually helped to ensure that supply ships got to Britain.
war at sea canada s role1
“War at Sea” – Canada’s Role
  • Canada uses “corvettes” – small vessels designed for coastal patrols and minesweeping – to escort convoys
  • 123 corvettes built and used during World War II
  • Ferry in NFL is torpedoed - Caribou
  • Crew of 100 crammed into vessel’s cramped quarters during Atlantic crossings
  • Backbone of Canada’s “sheepdog navy”

HMCS Sackville

HMCS Antigonish

battle of the atlantic
Battle of the Atlantic

Bedford Basin, Halifax


Around 40 boats compose a convoye - 9 columns with 5 boats each. The Merchant marines are placed in the middle as they have the most dangerous cargo.


  • – use this one
  • – use this one
pearl harbor
Pearl Harbor
  • From 1939-1941: US remained neutral
  • Meanwhile, Hitler’s ally in the East, Japan, had been expanding.
    • Signed agreement with Germany in 1936- Axis power
    • When war began, Japan seen its chance to attack British and other colonies in the Pacific
    • United States was the only country to challenge their control over Asia and in the Pacific
    • As Japan was taking over areas, China, French Indochina – US put in place economic sanctions
    • Dec. 7th 1941 – Japanese planes came without warning and bombed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii – half fleet either crippled or sunk
    • Dec. 8th 1941 – US declares war on Japan
    • Dec 11th – 1941 – Germany and Italy, Japan’s allies, declare war on US
war in the pacific canada s role
“War in the Pacific” – Canada’s Role
  • As war against Japan loomed in the Pacific in 1940, Britain considered its Hong Kong colony as “expendable” and decided not to send reinforcements for its defense
  • Sept. 1941: Canada agrees to send two battalions – the Royal Rifles of Canada (Quebec) and Winnipeg Grenadiers – to assist Britain in defending the colony
  • Neither battalion was battle experienced
  • Nov. 21: troops arrive in Hong Kong – a lot of the troops are only 15 years of age
  • First to see active battle
  • Dec. 8, 1941: Japan launches attack (artillery and airplanes
hong kong
  • Hong Kong’s defenses designed to withstand assault from sea, not from mainland
  • Mountainous terrain with steep-walled valleys, gaps and passes – hard to defend
  • Ammunition intended for use on ships, not troops
  • Japanese shelled island with heavy artillery from mainland – water, power, transport and communication facilities continuously disrupted
  • December 18 – Japanese invasion of island commences at 9 pm after two demands to surrender were rejected
  • Senior commanders had no idea of Japanese strength and thus placed men in situations where they died needlessly in fruitless attacks on invading forces
  • Canadians surrendered on Christmas Day 1941
  • John Osborne – won Victoria Cross
aftermath of war
Aftermath of War…
  • Some British elements blamed the Canadian lack of training and discipline for the poor defense of Hong Kong, despite Japanese comments commending the Canadian troops’ determination against overwhelming odds
  • POW’s crowded into primitive camps in appalling conditions
  • First imprisoned on the island and later on the mainland where they were forced to work on construction of a nearby airfield
  • Prisoners wasted away from malnutrition and disease – daily rations of a handful of rice and a cup of water
  • Buckets for toilets – unsanitary conditions led to many illnesses
  • 1943 – majority of prisoners transferred to POW camps in Japan – used as forced labor in mines, factories and shipyards
  • Almost as many died in POW camps as in the original battle
  • 290 casualties in battle, 267 died in captivity as POW’s
  • Many of the surviving 1418 suffered permanent physical and mental damage from their ordeal after their return to Canada
war in the pacific canada s role http www youtube com watch v hqp1gnd8q1y feature related
“War in the Pacific” – Canada’s Role
  • 557 of the 1975 Canadian soldiers sent to Hong Kong died in battle or in the prisoner of war camps where they spent the remainder of the war
  • Canadian government strongly criticized at home for sending inexperienced troops into such a “hopeless” military situation
war in europe canada s role
“War in Europe” – Canada’s Role

Liberation of Holland (1944-45)

The Dieppe Raid (1942)

D-Day – Juno Beach, June 6, 1944

The Italian Campaign (1943-44)

dieppe raid august 19 1942 operation jubilee
Dieppe Raid – August 19, 1942Operation Jubilee
  • By 1942 – Pressure on Allies to attack - France had fallen, British army had barely escaped, German troops were massed along the shores of the English Channel – creating an Atlantic Wall
  • Millions of German troops had struck deep into Russia territory - “test” German defense of Western Europe –would alleviate pressure for Russians
  • Chosen target – Dieppe, a port on French coast = was to be a quick punch at the Germany stronghold.
  • 5000 Canadian soldiers chosen to take part

Because surprise was thought to be a key to success, heavy bombardment prior to a major assault was counterproductive

The British Command decided to land tanks directly from the sea, something else that had never been tried before.


Plan was to attack by sea, with aerial support

  • Hoping for it to be a quick attack - gather crucial information about defences and then return safely
  • The plan was also to attack at 5 locations and for the Canadians to lead the attack
  • 6000 Allied troops (4963 of them members of the 2nd Canadian Division), untested in combat, were landed at Dieppe
    • Things went wrong from the beginning – ships landed men at the wrong sites
    • When they arrived, German’s were ready for the attack – artillery on the cliffs mowed down the soldiers as they landed
    • Allied sea and air support was not enough to protect the soldiers on the open shore- tanks meant to lead the way were bogged down on shore or unable to maneuver
    • By afternoon, nearly 900 of Canadian troops were dying., 1000 wounded
  • German fortified positions atop the coastal cliffs allowed them to fire down on the landing Allied troops
  • The battle objectives were ridiculously complicated
dieppe raid
Dieppe Raid
  • Beach well defended from cliffs above
  • Raid ends in military disaster
  • In 9 hours of fighting, 900 Canadians killed, many taken POW – remainder evacuated back to England
  • Important lessons are learned for later assault on France - fire support by sea and air as well as plan a way to land equipment and troops on beach safely
utilise 2 et 3
Utilise #2 et #3

1942 allies bombing campaign
1942 Allies Bombing Campaign
  • Systematic bombing of German cities by the Allies had begun
  • First – wanted to destroy industries, railways, highways, bridges and oil refineries
  • By 1942- decided to destroy fighting spirit by pounding cities from air
  • May 30 – 1000 bombers raided Cologne
  • July 24-31- Hamburg was attacked 8 times
    • 60% of city was destroyed, and 80 000 civilians were killed
  • Soviet – End of 1942 – Nazis fought to gain control over city of Stalingrad in the SU – controlled many oil fields.
  • By January 1943- Soviets surrounded and trapped the Germans. In February 1943 – the German commander disobeyed Hitler and surrendered to the Soviets.
  • Many say this was the turning point in the war. This was the farthest point of the Nazi advance into the SU. It was the greatest defeat Germany had yet suffered. The Soviets now started to push the Germans back toward Berlin
the italian campaign 1943 44
The Italian Campaign – 1943-44
  • July 1943: Allied forces land in Sicily, launching invasion of Italy (“soft underbelly of Europe”)
  • 1943 – Canadian, American and British troops advanced on Italy – stop German forces from escaping to that country and stop the fascist leader Mussolini. This attack would also take pressure from Russians and from Western Europe – where main attack was going to be.

Canadians went to Sicily - July 10 – Italians were demoralized and lost faith in their leader Mussolini

  • Hitler sends troops to defend Italy
  • By September 3rd – we take over Sicily and land on mainland – move North – tougher because the German forces established positions
  • Dec. 1943: Canadians attack and capture city of Ortona
  • In the hands of the Canadians (especially the Vandoos) – bloodiest battle of the Italian Campaign
    • an old commercial port whose narrow streets were unsuitable for tank warfare
    • would have to be taken by infantrymen in house-to-house battles
    • Mouse-holing: explosive charges or anti-tank missiles – blast hole from attic of one house through adjoining wall into another house. Spraying machine-gun fire and tossing grenades, the Canadians would jump through the hole and clear the new house of Germans before moving on to the next house. Germans even had the house booby trapped with mines

Next we move on to capture Rome – this would bring the Allies to frontiers of southern Germany and Austria

Allied offensive in Italy bogged down but gained momentum when Canadian troops broke through the “Hitler line” in May 1944

Rome fell to the Allies on June 4, two days before D-Day

 Important because 1/4 million Germans were in Italy at a time when Allies were advancing in West Europe.

d day june 6 1944
D-Day: June 6, 1944
  • Spring 1944: Allied forces plan invasion of France
  • Chosen location – French coast of Normandy
  • Five landing targets assigned to American, British and Canadian troops
  • Canadians assigned Juno Beach

At 02:00 am on June 6th, paratroopers were dropped to protect the landing forces.

  • 75 minutes later, 2000 bombers began to pound the German defences on the beaches.
  • At 5:30 am, the air raids were joined by the guns of the Allied warships.
  • Then at 6:30 am, the first waves of Canadian, British and American troops poured onto the beaches of France.

The Canadians faced underwater obstacles, land mines, barbed wire and heavy machine-gun fire from the Germans.

This time, the invaders kept coming

Within a week, the Allies had 300 000 troops safely on shore

Within a month, 1 million Allies had landed with 200 000 military vehicles.

juno beach june 6 1944
Juno Beach – June 6, 1944
  • 8000 Canadians land at 7:45 am, suffering over 900 casualties on the beach
  • By the end of D-Day, the 3rd Canadian Division had penetrated farther into France than any other Allied force, advancing roughly 10 km
  • Allies now had a “beach-head” from which to attack German forces in France – Juno Beach

Canadians & German POWs at Juno


Other Allied forces invaded Europe from the south through Italy and France.

Troops marched north to join those who landed at Normandy.

As Hitler unleashed the flying bomb and the rocket at Britain, the Allied forces swept north through Belgium.

As the Nazis retreated from Holland, they flooded the lowlands.


Thousands of people in Europe joined the battle – civilians known as “the underground”

  • They blew up railroads, factories, bridges
  • They reported on Nazis movement and helped rescue Allied pilots shot down
  • As the Allies moved towards Germany, Hitler called upon his soldiers to fight fiercely – anyone who would give up a centimetre – seen as a traitor.
  • Eventually the Allied forces broke through and the Germans retreated.

Meanwhile, the Soviets were advancing on Berlin from the east.

  • By April 1945, Soviet troops were in Berlin
  • The fighting was over May 8, 1945
  • In the last days of war, Hitler shut himself off from the world in his underground bunker – he did not want the same fate as Mussolini – he planned to kill himself – shot himself April 30 and his wife took poison
  • VE Day – May 8th – war in Europe was over~!
liberation of holland
Liberation of Holland
  • Sept. 1944: Allied troops enter Holland and turn east toward Germany
  • Canadians assigned task of turning west and pushing northward to liberate the Dutch coast
  • May 5, 1945: Germany agrees to ceasefire – Canadians assigned task of clearing remaining German forces from Rotterdam, the Hague and Amsterdam
v e day may 8 1945
V-E Day: May 8, 1945
  • May 7, 1945: News of German surrender announced
  • News produces spontaneous celebrations across Canada
  • War in Europe officially ends on May 8, 1945
  • Celebrations in Halifax turn violent as rioting and looting break out
  • More than 500 businesses damaged and 200 stores looted
war in the pacific continues
War in the Pacific continues…
  • Although we had victory in Europe, war in Pacific was still ongoing – between Allies and Japan
  • Since the summer of 1942- US was on the defensive – plan was to push Japanese out of all of the islands they had conquered – starting with Guadalcanal – one of many series
  • US captured islands one by one before attacking Japan

October 1944 – naval battle at the Leyte Gulf

  • Most of Japanese fleet was destroyed – Japan was still not defeated
  • Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions – kamikaze pilots – purposely crashed planes onto decks of Allied aircraft carriers and battleships
  • The Philippines fell to the Allies in 1945 – more fierce fighting closer we got to Japan – two closest islands were Okinawa and Iwo Jima
  • In July 1945 – Truman warned the Japanese to surrender or risk being totally destroyed – the Japanese refused.
  • August 6th – Hiroshima – major port and an army headquarter
  • Still Japanese did not surrender – three days later, August 9th – Nagasaki was hit
  • By then Japanese were ready to end the war – Japan surrenders on September 2nd

“The United States was not justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan.”

“The decision to attack the Soviet Union was Hitler’s biggest mistake.”