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WWII – Canadian Battles. It is 1939 and Canada is an independent nation. On 1 September 1939, Germany invades Poland. On the same day, Canada’s Governor General introduces the War Measures Act giving the Government control of the economy.

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wwii canadian battles
WWII – Canadian Battles
  • It is 1939 and Canada is an independent nation.
  • On 1 September 1939, Germany invades Poland.
  • On the same day, Canada’s Governor General introduces the War Measures Act giving the Government control of the economy.
  • On the same day, a German U-boat sinks the passenger liner Athenia. Ten-year old Margaret Hayworth of Hamilton, Ontario became Canada’s first WWII casualty.
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WWII – Canadian Battles
  • On 10 September 1939, Canada declares war.
  • Following WWI, Canada had reduced the size of its military. Why?
  • Immediately, Canada began to build a modern, well-equipped Armed Force. The Government of Canada enacted the Natural Resources Mobilization Actto ensure all industrial actions helped the war effort. Tip Top Tailor became the official uniform supplier to Canada’s Armed Forces.
  • Marriages increased. In 1939, 80,000 more marriages than in 1932 were performed.
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WWII – Canadian Battles
  • Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King planned to send only 40,000 troops and serve more as a supplier of war materials.
  • What events from WWI would King want to avoid?
  • King wanted to avoid Canadian causalities. In WWI, 40% of Canadian soldiers were killed or wounded.
  • King wanted to avoid dividing the country along English and French lines over conscription. French- Canadians did not feel loyalty to the British monarchy or Europe.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

German Advance 1940

  • Germany’s modern army crushed Poland. Next, the Germans overran Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
  • In April 1940, Hitler invaded France. By May 1940, the British and French troops were trapped at Dunkirk. Over 300,000 soldiers were evacuated, but military equipment was abandoned. France surrendered.
  • On 13 June 1940, Canada sent a battalion into southwestern France to create a defensive line against the German advancement. The Canadians had 50 new trucks, 12 motorcycles and two mortars. They landed in Brest and advance inland nearly 350 kilometres to Laval. They met retreating French and Belgian troops, learned the technological strength of the Germans, and retreated to Britain leaving behind much of their new transport equipment.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

German Advance 1940…2

  • Britain was being bombed night and day by German planes. The attacks, called Operation Sea Lion, were designed to destroy British resistance.
  • This became the BATTLE OF BRITAIN. From July to October 1940, the Royal Air Force shot down almost 3,000 Nazi planes. Canadian pilots from the small Royal Canadian Air Force participated and, although they suffered many casualties, they were credited with at least 110 “kills”.
  • The final fight for the Battle of Britain occurred on 15 September 1940. Germany sent wave after wave of fighters and bombers. With less equipment and fire power, the Allies managed to inflict heavy losses on the Germans. Soon afterwards, Germany halted Operation Sea Lion.
  • In this same period, hundreds of British children were evacuated to Canada.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

Hong Kong 1941

  • With Western eyes focused on Germany, Japan began capturing European colonies in Asia.
  • A small, untrained contingent of Canadians tried to protect Hong Kong. They were ill equipped to fight the army, artillery and airplanes of the Japanese.
  • Sergeant-Major John Osborne won Canada’s first Victoria Cross. During a Canadian retreat, the Japanese attacked with grenades. Osborne picked up the grenades and threw them back. When one grenade landed too far away, Osborne told his troops to clear out and threw himself on the grenade. He was killed instantly.
  • After 17 days of intense fighting, the Canadians surrendered on 25 December 1941. Nearly 300 Canadians had been killed and over 500 wounded.
  • The survivors were sent to Japanese prison camps. They were used as slave labour. Two hundred and sixty-seven Canadians died in the camps.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

Dieppe 1942

  • To gather information about German defenses along France’s coastline, Canadian and British troops planned “punch attack” at Dieppe. Called Operation Jubilee, the attack was a rehearsal for a large invasion.
  • On 19 August 1942, 5,000 Canadians landed on the beaches. The fortified German position killed many soldiers before they reach the shore. Nearly 900 Canadians were killed, 1,000 were wounded, 1,900 were captured and only 2,200 returned to Britain.
  • Reverend John Foote, Chaplain of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, helped many wounded men into retreating boats. As the last boat headed for England, Foote returned to the beach and was taken prisoner. Foote later wrote, “…the men ashore would need me more in captivity than any of those going home.” Foote was awarded the Victoria Cross.
  • The action was a disaster, but some vital information was gained. The New York Times wrote, “Brave men died without hope for the sake of proving there is a wrong way to invade. They will have their share of the glory when the right way is tried. However, these deaths achieved nothing except to prove what was already known: the high quality of the Canadian troops.”
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WWII – Canadian Battles

At Sea

  • Britain and Russia needed supplies. The transport was by ship across the Atlantic Ocean. At the start of WWII, German submarines were sinking 20 Canadian and USA supply ships PER WEEK.
  • The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) had only 11 ships and 20,000 sailors at the start of WWII, but by the end of the war, Canada had the third largest navy in the world with nearly 400 warships and 113,000 sailors
  • The RCN Corvettes escorted supply ships across the Atlantic in convoys. The convoys ensured some supplies reached Europe.
  • The supply ships were called The Merchant Marine. The ships were the main targets of the German submarines, and when a supply ship was torpedoed, survivors were often left in the Atlantic by the convoy because it was too dangerous to slow down.
  • In 1942, German submarines entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They sank 19 supply ships, two naval escorts and a ferry.
  • Many historians believe that getting supplies to Britain was Canada’s most decisive contribution to the WWII effort.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

In the Air

  • In September 1939, the British Commonwealth Air Training Program (BCATP) began. Pilots from all parts of the Commonwealth received training in Canada.
  • By 1942, the Allied forces began to bomb German cities. At first, the aim was to destroy industries, railways, oil refineries and other vital sites. The target changed to civilian targets to destroy the fighting spirit of the Germans. Thousands of civilians were killed.
  • At the beginning of the war, Canada’s air force was small. By the end, it was the fourth largest in the world.
  • The Dam Busters was a joint British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand action to destroy key dams on the Möhne River that provided power to German industry. To destroy the dams, a bouncing bomb was used. It resembled a depth charge. When dropped from a plane at a high speed and low angle, the bomb skipped across the water like a stone jumping over nets placed in front of the dams to prevent a torpedo attack. Against the dam, the bomb sank and exploded at the base to cause a breach. Two of the three targeted dams were destroyed in a daring night raid.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

Italian Campaign 1943

  • On 10 July 1943, Canadian forces supported by British and American troops attacked Sicily. The attack was called Operation Husky. Canadian troops were well trained and equipped. In one month, Sicily was liberated.
  • To take pressure off the Russian Front and steal German troops from Western Europe, an assault of Italy was planned. Italians hanged fascist dictator Mussolini, but Hitler sent German troops into Italy to defend the southern front.
  • On 3 September 1943, Italy was invaded. Strong German resistance was encountered in central Italy where German defenses were placed strategically in mountain and rugged terrain.
  • In Ortona, the fighting was from house to house. The Canadians developed a technique called mouse-holing. After capturing one house, a hole was blasted through the attic into the next house. Once inside, Canadian used grenades and machine guns to attack the enemy from above until the house was taken. The process was slow but successful. Canadians gained a reputation as elite street fighters.
  • In June 1944, Rome was captured.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

Normandy Invasion, D-Day 1944

  • An invasion force had been assembled in Britain. It included 1.25 million USA troops, 1.25 million British troops and 300,000 Canadians. The troops were supported by 700 war ships, 4,000 landing craft and 11,000 planes.
  • The invasion, called Day of Deliverance or D-Day, began on 6 June 1944.
  • At 02:00, paratroopers were dropped behind the coast to protect the landing forces. At 03:15, 2,000 Allied bombers began to pound German beach defenses. At 05:30, the air raid was joined by the guns of the Allied war ships. At 06:30, the first troops landed on the beaches.
  • This was Canada’s largest military operation. The Canadian troops landed at Juno Beach. It was the second most heavily defended Normandy landing site. Canadians met heavy resistance. Over 800 Canadians were killed or wounded during the landing, but by the end of the day, the Canadians had met their objectives -- the only Allied force to do so that day.
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WWII – Canadian Battles

Liberation of Europe

  • Fighting continued for 11 months after D-Day.
  • Canadian lost 1,000 men for each month of fighting.
  • Canadian units had to clear the channel ports. They entered Dieppe as returning heroes.
  • In Holland, the retreating Germans flooded the lowlands. There was no food and the people ate tulip bulbs to survive. On 5 May 1944, the Germans surrendered, and Canadian troops turned to feeding the starving people.
  • On 7 May 1945, Nazi Germany ceased to exist. Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) had arrived.