The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a conflict between the Canadian Corps and the German 6th Army from April 9th-12th, 1917. Vimy, located in France, was seized by the Germans early on in the First World War, and quickly fortified. Vimy was charged twice by French troops in 1915, but on both occasions the French failed, with a combined total of approximately 150000 casualties. After these attempts, British forces took control of the front line until October 1916, when Canadian troops arrived. Shortly after the arrival of the mostly untested Canadians, planning for a spring allied offensive began. The Canadian Corps were assigned to take Vimy and reconnaissance and preparation continued throughout the winter, leading up to the attack.
The Vimy Memorial in France.
The perspective most Canadians alive at the time of Vimy was that it was a great success. Newspapers such as the Canadian Press heaped praise among those who fought in the battle, bragging about how tanks had “little to do” and how troops had cleared the ridge in just seven hours, while also referring to the seizure of the ridge as “the supreme moment”. Although wildly celebrated and glorified at home, Vimy was looked upon less fondly by the participants. One soldier was quoted as saying that Vimy was like “the Somme’s most terrible day multiplied by five.” Despite this, both soldiers and citizens of Canada both looked upon Vimy with feelings of pride and sadness, as although it was a great victory for Canada, over 10000 casualties were recorded during the battle.
Vimy affected Canada very much socially. Having all of the Canadian divisions together for the first time, under a Canadian leader helped raise morale at home and abroad, as it symbolized the country fighting on a united front. It also showed the world that Canada was not just merely a meek British puppet, but a strong, independent nation that could carry its weight, and fight its own battles. Vimy demonstrated a shift in Canadian social identity, away from British dependence, as the Canadians prepared and fought with little to no assistance from the major powers, which had not happened before.
Canadian troops in the trenches at Vimy
Vimy contributed to Canadian social autonomy because it displayed a nation coming out of the shadow of their colonial ruler and taking their rightful place on the world stage. King George himself even made an announcement specifically to Canadians, stating that “I heartily congratulate you (Canadians) and all who have taken part in this splendid achievement.” No dominion had ever been recognized personally by the king until the Canadians took Vimy ridge, which marked a move towards Canada’s recognition as a state autonomous of Britain. After Vimy, Canadians showed a desire to be independent from Britain that was stronger than ever before, which resulted in Canada being granted full independence in the years after the war.
What a huge, open topic! The liberation of Europe had been the fight of the Allied forces and the German empire; It was the struggle to regain the land that was taken by Germany and Hitler. Canada had been a significant part of the numerous fights it took to liberate the European land.
Countless details and events could be noted in this DOL, but a good list in chronological order that shows the liberation of Europe is as follows:
Battle for Brest
The liberation of Paris
Operation Market Garden
Battle of the Bulge
In this DOL, I will be going over
a. what the event was
b. the effect of it on Canada / Canada’s POV (if applicable)
Battle for Brest
What was it?
The Battle for Brest was a battle that took place immediately after Normandy was invaded by the Allies (D-Day.). Fought on the Western Front of Europe, this battle aimed for the invasion of mainland Europe (German land) to capture of port facilities, in order to ensure the delivery of the huge amount of war material required to supply the *Allied forces to continue with further invasions.
(*The Allied Forces indicate mainly England, The Soviet Union, Canada, and France.)
The Germans in the Brittany Peninsula were isolated by a north-south breakthrough lead by George Patton’s 3rd USA army.
The battle was victorious on the Allies’ side.
The Brittany Peninsula. The Blue arrows indicate the movement of the allies who took Brest.
The battle of Brest did not affect Canada directly, as the US and their men were responsible for taking the land of Brittany from the Germans. However, this boosted Allied forces’ morale, let the allies have access to extra military supplies for future attacks, and marked the beginning of liberation. Essentially, a change in the social paradigm.
Canadians would soon participate in battles against the Axis forces, and the victory of this battle gave them more ammunition, more supplies to provide their men with, increasing Canada’s economic prosperity in the long run.
What was it?
After the victory in Brittany, the Germans took a massive disaster. British and Canadian troops from the North and American troops in the south trap the German 7th army, German Army Group B, and the Fifth Panzer army in a near-wipeout encircling movement. The battle is also known as the “Falaise Gap”, after the corridor which the Germans sought to maintain to allow their escape.
Canada’s piece: In this battle, Canada was directly a belligerent in fighting as an Allied force. The Canadian 1st army, lead by Commander Harry Crerar, charged through the north region of the Falaise Pocket. 5679 Canadians were lost in this battle. This showed that the autonomy of Canada, as none of Canada’s men were obligated to fight in this war, yet a whole army of volunteering troops have fought and died in the name of Canada and the allies. This strengthens the patriotic identity of Canada, touching on political and social terms.
What was it?
In August 1944, Allied troops landed in the south of France to little resistance. The southern part of the Axis forces were so underprepared that on one beach, the allied armies found a single man handing out Champaign!
A veteran alive today who was part of the operation recalls,
“A French waiter in full dress, carrying a tray bearing several glasses and a bottle of champaign. Offering, the Frenchman remarked “Welcome to France, Gentlemen. Only, if I might offer a slight criticism, you are a few years later than we would have preferred.””
Although that particular beach had an odd happening, the Axis forces did fight back. Many lives were lost in this operation’s process.
The allied Belligerents this time included:
USA, France, England, and Canada on the ground,
Australia and South Africa on Air support,
and both Greece and New Zealand providing Naval support.
Operation Dragoon was the allied invasion of Southern France in an attempt to liberate the once autonomously standing country. The main goal, however, of Dragoon was to secure the vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast to increase pressure on German forces by opening another front. The main invasion force landings proceeded to go on bombing missions, hitting the Germans heavily by interrupting railroads, damaging bridges and cutting off the communication network.
Canada’s piece: A significant number of Canadians took part here as the previous battle, both on the boat and on the ground in Southern France. It is especially important to remember the Canadian troops who fought in this battle as they fought under the binational US-Canadian “FIrst special service force”, which is often mistaken as a full American army. This, exemplifies the beginning of the Canada-US relationship, touching on political values of both countries.
The liberation of Paris
What was it?
The liberation of Paris is per se, the result of the three battles we went over above. Paris, the heart and capital of France, was liberated and finally free from Germany. The puppet state of Vichy France (The state of France that was permitted to continue its existence under German rule, to make it look like France has turned on the allied forces) was no more. This was also called the Battle for Paris and Belgium. August 25th, German commander Dietrich von Choltitz surrendered the French capital. The Germans were being attacked out of France, and the allied forces started entering Belgian territory to further invade the axis forces. In this battle, the Belligerents of the allies were France, The US (but Canada included), and England.
Canada’s Piece: The “liberation of Paris” is a broad term, When we say that Paris was liberated, it is the collective work of the allied forces that fought numerous battles for liberation. Arguably, I would say that by this point, the allied forces have won half of the world war. Now that the industrial heart and patriotic unity within France were regained, it isn’t looking so good for Hitler. Canada’s 1st army was continuously fighting bravely alongside the other allied armies – this victory was not only England and France’s, but it was also a large victory the uplifted the social dynamic of Canadians, who have both British and French blood in their veins.
Economically, the liberation of Paris gave the allied forces much more power in terms of the arsenal. This meant that militia support didn’t need to be so heavily provided by other allied countries including Canada. Due to this, Canada’s GDP DOUBLED.
Operation Market Garden
ah, Operation Market Garden. The unexpected and humiliating failure. This operation had a lot of components to it, but to summarize it in the simplest form possible, it is as follows:
Operation Market Garden was an operation that was the largest airborne attack up to that time, an attempt to liberate the Netherlands. Allied troops landed a bit far away west from the cities of Oosterbeck and Arnhem, where they planned to take over and fight off the Germans. They marched on to the cities but a huge portion of the army (including the Canadian 1st army) had to stay behind because their supply drops would be happening where they initially landed: Far away from where they wanted to attack. Only one army ended up going into Arnhem, got surrounded by German troops and ended up being captured. From southward, there were a few other battles that ended in victory and they were making their way up to assist their troops at Oosterbecka and Arnhem, but the bridges that had been previously connecting the paths had been destroyed. The victories from southward battles had no value if Oosterbeck and Arnhem weren’t taken by the Allies. Trying to help captured army troops in Arnhem, the allies scattered and it greatly disorganized the placement of troops. Worse yet, the British radio system failed halfway through and they could not communicate any longer. The operation ended in failure, they could not liberate the Netherlands.
As mentioned multiple times, an allied victory or loss directly means a Canadian victory or loss. 81 tanks were destroyed in this failed operation, that most likely lowered soldiers’ morale. This was a setback – many soldiers lost their lives and the battle was lost.
The Battle of the Bulge
Although the few setbacks happened, the allied forces were still making progress. Soon, they were threatening the industrial heartland of Germany (the Ruhr Valley). By this point, Hitler’s mental and physical health was rapidly deteriorating. He recalled the past victory in the Battle of Belgium when German troops fought to throw the Ardennes, rough forests, to surround allied forces at the waterfront (This resulted in Dunkirk.) in 1940. He decided to do the exact same thing. Again.
It was a glorious victory for the Germans in 1940. But by this point in the war?
Hitler recollected his forces and tried to blitzkrieg through the rough terrain or the Ardennes again. He used up most of Germany’s remaining resources and forces.
To the allies’ surprise, Hitler managed to create a pretty nice bulge in the territories (thus, the battle of the bulge).
In the process, he took the Belgian city of Bastogne (as seen above). During Hitler’s charge in the Battle of the Bulge, he also did the siege of Bastogne, when he captured an American army in the city of Bastogne.
In the siege, the commanding officer received a letter from the Germans that stated:
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armoured units. More German armoured units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honourable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.
Yada, yada, yada.
The Germans just meant:
Surrender, or we will annihilate you.
The official reply from American General Anthony McAullife was,
To the German Commander.
The American Commander.
The Americans thought to surrender in the encirclement was nuts, and they fought hard.
Then, General George Patton’s Army managed to break the siege southwest, so the Germans were pushed back. Their “bulge” was now pushed back to square one.
Then, came the aftermath.
Soviets Capture Warsaw, and Berlin
Soviets capture Warsaw – Soviet troops liberate the Polish capital from German occupation. The allied forces of Canada, The USA, England, and France fought the Germans from the west, but the Soviets fought the Germans from the east. The Soviet Union successfully fought off the German axis forces to capture Warsaw, soon Berlin.
Mussolini Execution, Hitler suicide
Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist leader is executed. This causes some commotion in Europe. What follows is the end of the Nazis – Hitler realized that all hope was lost in his bunker. He shot himself in the head, and he was gone, with his dreams of a great German empire.
Victory in Europe Day
After all of the horrendous bloodshed, war was finally over.
May 8th, 1945.
Check out Jayden’s DOL for more information on VE day.
Finally, Europe was liberated.
How is Canada affected by the liberation of Europe?
First of all, Canadian volunteer troops fought hard. They supplied men and arsenal, which is an economic toll on Canada. Now that War is over in Europe, Canada is able to go with the other allied troops to assist against the war going on in Japan. By concentrating more allied forces’ resources in one place, Canada saves a lot of money, prospering economically in the long run.
Grit. An apparent theme with the Canadian forces in the Second Battle of Ypres. The year is 1915, mid-April. The Brittish, Indians, Algerians, Moroccans, Belgians and Canadians making up the Allied forces defending the French town of Ypres are outnumbered against the attacking German Empire. The thousands of Allied forces create a front line of defence, kilometres long and successfully hold the Germans at bay. Then, the German troops try something experimental, they release 160 tonnes of Chlorine Gas onto the Allied French forces (Algerians), causing serious damage. Many of the French died from this unknown gas, the rest fled to safety, leaving a 6-kilometre gap in the Allied defensive line protecting Ypres. This is where the Canadians step in. The Germans did not think the gas would be this effective, so they did not prepare a large enough force to use the gap in the defence to their advantage, meaning the Allies still had hope. The Canadians, with help from other Allies, fight hard to close the gap in the defensive line, and they succeed. The Canadians launch several counter-attacks against the Germans, including Kitchener’s wood, where the Canadians used hand-to-hand combat to keep the Germans at bay. Then, the Germans launch the second gas attack of the first world war, this time, directly onto the Canadian section of the line. Some Canadians dropped to the ground in hopes of pushing their face into the bottom of the trench, but Chlorine gas is heavier than air and led those Canadians to a painful death. The rest of the Canadians soaked pieces of cloth and handkerchiefs in urine, then wore goggles and tied these makeshift gas masks to their mouths/noses. The urine neutralizes the chlorine. The Canadians are in poorly built trenches, surrounded by a mysterious gas that melts soft tissue, causing the victim’s throat, stomach, lungs and eyes to liquefy, with the only defence against this gas being urine, but they still hold their ground and fight off the prepared German forces. If this doesn’t sound bad enough, the Canadians are armed with the Ross rifle. The African Boer war back in 1899, causes a minor conflict between Canada and Britain, and when Canada asks Britain to supply the Canadian soldiers with Lee-Enfields(an accurate, reliable Brittish rifle) Britain refuses due to the low supply, Britain even refuses to let Canada create their own Lee-Enfields. So Sir Charles Ross proposed the Ross rifle to the Canadian government. Back in Ypres, Canadians continue to use the Ross rifle, although there is a major problem with this. The Ross rifle is unreliable and unsuited for the muddy conditions of Ypres. The gun constantly jams, can only use very high-quality ammunition and when fired, the bayonet will often fall off of the rifle. Also, because of the rifle’s straight bolt rechambering mechanism (for an increased rate of fire), the bolt will sometimes not lock properly after recharging, meaning when the gun is fired, the bolt will be blown back into the shooter’s face, causing major or even lethal damage. The Ross rifle has a slim chance of killing the person who fires it. This didn’t stop the Canadians though, they would often search for a Lee-Enfield on a deceased Brittish soldier and use that to combat the Germans. The need for Canadians to fight for the town of Ypres caused them to have a tremendous amount of Grit.
John McCrae suffers from the gas attacks at Ypres, and while at an Advanced Dressing Station outside Ypres, McCrae writes the poem In Flanders Fields. This poem is said by historian Paul Fussell to be the most popular poem of its time. Many Canadians read it, not because it’s a good poem, which it is, but because it makes the Canadians proud to be Canadian. The poem tells a story about what is happening at Ypres and the Canadians back home are able to feel the reality of the war. This poem, and how Canadians view the poem, shows us that Canadians are proud of how their friends and relatives are fighting in World War 1.
The Second Battle of Ypres changes the early 20th-century Canadian values in multiple ways. This event changes our social values to make us more proud of the Canadian fighters in World War 1. We recognize their grit and determination to serve Canada and realize that Canadians are a force to be reckoned with. Also, Canadian economic values change due to the Ross rifle. From the outcome of using the Ross rifle in this battle, Canadians change slightly to value quality over price, even though the Ross rifle is used after the Second Battle of Ypres, the Rifle discontinues in 1916. Although, this does affect Canada’s economic autonomy since the Canadians switch to the robust Brittish-made Lee-Enfield. The Ross rifle is a great, accurate hunting rifle, but isn’t robust enough to use the lower-quality Brittish ammunition in the conditions of WW1 trench warfare. The Canadians have to switch to the Lee-Enfield since they don’t have enough time to research and produce an entirely different rifle in 1916.
Back home, Canadian social autonomy changes because of this fight. The bravery of the Canadian soldiers at Ypres teach Canada to be proud of being Canadian. Back in the early 1900s, Canada is often proud of being a part of Britain because of Britain’s war(the Boer war and WW1) efforts, but this fight allows Canada to be proud of Canada’s efforts, along with Britain. The Brittish fight hard at Ypres, but so do thousands of Canadians, and this is what allows the Canadians all around the world to be proud of being Canadian, not just proud of being part of Britain. This fight makes Canada more socially autonomous by making Canadians proud of themselves.
“Canada and the Second Battle of Ypres.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/battle-of-ypres.
“Ross Rifle.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_rifle.
“Second Battle of Ypres.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 June 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Ypres.
Veterans Affairs Canada. “Ypres 1915.” Canada and the First World War – History – Veterans Affairs Canada, 14 Feb. 2019, www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/canada/Canada4.
Ross Rifle 1905 (https://revivaler.com/ross-rifle/)
The main cause of the Holocaust started when Adolf Hitler was appointed German chancellor on January 30, 1933, setting in motion what would become the Nazi genocide against Jewish people. Negativity about Jews quickly spread across the world and when it got to Canada, government policies were made stating that Jews were a potential threat to the nation’s health. Canadians supported the policies and Canada was becoming less welcoming towards the Jewish. The Jewish didn’t feel safe, they were especially vulnerable in Quebec and swastika clubs were organized in Ontario. At Toronto’s Christie Pits Park during a baseball game on August 16, 1933, a rare act of Nazi-inspired anti-Semitic violence broke out. Fights exploded aftera local pro-Nazi youth group unveiled a flag with a swastika.The opposing Jewish club and fans were infuriated by the act. Luckily there were no fatalities, but it was a warning to the Jewish Canadians that they had only escaped their fate by one generation. Canada then placed Jews in the “least desirable” immigrant groups and people thought the more Jews the country had, the more problems they would have. So, between 1933-1947 only 5,000 Jewish refugees were permitted to enter Canada, the poorest record among western countries. This new placement is also one of the causes to the rejection of the MS St. Louis on June 7, 1939. Fleeing from the German Nazis, 907 Jewish refugees were denied entry to Cuba, numerous Latin American countries, and the United States on the St. Louis, before finally getting denied in Canada. Only a few Canadian citizens asked the government to provide sanctuary for the refugees, but their request was quickly refused. The ship was sent back to Europe where 254 of the 907 passengers were murdered in the Holocaust.
Now, thankfully, Canada is no longer like that; we do not dismiss refugees in need, and there are no policies that discriminate anyone. Throughout the 1930s there were only about 170,000 Jews in Canada, compared to the minimum of 308,995 according to a 2001 census; over the span of 60 years, the Jewish population has increased by 181.76%. This, and other more accepting immigration policies, has changed Canada socially and economically for the better.
This event contributing to making Canada more economically autonomous because, even though most Canadians would hate to say this back then, the Jewish people helped our economy a lot. Wanting to fight more for their people and less for their country about 17,000, roughly one-fifth of the country’s Jewish male population, enrolled in the Canadian army. 421 Canadian Jewish soldiers were died in service and 1,971 received military awards. They fought with us even though they thought we were against them; that built up our army’s reputation and the army itself, and it is something we continue to build on today.
While it may seem counterintuitive that joining alliances in a battle would reinforce a type of independence for the participants, this is what happened for the Newfoundlanders during the battle of Beaumont – Hamel. After many unproductive months between the allied forces and Germans, Britain called upon its colonies for help in the Gallipoli campaign. When news arrived to Canada of this request, the people of Newfoundland were eager to go and help. Out of the -not yet- province’s 240 000 population, 12 000 men volunteered to go. This group formed the ‘Newfoundland Regiment” or “blue puttees”, for the unconventional colour of their leggings. During the process of shipping all those people, the Gallipoli campaign failed miserably for the allied forces, and the Newfoundland Regiment was redirected to the battle of Somme. After 2 years of stalemate between the Germans and the British, Britain was now hoping to achieve 25 more kilometers across no man’s land and knock the Germans out of their front trenches. The Newfoundland regiment was stationed near the French town of Beaumont – Hamel, and commanded to execute the ‘big push’ on the morning of July 1st, 1916. Essentially, this was a plan to march across no man’s land and take the German trenches by surprise. Because the few front British trenches were clogged up with dead bodies already, the Newfoundlanders (a.k.a. 29th division) had to start at a trench further back, called St. John’s road. From that point, this journey then consisted of 200 meters to their own front line, and then 500 more –through barbed wire- until the first enemy trenches. After half an hour, most soldiers died halfway through the run, at a current memorial called ‘danger tree’. Out of the 801 people that were part of this particular push, only 68 were able to answer role call the next day.
The first reports back to Newfoundland spoke of great victory. One British commander wrote: “There were no waverers, no stragglers, not a man looked back…It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further.” Following that message, though, the soldiers’ families were notified of the deaths. The remainder of the Newfoundland Regiment and other volunteers were re-stationed in Guedecourt, Ypres, Arras, Courtrai and Cambrai. Recognizing the drastic loses and commitment of the 29th division, the British crown awarded the Newfoundland Regiment the title of ‘royal’. For the people of Newfoundland, this event was one of the first that brought this community to be a nation. The people were tied together by loss but also patriotism for Britain. The rest of Canada didn’t partake in the grieving the same way, because they were not yet confederated. At the same time, the relevance of these losses is what brought the people of Newfoundland together. Perhaps, their resilience is what propelled other provinces to confederate and consider Newfoundland one of its own. Yet, even now, as Canada joyously celebrates the first of July, only the people of Newfoundland allot a segment of that day to the memorial and remembrance of the battle of Beaumont.
During World War Two, the United Kingdom found that they didn’t have the space required to train an air-force large enough to combat Nazi Germany. To solve this, the British parliament called upon the commonwealth to support their forces in aircrew training. Together they created the British Commonwealth Airforce Training Program or the BCATP. Canada, Australia and New Zealand all signed onto this deal on December 17, 1939 and began preparations to support troops in training. Canada built 151 airbases across their country and created training programs to prepare volunteer Canadian troops. Between the three countries, the UK received 131,553 men in the form of pilots, air-gunners, navigators, wireless operators and flight engineers. These soldiers were an essential piece of the Allied Forces’ victory and their resounding success has led to Canada becoming a major global power in air-force training for UN and NATO peacekeeping missions.
During this time Canadian soldiers were supported by overwhelming patriotism from their fellow citizens. Communities rallied around their local airbases and they celebrated whenever a new one opened. Trainees from New Zealand, Australia and Britain were greeted with open arms and welcomed into Canada as soon as they came. Many soldiers married into their surrounding communities, which brought new diversity to Canada’s population. Overall, the incredible support from Canadians made the daunting task ahead seem clearer for many aircrew personnel, and the ability to stay involved in the war efforts at home brought communities together. Giving civilians a chance to play a part in the war efforts without putting themselves on the front lines bolstered national pride and brought military action into the spotlight for the people of Canada.
(stamp released alongside the beginning of Canada’s involvement in the BCATP on Dec. 17th 1939.)
While their soldiers trained and fought, Canada’s airbases began to build up their surrounding rural communities. Towns and communities began to rise up around airfields. In these areas, the large influx of training soldiers supported merchants and their families, while other civilians, including women were presented with high-paying job opportunities to support themselves and the war effort. Local companies received contracts to supply goods such as gravel or heating to the airbases and many soldiers took up residence in the surrounding towns. This new income brought these new communities across Canada to new wealth and prestige, which allowed them to become more economically stable, something that has generally been up-kept since then. As all of this occurred almost directly after the Great Depression, hundreds of families were pulled out of deep financial issues by these airfields and the profits they brought with them.
(Aeriel view of an airforce training center in Saskatchewan.)
(A female employee refueling a plane at an airbase)
(Many women were employed by the RCA during the second world war, giving them a new opportunity to serve their country.)
During the BCATP, Canadian Prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King viewed the war efforts by Canada as “the most essential military action that Canada could undertake”. Though he was incredibly supportive of the Crown, King had one requirement that would change how Canadian pilots were viewed throughout the rest of the war by their own country and the rest. Rather than be absorbed into the British army, King requested that Canadian aircrew be allowed to label themselves as a part of the Royal Canadian Airforce (RCA). Allowing Canadians to fight as their own entity, has had a lasting impact on Canadians across the country, both military personnel and civilians. Before this time, Canadians had only ever fought as a faction of the British commonwealth, but now they were more than that. King’s decision was the beginning of an era of politically Canadian identity, which we have held onto since and will continue to value for years to come.
The BCATP ended on March 31, 1945. With it came the solemn closing of one hundred and fifty one Canadian airbases, and though many communities would be losing integral parts of their society, the fact that Canada was able to attribute this to the end of the Second World War and their hard-won success made it a victory. Though Canada lost countless brave lives, their efforts wouldn’t be forgotten, and the Royal Canadian would continue to represent their country in times of need. The BCATP allowed Canadians to fight as their own people for the values they believed in, and gave them the autonomy of serving under their own flag, while bringing civilians to place where war efforts were a nation-wide concern in which everyone who wished could play a part.
What: Canada’s first battle in World War II, lasting 18 days. 2000 troops were sent to Hong Kong thinking it would be simple guard duty, later attacked by 52000 Japanese soldiers. Canadian allies fought to defend Hong Kong and failed heroically, the remaining taken as prisoners of war. The attack was against international law, as Japan had not declared war against Britain.
Where: Hong Kong
When: December 8th – 25th, 1941.
Why: Early 1920s, the Anglo Japanese Treaty ended (an alliance between Japan and Britain), frightening the British. Late 1930s, Japan was in military conflict with Republic of China, later occupying Canton (Guangzhou) and surrounding Hong Kong. British studies believe that it would be very hard to defend Hong Kong, placing little thought in helping. In the mid-1930s, they began improving the defenses for Hong Kong, and then reducing the garrison to a symbolic size (2000 men) in the 1940s.
The most important causes were the end of the Anglo Japanese Alliance and the surrounding of Hong Kong. The Anglo Japanese Alliance bound Britain and Japan to assist one another in safeguarding their interests in China and Korea. However, along with the treaty’s ending, Britain had become cautious of Japan’s actions, realizing that Japan was in the process of overrunning one of their allies. I believe that there were three major aspects within the Battle of Hong Kong: The catalyst, or the ending of the treaty, the surrounding of Hong Kong, the rejection of two surrender proposals, the actual execution of said battle.
The Battle of Hong Kong was viewed by Canadians at the time as a bold defense of our allies, fighting back even when outnumbered. To this day, veterans still speak about the courage of the soldiers defending Hong Kong, doing all they could to prove their loyalty, as well as work together in a time of vast differences. Simultaneously, the Japanese were viewed as a disreputable world power to those on the opposing side, not only fighting with an unbeatable amount of people, but violating an international law in the process.
Although the Battle of Hong Kong was not a success, it shaped Canada’s value for commitment, having defended Hong Kong despite the overwhelming military pressure. Additionally, different cultures worked together to defend an ally, helping grow Canada’s value for inclusion and acceptance, understanding that we are all defending each other. Therefore, Canada not only showed their political commitment towards their allies, but simultaneously shaped what Canada values socially today about different cultures.
As for Canada’s autonomy, the Battle of Hong Kong played a large political and social role in how we are portrayed by others and ourselves. The Battle of Hong Kong was one of the first battles in the Pacific war, along with one of the first battles Canada participated in during World War II. The Battle of Hong Kong allowed for Canada to prove their loyalty towards their allies. Despite the failure, the fight defending Hong Kong was a bold and important event for Canadians in the present, ultimately pushing Canada’s reputation forward.
What were the causes and most important aspects of your chosen event related to the guiding question? (5W’s)
The tides of World War II were turned in 1943 at the Battle of Stalingrad from almost certain Nazi victory to a chance for the allies. Due to this, the allies in the west were mobilized to surround the Axis forces. One of the places the Allies were mobilized in was Italy, an ally of Nazi Germany, and an important place to capture to successfully surround the Axis forces. When Britain, America and Canada gathered near Sicily for a naval invasion on July 10, 1943, the Italian Campaign began. This campaign is significant because Italy was one of the three main fronts from which the Allies pushed Nazi Germany and was crucial in the Allies’ victory.
How was your researched event viewed by Canadians at the time? How do you know?
Before the infamous invasion of Normandy, the Italian Campaign was looked upon with pride by Canadians. At the time, it was the largest campaign in which Canada participated, which caused Canada to be recognized as a valuable part of the Allied forces. Canadians treasured this recognition of importance from other countries. However, as tales of heroism from D-Day reached Canada, the Canadian soldiers in Italy were not only forgotten, but also dubbed ‘D-Day Dodgers’. This name arose because the Allies had liberated Rome on June 4th, 1944, just two days before the invasion of Normandy. Canadians civilians thought that the Italian Campaign was complete with the capture of Rome and presumed that the Canadians that stayed behind in Italy and had not gone to fight in D-Day, ‘dodged’ the violent invasion on purpose. However, the Italian Campaign continued until spring of 1945, well beyond the capture of Rome. Interestingly, the Canadian ‘D-Day Dodgers’ did not reject their nickname, instead, they wore it with pride. This pride is displayed in a verse of the song D-Day Dodgers written by Canadian soldier Hamish Henderson:
If you look around the mountains
In the mud and rain
You’ll find scattered crosses
Some which bear no name
Heartbreak and toil and suffering gone
The boys beneath them slumber on
For they’re the D-Day Dodgers
Who stayed in Italy
This verse displays how the Canadian ‘D-Day Dodgers’ were proud of their nickname, choosing the name of ‘D-Day Dodgers’ to honour their fallen friends. This song also mentions that their fallen comrades “stayed in Italy”, signifying that they were proud that their friends continued the Italian Campaign and died to liberate Italy. Despite the lack of attention and care from Canadian citizens towards soldiers in the Italian Campaign, the ‘D-Day Dodgers’ remained steadfast and proud of their mission.
To what extent did this event or idea affect Canadian social, political or economic norms or values?
The Italian Campaign was mainly forgotten by Canada due to the famous D-Day invasions. However, the Italian Campaign did change some social norms in Canada. Through the numerous battles during the Italian Campaign in which Canadian forces were sole reasons for victory, Canada cemented itself as a core part of the Allies during World War II. Today, Canada prides itself on its involvement with the Allied forces and in World War II. Even though most of this pride lies in the invasions of Normandy, the battles fought during the Italian Campaign were the birthplaces of that pride. Even though Canada’s perspectives on Canadian soldiers’ accomplishments have shifted, the Italian Campaign was the dawn of Canadian pride in our involvements in World War II.
In what ways, specifically, did your event contribute to Canada’s social, political, or economic autonomy? Provide evidence from primary and secondary sources.
Due to Canada’s contributions in the Italian Campaign, the country became well known as a highly trained fighting force instead of an unknown nation in North America. During the first months of the campaign, the Canadian forces were already referred to as “highly trained mountain troops” by Albert Kesselring, a Field Marshall in the German Army. As the campaign advanced “German respect for the Canadian soldier was beginning” (The Canadian Encyclopedia). It was not only the German soldiers’ respect Canadians were gaining, it was the allies too. As Canadian forces won important battles, such as the Battle of Ortona, and played critical roles in Allied attacks, such as the breaking of the Gustav Line, Britain and the USA recognized that Canada was a crucial part of the Allied forces. Canada became a more politically autonomous country because of this acceptance from the world powers, as it now garnered more respect due to its contributions during World War II. Canada’s involvement in the war also sparked a new, common sense of pride in Canadian citizens, which improved Canadian identity. The Italian Campaign is incredibly important as it was where the appreciation and respect for Canadian assistance in the war was initially given, and without this respect, Canada would not have evolved into a more politically autonomous country.
VE Day was on May 8, 1945. This was caused by the critical pressure on Germany from the allies from the east and west. Britain had pressured Germany from the West and the Russians from the East. By April, the German Army was nearly destroyed. On April 30, 1945, Hitler committed suicide. This led to Germany’s surrender to the allies. After Germany surrendered, celebrations erupted across Europe and North America. On this day, German troops laid down their arms. They did not want to be captured, as there was little hope of escape. Over 13,000 British prisoners of war were released and sent back to their home country. On VE Day, Canada moved to liberate the German held areas in the Netherlands. This pushed Canada’s view as a nation willing to help others. The victory of the allies also showed how Canada can be a helpful war ally. On March 8, 1945, the world saw the end of its worst war. VE Day was a day of celebration for many across the globe, including Canadians.
VE Day was viewed as a joyous day for Canadians. It signaled the end of the fighting that had cost 42,000 Canadians’ lives and caused injuries for tens of thousands of soldiers. Since many Canadians were in Europe, they celebrated the end of the war there. In Toronto, thousands of people were dancing in the streets. Prime Minister William Lyon
Happy Vancouver soldiers painted “Germany Kaput. Here we come Vancouver” on hearing of the end of the second World War. Members of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. (Postmedia Files)
Mackenzie King told Canadians, “You have helped rid the world of a great scourge”. For the soldiers, this was also a happy, but somber day. An Anonymous Canadian flyer said, ““I was so relieved that I myself no longer had to be destructive, that I was not too concerned about the possibility of being fired upon by the German ground installations”. At this point, Canada was ready for peace. Canada has fought at Hong Kong, Dieppe, Normandy, and the North Atlantic. There was also a debate about conscription in Canada, and the deaths in World War II were adding to the flames. Once news of German surrender had made its way to Canadians, relief was felt across the country. VE Day was a day of celebration for the end of the violence, but also a day to remember those who died so that those alive could celebrate.
Continuity and Change
The end of World War II had a great impact on Canada’s economic norms and values. Once soldiers returned home, they returned to work, married, and had children. Canadians also started to buy more things. For the first time since the Great Depression, Canadians were spending money freely. Most of what Canadians were consuming came from the United States, which alerted the economic relationship between the two countries. The return of soldiers to their wives caused a baby boom, which meant that there were more people to stimulate Canada’s economy. With the increase of babies, many families moved from big cities to smaller suburbs. The new suburbs grew the transportation industry, as more freeways and railways were built. Canada’s economy also grew because the economies of many other countries were destroyed. Since there was little fighting in Canada, industries did not suffer much damage because of the war. Europe especially needed Canada’s exports to help their homeless and rebuild their economy. After VE Day, Canada’s economy grew as there were more people returning and coming into the country. The need for Canada’s exports after the destruction of other economies also helped stimulate Canada’s.
VE Day contributed to Canada’s social autonomy. Although Canada was an independent nation before World War II, the war unified the country. The fight against a common enemy brought together the young country. Canada was helpful in the allies fight against the axis powers. Canada’s role in the Italian, Normandy, and Air Campaigns had a big impact on the War. Once the war was won, Canada’s national pride and confidence grew. Canadians felt less irrelevant and part of a bigger world. Although Canada had a smaller population and army than the bigger nations, they were still on the winning side of World War II. Canada’s national identity was also strengthened when they joined the newly formed United Nations. As Canada’s pride, relevance, economy, and population grew, so did their autonomy. Canada was starting to separate itself from the British. Although Canada helped Britain during the war, Canada’s importance signaled that they had strength in their own right. After the war ended, Canada had a new place in the global power structure through their newfound military and economical strength. Canada’s economy would continue to grow from VE Day to today.
The first world war is at its resolution, but in order to officially declare the conflict between the Allies and Central Powers over, a conference must be held in which the major political powers of the world deliberate Germany’s fate. On January 12th of 1919, a preliminary meeting was held in Paris by representatives from five great powers: Britain, the U.S., France, Italy, and Japan. Originally dubbed the Supreme Council or “Council of Five”, this number was later reduced to four due to Japan’s lack of interest in matters that didn’t directly involve their country. They met to deliberate the responsibility and reparations of the war, prevention for future ones, and what would become the League of Nations. The conference took six months in its entirety and resulted in the creation of the Covenant of the League of Nations, an international diplomatic group tasked with resolving conflicts before they resulted in warfare; the Treaty of Versailles, the peace terms imposed on Germany; the Treaty of Neuilly, the peace terms imposed on Bulgaria, and the Treaty of Saint-Germain, the peace terms imposed on Austria. The Paris conference officially ended with the inauguration of the League of Nations on January 16th, 1920. The “Big Four” (the U.S., Britain, France, and Italy) had achieved their goal of minimizing the armies and lands of the Central Powers to prevent any future wars and creating a council to enforce diplomatic solutions to international conflicts.
While the principal global powers may have gotten their way, many voices struggled to be heard during the deliberations. Canadians wanted their opinions heard as important decisions were made in Paris. As a colony of Great Britain, Canada was considered represented by the British ministers who held power on the councils during the Paris conference. Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden believed fiercely that even as a Dominion, Canada deserved separate representation and signatures at the conference. He argued that Canada’s contributions and the 60,000 dead more than warranted a say in the resolution of the war. As a result of the Prime Minister’s vigilance, Canada signed independently on the Treaty of Versailles, indented under the umbrella signature of the British Empire. Canada as a whole gained more opportunities to share their views on the international stage but was still branded as a British colony.
Canada was considered worldwide as simply a colony of Britain, but with their major contribution on behalf of the global power in the first world war, they gained leverage to use in their fight for more recognition. Canadian politics were taken more seriously after Prime Minister Robert Borden argued his way into a seat at the conference. Having their independent signature on the major document that was the Treaty of Versailles was a huge step in showing that Canada was no longer hidden in the shadows of the British Empire but ready to take the plunge into a more dominant role in international politics. They later went on to become founding members of the League of Nations, a very big accomplishment for the British dominion.
Canada’s autonomy as a developing colony developed politically because of the efforts of Conservative leader Robert Borden. Due to their participation in the war, the principal nations had no choice but to recognize Canada’s autonomous status during the conference. They received an independent signature on the Treaty of Versailles, one of the most important documents to be created at the conference. There were there as Canadians, and the Paris Peace Conference was one of the major stepping stones in Canada’s struggle for recognition and independence. As a result of their presence there, Canada gained more autonomy over their foreign policies and international politics.