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Canada In World War Ii

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When the German attack on Poland on 1 September 1939 finally led Britain and France to declare war on Germany, King summoned Parliament to "decide," as he had pledged. Declaration of war was postponed for a week, during which Canada was formally neutral. The government announced that approval of the "Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne," which stated the government's decision to support Britain and France, would constitute approval of a declaration of war.

On September 9 the address was approved without a recorded vote, and war was declared the following day. The basis for parliamentary unity had in fact been laid in March, when both major parties accepted a program rejecting conscription for overseas service. King clearly envisaged a limited effort and was lukewarm towards an expeditionary force. Nevertheless, there was enough pressure to lead the Cabinet to dispatch one army division to Europe. The Allies' defeat in France and Belgium in the early summer of 1940 and the collapse of France frightened Canadians. The idea of limited and economical war went by the board, and thereafter the only effective limitation was the pledge against overseas conscription. The armed forces were rapidly enlarged, conscription was introduced June 1940 for home defence (see NATIONAL RESOURCES MOBILIZATION ACT), and expenditure grew enormously.

The army expanded until by late 1942 there were 5 divisions overseas, 2 of them armoured. In April of that year the FIRST CANADIAN ARMY was formed in England under Lieutenant-General A.G.L. MCNAUGHTON. In contrast with WWI, it was a long time before the army saw large-scale action. Until summer 1943 the force in England was engaged only in the unsuccessful DIEPPE RAID (19 August 1942), whereas 2 battalions sent from Canada had taken part in the hopeless defence of HONG KONG against the Japanese in December 1941. Public opinion in Canada became disturbed by the inaction, and disagreement developed between the government and McNaughton, who wished to reserve the army for a final, decisive campaign.

The government arranged with Britain for the 1st Canadian Infantry Division to join the attack on Sicily July 1943, and subsequently insisted upon building its Mediterranean force up to a 2-division corps (by adding the 5th Division). This produced a serious clash with McNaughton, just when the British War Office, which considered him unsuited for field command, was influencing the Canadian government against him. At the end of 1943 he was replaced by Lieutenant-General H.D.G. CRERAR.

The 1st Division was heavily engaged in the Sicilian campaign as part of the British Eighth Army, and subsequently took part in the December 1943 advance up the mainland of Italy, seeing particularly severe fighting in and around Ortona (see ORTONA, BATTLE OF). In the spring of 1944 Canadians under Lieutenant-General E.L.M. BURNS played a leading role in breaking the Hitler Line barring the Liri Valley. At the end of August the corps broke the Gothic Line in the Adriatic sector and pushed on through the German positions covering Rimini, which fell in September. These battles cost Canada its heaviest casualties of the Italian campaign.

The final phase of Canadian involvement in Italy found 1st Canadian Corps, now commanded by Lieutenant-General Charles FOULKES, fighting its way across the Lombard Plain, hindered by mud and swift-flowing rivers. The corps' advance ended at the Senio River in the first days of 1945. The Canadian government, so eager to get its troops into action in Italy, had soon begun to ask for their return to join the main Canadian force in Northwest Europe. Allied policy finally made this possible early in 1945, and the 1st Corps came under the First Canadian Army's command in mid-March, to the general satisfaction of the men from Italy. All told, 92 757 Canadian soldiers of all ranks had served in Italy, and 5764 had lost their lives.

The Industrial Contribution

Canada's industrial contribution to victory was considerable, though it began slowly. After the Allied reverses in Europe in 1940, British orders for equipment, which had been a trickle, became a flood. In April 1940 the Department of MUNITIONS AND SUPPLY, provided for in 1939, was established with C.D. HOWE as minister. In August 1940 an amended Act gave the minister almost dictatorial powers, and under it the industrial effort expanded vastly. Various CROWN CORPORATIONS were instituted for special tasks. New factories were built, and old ones adapted for war purposes.

Whereas in WWI Canadian production had largely been limited to shells (no weapons were made except the ROSS RIFLE), now a great variety of guns and small arms was produced. Many ships, notably escort vessels and cargo carriers, were built; there was large production of aircraft, including Lancaster bombers; and the greatest triumph of the program was in the field of military vehicles, of which 815 729 were made. Tanks were produced, chiefly of components imported from the US. More than half the material produced went to Britain. Britain could not possibly pay for all of it; so Canada, in the interest of helping to win the war, and keeping her factories working, financed a high proportion. At the beginning of 1942 a BILLION-DOLLAR GIFT was devoted to this purpose. The next year a program of MUTUAL AID to serve Allied nations generally, but still in practice mainly directed to the UK, was introduced. During the war Canadian financial assistance to Britain amounted to $3 043 000 000.

Canada had a limited role in the development of atomic energy, a fateful business that was revealed when atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in August 1945. Canada had an available source of uranium in a mine at Great Bear Lake, which led to Mackenzie King's being taken into the greater Allies' confidence in the matter in 1942. That summer the Canadian government acquired control of the mine. A team of scientists that had been working on the project in England was moved to Canada.

Tension developed between Britain and the US, but at the QuÐ"©bec Conference of September 1943 an Anglo-American agreement was made that incidentally gave Canada a small share in control. A Canadian policy committee decided in 1944 to construct an atomic reactor at the CHALK RIVER NUCLEAR LABORATORIES. The first reactor there did not "go critical" until after the Japanese surrender. Canada had no part in producing the bombs used against Japan, unless some Canadian uranium was used in them, which seems impossible to determine.

Canada had no effective part in the higher direction of the war. This would have been extremely difficult to obtain, and



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