CBC Digital Archives

1944: Christmas dinner at the war front

From 1939 to 1945 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel lived and died in lands far from home. CBC Radio was one of the few links friends and family in Canada had to their loved ones abroad. Through reports from the front, dramatizations and direct greetings from soldiers, CBC revealed what life on the battlefront was like.

media clip
Christmas dinner is always something to look forward to, even when it is canned turkey heated up on a "#3 Petrol Burner" and eaten out of a mess tin. Army cook Frank Barley describes his efforts to prepare something special for 50 men in a farmhouse near the Dutch front.

• In previous wars there were occasional "unofficial truces" on Christmas Day, such as the one observed in 1914 by British and German soldiers in Belgium during the First World War. But fighting never let up for Christmas during the Second World War. In 1943 Canadians were engaged in particularly vicious hand-to-hand combat with Germans in Ortona, Italy on Christmas Day.

• CBC reporters used a portable disc cutter to record overseas war reports on aluminum discs. In 1942 CBC turned these discs over for the war effort -- they were melted down for raw material to manufacture aircraft.

Also on December 4:
1866: Delegates from Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia begin constitutional talks in London, England and eventually create the BNA Act.
1909: The first Grey Cup game is held at Rosedale Field in Toronto.
1985: Justice Beverly McLachlin becomes the first woman named to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: Dec. 4, 1944
Guest(s): Frank Barley
Reporter: Jack Scott
Duration: 3:33
Photo: Christmas in Ortona / Dept. of National Defence / PAC

Last updated: April 30, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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