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Queen asks Canadian women to help war effort

Canadian women were not allowed to fight during the Second World War but they did just about everything else. Tens of thousands joined the women's divisions of the Armed Forces. Hundreds of thousands stepped into jobs in wartime industry. At home and abroad they were welders and pilots, nurses and clerks, the homemakers that kept families together, protecting the home front and the Canadian way of life. These are some of their stories.

Barely two decades since the "Great War" ended, Canada and Britain are once again at war with Germany. Queen Elizabeth, consort of King George VI, spent the spring of 1939 touring Canada. Now, with Nazis in Poland and men across the Commonwealth preparing for combat, Elizabeth has an Armistice Day message for the women of Canada: "We, no less than men, have real and vital work to do for our country in its hour of need." 
• Prince Albert, who would become King George VI, married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923. When Albert's brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936, Albert became King George VI. Elizabeth became Queen Consort and did much to repair the damage caused by the abdication. She was well-loved by the public and helped to boost England's morale during the Second World War, staying with the King in Buckingham Palace despite repeated German bombing.

• In response to mounting pressure for the Queen and her daughters to leave for the safety of Canada, Elizabeth replied, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave."
• "Queen Consort" is the official title for the wife of a reigning king. She has no constitutional power. The husband of a reigning queen is not automatically given any title, though he is popularly referred to as "Prince Consort."

• The Royal Couple toured Canada and the United States by train in May and June 1939 before the war broke out. It is said she learned to use a revolver in case the enemy tried to kidnap her.
• Because of her rallying effect on British morale, Adolph Hitler branded Elizabeth "the most dangerous woman in Europe."

• When King George VI died in 1952 Elizabeth mourned for a year and went back to her native Scotland. She then returned to public life as Queen Mother to Queen Elizabeth II. She remained a favourite across the Commonwealth through her 100th birthday in 2000, up to her death in 2002.
• The Queen Mother returned to Canada for an official visit in 1989 to mark the 50th anniversary of her first visit.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: Nov. 11, 1939
Guest(s):
Speaker: Queen Elizabeth
Duration: 5:54
Photo: National Archives of Canada / PA-076385

Last updated: November 5, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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