CBC Digital Archives

Bringing the war into the classroom

"Buy Victory Bonds!" Spread war-related rumours and you risk becoming "one of Hitler's Little Helpers." Ladies, join the army and you'll be "the proudest girl in the world!" Persuasive messages like these were everywhere during the Second World War, including on CBC Radio and Canadian movie screens. Indeed, wartime propaganda wasn't just the domain of Nazi Germany — Canada too created films, radio dramas and posters aimed at convincing citizens to join the military or help out on the home front.

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Combining education and entertainment came naturally to CBC Radio in the 1940s. In classrooms across the country, teachers were tuning in to a new series, the National School Broadcasts. Friday mornings at 10:00, students could hear special newscasts written for classrooms, followed by dramatic stories of Canadian pioneers. In this news segment clip, we hear an explanation of politics in China, and the momentous battles taking place at Stalingrad and Guadalcanal.
• Educational broadcasts, usually coordinated by the provinces, had long been used to teach students in rural communities. In 1941 British Columbia and Nova Scotia worked with CBC Radio to produce educational programs. Quebec, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had signed on by July 1942, and by the end of the year all nine provincial education ministers (Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada) were participating in the CBC's National School Broadcasts, often working with the CBC to contribute a program.

• Some municipalities also got involved in the broadcasts. The Toronto Board of Education signed on in October 1942, noting that "the Board of Education approves of the use of radio in the schools during teaching hours at the discretion of the principal, provided the programmes received are related to the course of study or are designed to inculcate desirable ideals, or establish worthy life values."

• In 1942 the National School Broadcasts launched a new series called Heroes of Canada -- 15 programs "dramatizing the life and achievements of Canadian men and women, living and dead, who have contributed to Canada's national life through a display of the pioneering spirit and the sense of social responsibility." The programs were 20 minutes long, aimed at students in grades six to ten.

• The National School Broadcast heard on this day (Oct. 16, 1942) was part of this series. It was prepared by the Nova Scotia Department of Education. This program presented the dramatized story of Richard Uniacke, a young Irish lawyer who came to Canada in the 18th century and became embroiled in a fight over unfair distinctions being made between United Empire Loyalists and older settlers. In 1825 Uniacke travelled to London to discuss Confederation with the British Colonial Secretary.

• Other educational series heard in 1942 included Canadian Horizons, Science at Work and Tales from Far and Near.
• Each Heroes of Canada program was preceded by a 10-minute news bulletin prepared for young people, this week written by famed CBC reporter A.E. Powley. Powley began working for the CBC in 1940. In 1943 he went overseas as head of CBC war reporting in Europe and the United Kingdom.

• As referred to in this newscast, Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The Russian city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) became a major Axis target. The Battle of Stalingrad (June 28, 1942, to Feb. 2, 1943) was one of the bloodiest in history, and a major turning point in the war. The Soviets defended the city throughout a long siege, bombing and bitter streetfighting, but lost an estimated 1.1 million soldiers and about 100,000 civilians. The Axis forces lost some 500,000 men.

• In 1941 the Japanese army occupied the Solomon Islands in the Western Pacific, using the island of Guadalcanal as a base for bombers. In an effort to take back the islands, American marines landed on Guadalcanal on Aug. 7, 1942. Bitter fighting lasted for six months in what would become one of the most strategically important battles of the Second World War. An estimated 24,000 Japanese and 6,000 American soldiers were killed or wounded, many falling victim to starvation and disease.

• For decades, Americans and British citizens living in China enjoyed "extraterritorial rights" -- they carried the rights of their homelands into their host country. They were subject to their own laws and effectively had diplomatic immunity. Critics felt this allowed imperialists to act as if they were above local laws and norms. In October 1942 the United Kingdom and the United States started negotiating an end to these rights. They were relinquished in treaties signed on Jan. 11, 1943.
Medium: Radio
Program: National School Broadcasts
Broadcast Date: Oct. 16, 1942
Host: A.E. Powley
Duration: 4:54
Photo: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque/Library and Archives Canada/PA-194977

Last updated: February 15, 2013

Page consulted on October 30, 2014

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