Patriotism on the Home front
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Patriotism on the Home front
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Patriotism on the Home front
Canadians mobilize on the home front as the country goes to war
As the Second World War raged overseas, Canadians mobilized for the war effort at home spurred on by patriotism and a good dose of government propaganda.
One of many posters produced by the Canadian Wartime Information Board designed to promote wartime production, recruitment and fundraising during the Second World War. (National Archives of Canada, C-103527)
One of many posters produced by the Canadian Wartime Information Board designed to promote wartime production, recruitment and fundraising during the Second World War. (National Archives of Canada, C-103527)

The war effort consumed Canadian life from 1939 to 1945 and it became the style of the day and in some cases the law of the land to do whatever one could to support the war.

Women at home knit sweaters and tended small "Victory Gardens" to grow food for the war effort. Children gathered bottles and cans to help the supply materials for factories.

In Alberta, three tiny communities, Therien. St. Vincent, McRaie and Craigmyle, raised a steady trickle of money, adopted crews of corvette ships, and sent money and parcels of knitwear to the Halifax ports.

Rationing became commonplace as Canadians learned to do without in order to provide more for the soldiers.

"I never once bought a pair of nylon stockings until 1945," remembered Gladys Arnold. "In summer we tinted our legs. Some women even managed the acrobatics required to draw a seam up the back of each leg."

Canadians were also exhorted and legislated to save and recycle.
Poster produced by the Canadian Wartime Information Board to promote saving and recycling. (National Archives of Canada C-087541)
Poster produced by the Canadian Wartime Information Board to promote saving and recycling. (National Archives of Canada C-087541)

"One pound of fat supplies enough glycerine to fire 150 bullets from a Bren gun ... bones produce fat and aircraft glue ... save and strain every drop to speed victory."

To preserve cardboard, milk bottle caps were banned. To preserve sugar, no icing was allowed on cakes - wedding cakes excepted. To preserve cloth, the width of the lapels on mens suits and the length of ladies skirts were regulated. Hoarding was a crime punishable by up to two years in prison.

Behind much of the homefront war effort was a well-organized government propaganda machine. Official wartime communications took many forms ranging from government directives to colourful billboards and stirring documentaries.

One government ad tried to dissuade Canadians from hoarding.

"Saboteur! It was Flannelette Granny was after, twelve yards for three nightshirts. But when the clerk mentioned flannelette was getting scarce, she bought the whole bolt. Grandma didnt mean to a saboteur. But she is ... shes a hoarder."
Poster produced by the Canadian Wartime Information Board to promote Victory Bonds (used to finance government wartime spending)  (National Archives of Canada, C-087518)
Poster produced by the Canadian Wartime Information Board to promote Victory Bonds (used to finance government wartime spending) (National Archives of Canada, C-087518)

The National Film Board (NFB) was a particularly important government propaganda tool, used to educate citizens and encourage Canadians to support the war effort. The NFB turned out hundreds of documentaries and short films with titles like The War at Sea, Canada Carries On and Wartime Controls.

The government also appealed to citizens for money. Canadians were bombarded with posters and patriotic pleas to buy Victory bonds to help finance the war.

One poster pictured a mother embracing her soldier son with caption "Speed the Victory ... Buy Victory Bonds"

Over five years, Canadas 11 million people raise $8.8 billion in war bonds.

On the whole, the war was a unifying experience for Canadians as most of the population worked toward a common goal. Patriotism reached lofty heights along with the government propaganda.

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