Military Might
Home Radio Television CBC Learning
CAPH banner left CAPH banner centre CAPH banner right
The Crucible
Military Might
Header 3 Header 4 Header 5
History Home
Military Might
Canadians fight by land, air and sea as the country amasses the largest army in its history

"It is now left to the British peoples and those of British stock to save the world." - Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

Read these indepth articles about
Military Might

The Battle of Britain
Canadian pilots do battle in the skies over England during the first crucial battle of the Second World War
"Miserable, rotten, hopeless life"
With little training and unstable ships, Canadian sailors face the dreaded German U-boats on the high seas
Disaster at Dieppe
A quick raid becomes one of the worst disasters in Canadian military history
Canadian troops land in Normandy as part of the largest invasion in history
Letters Home
A young Canadian soldier prepares for battle far from home
Canada was ill-prepared at the onset of the Second World War. Its army was small and its weapons were few and outdated.

At first Prime Minister Mackenzie King planned to limit Canada's role in the war. Canadians were tired after years of economic depression and they still remembered the horrors of the First World War.

Major ally
By spring 1940, it was clear that Canada couldn't limit its role as Hitler's army swept through Europe. France was defeated and the United States was still on the sidelines so Canada became Britain's biggest ally.

Between 1939 to 1945, Canada mobilized the biggest army in its history - 750,000 men and women were in uniform. The country would also make huge advances in the development of its air force and navy.

Flying high
The Battle of Britain in the summer and fall of 1940 was the first decisive clash of the war and the first battle in history to be fought exclusively in the air. Many Canadian pilots fought with the British military. But as the Battle of Britain raged on, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) hastily assembled one squadron. By the end of the war, Canada's air force boasted 48 RCAF squadrons overseas.

On the seas
Canada's tiny navy also grew exponentially. Early in the war, it became apparent that the Allies (countries fighting Germany) needed a naval presence in the North Atlantic to protect supply ships from German U-boats. Canada launched of fleet of ships called corvettes to find and destroy enemy submarines. By war's end, Canada had the third largest navy in the world.

Soldiers in action
Canada's infantry was its largest military contribution. Some soldiers saw action Sicily and Italy but many spent years training in Britain in preparation for the invasion of Europe. The beaches of Normandy were the stage for one of Canada's greatest military disasters at Dieppe in 1942 and one of its greatest victories on D-Day in 1944.

Although Canada made a significant military and economic contribution to the Second World War, it had no effective part in the higher direction of the war. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt, directed the western Allies, with little consultation with other countries.

The Second World War ended in 1945. Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30 and German forces in Italy surrendered on May 2. Canada and the Allies celebrated the end of the war on VE Day May 8, 1945. Forty-two thousand Canadians lost their lives in the war.

top of page

Current Topic:
Military Might

Next Topic:
The American Cousin

The American Cousin
Canada develops a closer relationship with its southern neighbour as war rages overseas

Fighting from the Home Front
Patriotism, prejudice and production flourish on Canada's home front

Diary of Frank Curry (excerpts)
Veterans Affairs Canada

The Second World War
Veterans Affairs Canada

history home | explore the episodes | biographies | teacher resources | bibliography | games and puzzles | sitemap | contact us
cbc home | tv episode summaries | merchandise | press releases | behind the scenes | audio/video

copyright � 2001 CBC