City of Edmonton Archives (Loyal Edmonton Regiment Collection, A96-215, Box 8).

Canadians Invade Sicily, July 1943.

Canadian soldiers move toward the beach on rafts or wade through waist-deep water.

As with the First World War, Canada entered the Second World War unprepared but ended the war having contributed in a major way to victory on land, on the sea, and in the air. Read about Canada at war, from blitzkrieg to the liberation of Sicily, Italy, and Europe.

Blitzkrieg

Employing Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactics involving highly mechanized ground forces supported by the air force, Germany quickly conquered Poland and then swept through Scandinavia and Western Europe.

Canada at War

Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939 and had sent a division to England by December. Although all elements of the 1st Canadian Army were in place by April of 1942, these soldiers would not engage the German army until July of 1943.

Homefront, 1939-1940

From the beginning, the Canadian government imposed measures to support the build up of the military and mobilize the economy for war production. Canadian civilians endured rationing, bought Victory Bonds, collected vital commodities, and women joined the labour force in large numbers.

German Stranglehold

After defeating France, Germany attempted to isolate and defeat Britain through battles in the air, the Battle of Britain, and on the sea, the Battle of the Atlantic.

New Combatants

In June of 1940 Italy entered the war followed by the USSR in June of 1941 and Japan in December of that year.

Early Losses

In the Pacific, the Japanese overwhelmed the defenders at Hong Kong and, in Europe, an attempt to test German defenses at Dieppe failed.

The Tide Turns

Through the last months of 1942 and the first half of 1943, the Soviets halted the German army on the Eastern Front, allied navies gradually reduced the U-boat menace in the North Atlantic, and British and American forces drove the Germans out of North Africa.

Homefront, 1940-1945

Enemy Aliens and voluntarism verses conscription were two difficult issues with which the Canadian government had to struggle during the war.

Italy

With the Germans driven out of North Africa, the Allies now turned their attention to what was described as “the soft underbelly of Europe”. Beginning with amphibious landings in Sicily, Allied armies fought their way up the Italian peninsula to liberate Rome.

Liberation of France

Starting with D-Day on the 6th of June, 1944, and ending with the destruction of a large part of the German army at the Falaise Gap, the battle for Normandy broke Hilter’s grip on “Fortress Europe”. The complete liberation of France soon followed.

The Low Countries

With France liberated, the 1st Canadian Army was tasked with clearing the coastal belt to the north and then liberating north-eastern Holland. A critical part of this task was dislodging the Germans from the Scheldt Estuary leading to the port of Antwerp.

The Holocaust

As part of the Allied move into Germany and its conquered territories, Canadian troops witnessed the horrific atrocities taking place in the Nazi concentration camps.

Pacific Theatre

Germany finally surrendered on 7 May 1945, but the Second World War still raged in the Pacific theatre.

War Experiences

The Second World War presented many new challenges to all elements of the Canadian Military and the men and women who served in them.

 

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