Canadian Prisoners of War Arrive at Manila, Philippines, 13 September 1945.
National Archives of Canada (PA-137745).

Canadian Prisoners of War Arrive at Manila, Philippines, 13 September 1945.

The Japanese moved Canadian POWs taken during the Battle of Hong Kong to various camps throughout the South Pacific. These soldiers, such as the ones shown here, were often denied the basic necessities of life. Some did not survive the arduous conditions of camp life; all were profoundly affected by their experiences.

Compared with the First World War, the Second World War was truly global in scope and presented many new challenges to the different branches of the Canadian Military. The experiences of these different branches, and the men and women who served in them, are examined.


Ground warfare had changed significantly from the First World War and soldiers had to deal with new weapons with greater destructive capacity, mechanized warfare, new tactics, and the very different terrain and climates of the various theatres.

Air Force

Arduous conditions were not confined to the ground war. The battle for control of the skies was also extremely perilous – and deadly. Air warfare was a major element of the Second World War and Canadian pilots played a significant role.


The RCN also played a crucial role in the Second World War, primarily by escorting convoys of merchant vessels through the treacherous North Atlantic. The seamen of the Canadian merchant marine who manned these vessels faced perhaps even greater risks as the primary targets of German U-boats.


Over 45,000 women enlisted in the Canadian military during the Second World War, and just over 10 per cent of them served overseas. They took on jobs as nursing sisters, drivers, cooks, clerks, and messengers and performed their responsibilities with dedication and pride.

Prisoners of War

Canadian prisoners of war experienced the severe treatment and deprivations that are basic to the prisoner-of-war experience, especially at the hands of the Japanese.

Death Marches

With the German armies in full retreat on all fronts, Germany's POW system began to break down, and POWs were forced to march into camps deeper in Germany. These forced migrations became known as the death marches.


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