The Second World War
World War II began in 1939 when Germany, under control of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland and many other European countries. Canada was swift to join the war alongside other democratic nations to defeat this threat to civilisation.
Over one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders (at this time Newfoundland was a separate British colony) served in World War II, nearly 10% of the population. 44,000 Canadians lost their lives.
Canadians put up a brave resistance against the invasion of Hong Kong by Japan 1941, and participated in a failed attempt to raid the French port of Dieppe in 1942.
During the Battle of Britain many airmen of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) participated, and many others flew bombing missions across Europe. There were more Canadians in the Allied air forces than from any other Commonwealth nation; more than 130,000 Allied aircrew underwent training in Canada.
The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) distinguished itself in the Battle of the Atlantic, providing cover for merchant convoys against the German U-boats. The Merchant Navy was essential in keeping Britain supplied with food, clothing and war materials. When the Second World War came to an end, the Canadian Navy was the third biggest in the world.
In the Pacific, Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands, attacked Vancouver Island and attacked British Columbia and the Prairies with fire balloons. Canadian POWs who were captured at Hong Kong were appallingly treated in Japanese prison camps. Japan finally surrendered, bringing four years of combat in the Pacific to an end, on August 14th, 1945.
Unfortunately, due to the passions raised by the war in British Columbia, Canadian citizens with Japanese roots were forcibly relocated during the war and their property was sold with no compensation. This was despite the fact that the RCMP informed the government that these citizens did not represent a serious danger to Canada. In 1988 the Canadian government issued an apology for this behaviour and gave compensation.