The Great Call-up

In 1910, William Joseph Rowntree dropped out of school to work full time on his father’s mixed farm near Weston, Ont. So when Ottawa issued its Proclamation Calling Out Class 1 on Oct. 12, 1917, it was well into harvest season and he knew he would have to seek an exemption from compulsory military service. The only other male farmhand his ailing father had was his other son, who was just 14.

The Smoke of War

Patriotic enthusiasm for First World War tobacco funds left an unfortunate legacy

IF DAY: The Occupation of Manitoba

On the frigid Winnipeg morning of Feb. 19, 1942, Diane Edgelow’s mother sent her out to buy a loaf of bread. She was 12 years old and got the shock of her life when she crossed the bridge into downtown. “They were guarded by German soldiers; they seemed to be everywhere,” she recalls. “I was so scared.” Paying for the bread, she was handed a German Reichsmark in change.

Chemistry Experiments

When Lucien Chasse, a quarry driller from Quebec with a Grade 4 education and little English, signed up for the Canadian Army on Nov. 10, 1943, he had no idea what awaited him. The personnel-selection officer rated his learning ability as “below the army average” and his attitude as “unsuitable for training as a sapper.” He was sent directly to the Chemical Warfare Laboratories (CWL) in Ottawa to become a human subject for mustard gas testing.

Borden’s Great Gift

After Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden doubled Canada’s wartime commitment to half a million men on New Year’s Day 1916, enlistments dropped to a trickle. But citizens rallied to the call.

Digging in for Victory

When WW2 Lancaster crews sat down for their pre-flight meal before heading out over Germany, the overwhelming favourite was eggs, bacon and toast. Chances are most of it came from Canada—after the fall of France in 1940, Canada became one of Britain’s leading wartime food providers.

BC’s Rugged Rangers

After the surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor on the early morning of 7th December 1941, anti-Japanese sentiment quickly grew along the west coast of BC. Fears of a Japanese invasion were real and traditional military protection of the west coast and BC Interior was stretched thinly. At the same time, thousands of able-bodied men in farming and resource sectors like logging, mining, fishing and others weren’t available for overseas service. It was them who volunteered for the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers (PCMR), which grew to 15,000 men in 138 Companies spread across the province, each with a local civilian in charge.

The Happiest Prisoners

In the shadow of Mount Baldy, where lodgepole pine and trembling aspen compete for space in Alberta’s spectacular Kananaskis Country, all that remains of a Second World War prisoner of war camp are weedy building foundations, a rundown guard tower and a restored commandant’s cabin. Here and at 25 other locations across Canada, 35,046 German soldiers, sailors, airmen and potential insurgents were incarcerated under a program one later called “the best thing that happened to me.”

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