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Chinese Canadians of Force 136

Force 136 was a branch of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War. Its covert missions were based in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia, where orders were to support and train local resistance movements to sabotage Japanese supply lines and equipment. While Force 136 recruited mostly Southeast Asians, it also recruited about 150 Chinese Canadians. It was thought that Chinese Canadians would blend in with local populations and speak local languages. Earlier in the war, many of these men had volunteered their services to Canada but were either turned away or recruited and sidelined. Force 136 became an opportunity for Chinese Canadian men to demonstrate their courage and skills and especially their loyalty to Canada.

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Canadian Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War (POWs) are members of the military captured in wartime by the enemy. Since the late 19th century, international rules have governed the treatment of POWs, although these are not always followed. Thousands of Canadians have endured time as POWs in conflicts ranging from the First World War to the Korean War.

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Masumi Mitsui

Masumi Mitsui, MM, farmer, soldier, Canadian Legion official (born 7 October 1887 in Tokyo, Japan; died 22 April 1987 in Hamilton, ON). Masumi Mitsui immigrated to Canada in 1908 and served with distinction in the First World War. In 1931, he and his comrades persuaded the BC government to grant Japanese Canadian veterans the right to vote, a breakthrough for Japanese and other disenfranchised Canadians. Nevertheless, Matsui and more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were displaced, detained and dispossessed by the federal government during the Second World War (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).

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Charles Cecil Merritt, VC

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, VC, barrister, soldier, Member of Parliament (born 10 November 1908 in Vancouver, BC; died 12 July 2000 in Vancouver). During the Second World War, Lieutenant-Colonel Cec Merritt was the first Canadian to earn the Victoria Cross (VC) in the European theatre, the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.

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Roland "Rolly" Gravel (Primary Source)

Roland “Rolly” Gravel served as a gunner with The Fusiliers Mont-Royal regiment during the Second World War. He was among the 6,000 troops who landed at the coastal port of Dieppe, France, on 19 August 1942. The attack was a disaster, and Gravel was taken prisoner. Learn all about the hardships Gravel faced as prisoner of war.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War

In 1939, Canada found itself at war for the second time in a generation. As in the First World War (1914-18), thousands of Indigenous soldiers and nurses volunteered for the war effort at home and abroad, serving with distinction in the Canadian army, navy, and air force. At least 3090 First Nations soldiers enlisted in the Canadian military in the Second World War, with thousands more Métis, Inuit, and non-Status Indian soldiers serving without official recognition of their Indigenous identity.

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Elizabeth “Betty” Dimock (Primary Source)

Elizabeth “Betty” Dimock’s great ambition during the Second World War was to become a nurse. She registered in the South African army to treat wounded soldiers from the North African Campaign. Read and listen to Dimock’s story below.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Robert Hampton Gray, VC

Robert Hampton (Hammy) Gray, VC, aviator, student (born 2 November 1917 in Trail, BC; died 9 August 1945 in Onagawa Bay, Honshu, Japan). Following the Second World War, Gray was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery in the British Empire, becoming the last VC recipient of any nation during that war.

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Edward Fey "Ed" Lee (Primary Source)

Edward Fey "Ed" Lee joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a volunteer for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) overseas program. He served from 1944 to 1946. Being a Canadian of Chinese origin, Lee was called to duty as a secret agent in Asia under the command of the British Army. Listen to his tales of guerrilla warfare deep in Japanese-occupied territory.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Douglas Jung

Douglas Jung, CM, OBC, politician, lawyer, soldier (born 25 February 1924 in Victoria, BC; died 4 January 2002 in Vancouver, BC). Douglas Jung was a member of Force 136, a group of Chinese Canadian soldiers who fought behind enemy lines in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War. After the war, Jung became a lawyer in British Columbia and was the first Chinese Canadian lawyer to appear before the BC Court of Appeal in 1955. On 10 June 1957, Douglas Jung was elected as the first Chinese Canadian member of Parliament.

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Huron Brant

Huron Eldon Brant, Mohawk soldier, war hero, automobile mechanic (born 30 December 1909 in Deseronto, ON; died 14 October 1944 near Bulgaria, Italy). Brant was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for attacking a superior enemy force during the battle for Grammichele in Sicily (seeSecond World War) but was killed later during a battle on the Italian mainland (see The Italian Campaign).

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Percy Walker Nelles

Percy Walker Nelles, naval officer (b at Brantford, Ont, 7 Jan 1892; d at Victoria, 13 June 1951). Percy Nelles, the son of Charles Nelles, an officer in the Royal Canadian Dragoons, was the founding recruit of the Canadian Navy and became chief of the naval staff.

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Sheila Elizabeth Whitton (Primary Source)

During the Second World War, Sheila Elizabeth Whitton was a coder for the Canadian Navy. Whitton was sent to England in preparation for D-Day to work on coding machines instrumental to the Allies’ success. Read and listen to Whitton’s recount of the loss of her husband in the war and the resilience she had to put forward.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Christopher Vokes

Christopher Vokes, soldier (born in Armagh, Ireland, 13 April 1904; died in Toronto, ON, 27 March 1985). A tough-minded Second World War general, Vokes commanded Canadian army divisions in the Italian campaign and during the push through northern Germany at the end of the war. He was one of the few Canadian generals to emerge from the war with a reputation as a skilled operational commander.

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Frank Bing Wong (Primary Source)

Frank Bing Wong was a Chinese Canadian corporal in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1946, Wong served in the North West Europe campaign. Learn all about Wong’s experiences as he recalls the sights of battle and the impact that the Liberation of the Netherlands had on the Canadian war effort.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Marshall Chow (Primary Source)

Marshall Chow served as a wireless operator during the Second World War. Initially refused entry into the Air Force because he was Chinese Canadian, Chow was later stationed overseas with the Canadian Army from 1941 to 1945. Read and listen to Chow describe his battles against prejudice and the horrors on the frontlines.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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Leonard Braithwaite (Primary Source)

Leonard Braithwaite served with the Canadian Air Force as a Safety Equipment Operator from 1943 to 1946. However, he was rejected multiple times at a Toronto recruiting station because he was Black. Read and listen to the story of how Braithwaite overcame adversity and served overseas.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.