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D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

The 1944 Battle of Normandy — from the D-Day landings on 6 June through to the encirclement of the German army at Falaise on 21 August — was one of the pivotal events of the Second World War and the scene of some of Canada's greatest feats of arms. Canadian sailors, soldiers and airmen played a critical role in the Allied invasion of Normandy, also called Operation Overlord, beginning the bloody campaign to liberate Western Europe from Nazi occupation. Nearly 150,000 Allied troops landed or parachuted into the invasion area on D-Day, including 14,000 Canadians at Juno Beach. The Royal Canadian Navy contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors and the RCAF contributed 15 fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons to the assault. Total Allied casualties on D-Day reached more than 10,000, including 1,074 Canadians, of whom 359 were killed. By the end of the Battle of Normandy, the Allies had suffered 209,000 casualties, including more than 18,700 Canadians. Over 5,000 Canadian soldiers died.

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Seven Years’ War (Plain-Language Summary)

The Seven Years’ War (1756–63) was the first global war. In North America, Britain and France fought each other with the help of Indigenous allies. At the end of the war, France gave Canada (Quebec) and Ile Royale (Cape Breton) to Britain, among other territories. This is the reason that Canada has a British monarch but three founding peoples — French, British and Indigenous.

(This article is a plain-language summary of the Seven Years’ War. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Seven Years’ War.)

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Canada and SOSUS

The Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) was a network of passive sonar stations established by the United States Navy (USN) in the early 1950s to “listen” for Soviet submarines. SOSUS was a core element of antisubmarine warfare (ASW) during the Cold War. It developed out of intense postwar oceanographic research into how sound is propagated under water. Given Canada’s shared responsibility for the defence of North America, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was actively engaged in this research and mission and helped operate SOSUS. The mission was highly classified throughout the Cold War and only declassified in 1991. SOSUS became part of the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), a broader network of fixed and towed sensors that remains operational.


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Canada and Antisubmarine Warfare in the First World War

When the First World War began in August 1914, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was unprepared to fight a war at sea. Founded only in 1910, it consisted of two obsolete cruisers, HMCS Niobe and HMCS Rainbow, and about 350 regular sailors, augmented by 250 reservists. During the war, it was assigned a growing number of tasks, which it was ill-equipped to perform. This included protecting Canadian coastal waters against German U-boats. The RCN scrambled to find ships and sailors but was ill-equipped to fight enemy submarines, which sank several vessels in Canadian waters in 1918.


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Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion

The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion was a battalion of Canadians that fought against fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). It is also a collective name for more than 1,500 Canadian volunteers who served in the conflict, either with the “Mac-Paps” or in other units.

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Canada and Antisubmarine Warfare during the Cold War

During the Cold War, the Canadian Navy played a crucial role in antisubmarine warfare (ASW), working closely with its allies to patrol and monitor the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for Soviet submarine activity. Canada invested in new technology and continually modernized its fleet of ships and aircraft to better detect and counter Soviet submarines. It also operated strategic warning systems with its allies, particularly the United States. By the end of the Cold War, Canada had developed a very high reputation in the field.

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Royal Flying Corps

During the First World War, more than 5,000 Canadian pilots served in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). The RFC was formed on 13 April 1912 to satisfy Britain's need for a military presence in the expanding field of aviation. It joined with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in April 1918 to become the Royal Air Force. During the war, an RFC/RAF training program in Canada produced approximately 10,500 pilots, mechanics and aircraftmen.

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Battle of the Plains of Abraham

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham (13 September 1759), also known as the Battle of Quebec, was a pivotal moment in the Seven Years’ War and in the history of Canada. A British invasion force led by General James Wolfe defeated French troops under the Marquis de Montcalm, leading to the surrender of Quebec to the British. Both commanding officers died from wounds sustained during the battle. The French never recaptured Quebec and effectively lost control of New France in 1760. At the end of the war in 1763 France surrendered many of its colonial possessions — including Canada — to the British.

(This is the full-length entry about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. For a plain-language summary, please see Battle of the Plains of Abraham (Plain-Language Summary).)

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The Royal Canadian Dragoons

The Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) is the senior of three regular armoured regiments in the Canadian Army. The regiment was established in 1883 as a cavalry unit. Since then, it has served in major conflicts at home and overseas, including the North-West Rebellion, Boer War, First and Second World Wars and, more recently, the war in Afghanistan. The Dragoons have also served in peace operations in Egypt, Cyprus, Somalia and the Balkans. The regiment has been based at CFB Petawawa, Ontario, since 1987. It is currently part of 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 4th Canadian Division. A detached squadron serves at CFB Gagetown, New Brunswick.