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Article

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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Imperial Munitions Board

Imperial Munitions Board, established November 1915 in Canada by the British Ministry of Munitions, with Canadian government approval. Headed by J.W. Flavelle, a prominent Toronto businessman, the board was responsible for letting contracts on behalf of the British government for the construction of war materials in Canada. 

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Canada and Gas Warfare

Poison gas was used throughout the First World War by almost all armies. Its widespread use was unique in the history of warfare. The various types of gas, delivered by canisters, projectors, or shell, killed, maimed, and wore down morale. By 1918, soldiers of all armies encountered gas frequently while serving at the Western Front. Canadian soldiers were among the first to face the death clouds, at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. At least 11,572 Canadian soldiers were casualties of poison gas, yet many were denied pensions after the war. During the Second World War, chemical weapons were not used on the battlefield; however, the Suffield Experimental Station in Alberta developed and tested chemical and biological weapons beginning in 1941. From about the middle of the 20th century, Canadian officials worked on the global stage to ban chemical weapons, and in the 1990s, Canada signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (see Arms Control and Disarmament.)

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Battle of Sainte-Foy

On 28 April 1760, during the Seven Years’ War, the confrontation known as the battle of Sainte-Foy took place on the heights of Quebec City between the French and British armies. Seven thousand men under the command of French general François-Gaston de Lévis met 3,400 soldiers under the command of General James Murray in violent combat which ended with a major victory for the French. Following the battle, the French laid an unsuccessful siege to Quebec City and were eventually forced to retreat due to the arrival of British reinforcements on the St. Lawrence River.

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RCAF Women's Division

Members of the Women’s Division (WD) of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were wartime pioneers. Thousands of young Canadian women volunteered to serve at home and abroad during the Second World War as part of the air force. By replacing men in aviation support roles, they lived up to their motto — "We Serve that Men May Fly” — and, through their record of service and sacrifice, ensured themselves a place in Canadian history.

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Battle for Hill 70

The capture of Hill 70 in France was an important Canadian victory during the First World War, and the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander. The battle, in August 1917, gave the Allied forces a crucial strategic position overlooking the occupied city of Lens.

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Battle of the St. Lawrence

The Battle of the St. Lawrence was an extension of the larger Battle of the Atlantic— the German campaign during the Second World War to disrupt shipping from North America to the United Kingdom. Between 1942 and 1944, German submarines (U-boats) repeatedly penetrated the waters of the St. Lawrence River and Gulf, sinking 23 ships and costing hundreds of lives. It was the first time since the War of 1812 that naval battles were waged in Canada's inland waters.

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Sixty Years On, Korean War Still Echoes

When is a war not a war? For the Korean War, the answer is not always clear. This year, 2013, marks the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire of a war that not everyone describes that way. It had ambiguous beginnings, more than 20 participating countries, and still no formal end. But some things are evident. This year, Historica Canada is commemorating this sometimes-forgotten but still-resonant period of our recent history, and Canada’s role therein. Our country sent more than 26,000 members of our military to the Korean “theatre.” More than 500 Canadians died, and another 1,000 were wounded; 32 became prisoners of war.

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Capture of Fort Niagara

The capture of Fort Niagara on 18-19 December 1813 was a British victory over the US during the War of 1812. American troops had occupied Fort George and the village of Niagara (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) in Upper Canada since May 1813. As winter approached and the condition of the American troops worsened, it was discovered that British troops were approaching to retake the fort. Command of Fort George had devolved to Brigadier General George McClure. With just over 100 troops, McClure decided to withdraw across the Niagara River to Fort Niagara. Before leaving, he implemented instructions sent by secretary of war John Armstrong to destroy Niagara.

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Battle of Vimy Ridge

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought during the First World War from 9 to 12 April 1917. It is Canada’s most celebrated military victory — an often mythologized symbol of the birth of Canadian national pride and awareness. The battle took place on the Western Front, in northern France. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps, fighting together for the first time, attacked the ridge from 9 to 12 April 1917 and captured it from the German army. It was the largest territorial advance of any Allied force to that point in the war — but it would mean little to the outcome of the conflict. More than 10,600 Canadians were killed and wounded in the assault. Today an iconic memorial atop the ridge honours the 11,285 Canadians killed in France throughout the war who have no known graves.

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

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Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars

Thousands of Indigenous peoples served in the Canadian military forces in the First World War and Second World War; most were volunteers. On the home front, most Indigenous communities participated in the national war effort in diverse ways. The world wars were dramatic events for Indigenous peoples in Canada (see Indigenous Peoples and the First World War and Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War). Conflict offered these marginalized populations opportunities to renew warrior cultural traditions, reaffirm sacred treaties, prove their worth to indifferent non-Indigenous Canadians, break down social barriers and find good jobs.

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12e Régiment blindé du Canada

12e Régiment blindé du Canada (12e RBC) is the junior of three regular armoured regiments in the Canadian Army. The regiment was established in 1871 as a militia infantry battalion and was converted to an armoured regiment in 1936. In 1968, the Regular Force regiment was formed, designated 12e RBC. The regiment or detached squadrons have served in peace operations and in Afghanistan. 12e RBC has been based at CFB Valcartier, Quebec, since 1968 and is part of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 2nd Canadian Division.

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Korean War

The Korean War began 25 June 1950, when North Korean armed forces invaded South Korea. The war’s combat phase lasted until an armistice was signed 27 July 1953. As part of a United Nations (UN) force consisting of 16 countries, 26,791 Canadian military personnel served in the Korean War, during both the combat phase and as peacekeepers afterward. The last Canadian soldiers left Korea in 1957. After the two world wars, Korea remains Canada’s third-bloodiest overseas conflict, taking the lives of 516 Canadians and wounding more than 1,000. In total, an estimated three million people died during the war. More than half were civilians. The two Koreas remain technically at war today.

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Military Service Act

The Military Service Act became law on 29 August 1917. It was a politically explosive and controversial law that bitterly divided the country along French-English lines. It made all male citizens aged 20 to 45 subject to conscription for military service, through the end of the First World War. As such, the Act had significant political consequences. It led to the creation of Prime Minister Borden’s Union Government and drove most of his French-Canadian supporters into opposition.

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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.

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Conscription in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

Conscription is the drafting of people for mandatory military service. Canadians have been conscripted twice in history. Both times, only males were conscripted. The first time was during the First World War. The second time was during the Second World War. Conscription was an issue that divided Canada. Most English-speaking Canadians supported it. Most French-speaking Canadians opposed it.

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

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Veronica Foster

Veronica Foster Guerrette, Second World War icon, model, vocalist (born 2 January 1922 in Montreal, Quebec; died 4 May 2000 in Toronto, Ontario). Foster worked for the John Inglis Company assembling Bren light machine guns during the Second World War. She was featured on propaganda posters that encouraged women to serve Canada by working in munitions factories. Foster became a Canadian icon representing female workers in the manufacturing industry. After the war, she was lead singer with the dance band Mart Kenney and His Western Gentlemen.