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Article

Nellie Rettenbacher (Primary Source)

Nellie Rettenbacher joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in June 1943 and served until 1946 as a military police officer. As a corporal during the Second World War, she spent her time enforcing leave passes and military decorum among other enlisted women, many of whom she stayed in touch with after the war. Read and listen to Rettenbacher’s story as she explains her duties, friendships, and experiences in the military.

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.

Article

Roy Trevor Gilbert Heron (Primary Source)

Roy Trevor Gilbert Heron was a member of the merchant navy before joining the Army in 1942 as a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer. Roy excelled on his Army examinations but because he was Black he was never made an officer. Learn about Roy’s experiences as an engineer with the Army.

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.

Article

James Eagle (Primary Source)

James Eagle served in the Royal Canadian Regiment during the Korean War. He was one of several hundred Indigenous soldiers from Canada to serve in the conflict. James experiences nighttime raids during which two Canadians were captured, and the accidental death of his friend on base. Read and listen to his testimony as he describes his experiences in Korea, from training, to building a school, to interacting with locals.

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.

Article

Claude Petit (Primary Source)

Claude Petit joined the Army when he was fifteen years old. He enlisted with his cousin in Regina, Saskatchewan. Claude served in the Korean War and his arm was wounded by shrapnel from mortar fire during an engagement with the Chinese. Read and listen to Claude’s story as he talks about his experience on the frontlines of the Korean 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.

Article

Samuel Hearns (Primary Source)

Samuel Hearns joined the army on 28 May 1951 and served until his retirement in 1974. Samuel has since become an eagle staff carrier during the powwows he helps organize. Read and listen to Samuel’s testimony of how he met his wife during his first tour and his service as a peacekeeper in Germany, Vietnam, Cyprus, and in Quebec in 1970 during the October Crisis.

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.

Article

Bob Ducharme (Primary Source)

Bob Ducharme was a non-commissioned officer of a transport company during the Korean War. Bob fondly describes his service with the Second Division, recalling his encounters with the locals and the Koreans who served alongside him. Read and listen to Bob’s testimony of his time in Korea as he recalls what he witnessed and went through.

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.

Article

Origène Poulin (Primary Source)

Origène Poulin was a conscripted French-Canadian soldier who was sent to the Aleutian Islands with an American-Canadian expedition during the Second World War. After landing on the island of Kiska, he spent seven months facing extreme wind, snow, fog and rain. Listen as Poulin explains the conditions on Kiska and his training.

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.

Article

Jules Blais (Primary Source)

Jules Blais served on HMCS Sea Cliff to accompany merchant ships during the Second World War. He was present at the sinking of the U-877 in December 1944. Blais rescued survivors from the freezing waters before dressing them and stowing them away aboard the ship. Listen to Blais describe his naval service and his interactions with German POWs.

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.

Article

Jeremiah Jones

Jeremiah “Jerry” Alvin Jones, soldier, farmer, truck driver (born 30 March 1858 in East Mountain, NS; died 23 November 1950 in Halifax, NS). Jeremiah Jones was a Black Canadian soldier who served during the First World War. Jones was 58 years old (13 years above the age limit) when he enlisted with the 106th Battalion in 1916. For his heroic actions during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, he was awarded the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service in 2010 — 60 years after his death.

Article

James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

Article

Joseph Aaron “Joe” Friedman (Primary Source)

Joseph Aaron “Joe” Friedman was a Romanian-Jewish Canadian tail gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force who enlisted when he was 17 years old. Friedman took part in carpet bombing operations before he was shot down and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Listen to Friedman describe his experiences in the Air Force and comment on the controversy of carpet bombing.

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.

Article

Alex Polowin (Primary Source)

Alex Polowin was a Lithuanian-Jewish Canadian who served in the Royal Canadian Navy on HMCS Huron, a Tribal class destroyer. Polowin escorted convoys to Murmasnk to supply the Soviets, hunted down the battleship Scharnhorst, and supported the amphibious invasion of Normandy in 1944. Listen to Polowin describe his motivations for enlisting in the Navy and the operations in which he took part.

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.

Article

John Foote, VC

John Weir Foote, VC, Presbyterian minister, soldier, Member of (Ontario) Provincial Parliament, cabinet minister (born 5 May 1904 in Madoc, ON; died 2 May 1988 in Cobourg, ON). During the Second World War, Honorary Captain John Foote was the only Canadian chaplain to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.

Article

Sir William Stephenson

At the beginning of WWII, Stephenson was placed in charge of British Security Co-ordination (counterespionage) in the Western Hemisphere, with headquarters in New York C (where the telegraphic address was INTREPID - later popularized as Stephenson's code name).

Article

Black History in Canada until 1900

Black people have lived in Canada since the beginnings of transatlantic settlement. Although historically very few arrived directly from their ancestral homeland in Africa, the term "African Canadian" is used to identify all descendants of Africa regardless of their place of birth. “Black Canadian” is also used as a more general term. The earliest arrivals were enslaved people brought from New England or the West Indies. Between 1763 and 1900, most Black migrants to Canada were fleeing enslavement in the US. (See also Black Enslavement in Canada.)

Article

Fenians

Fenians were members of a mid-19th century movement to secure Ireland’s independence from Britain. They were a secret, outlawed organization in the British Empire, where they were known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. They operated freely and openly in the United States as the Fenian Brotherhood. Eventually, both wings became known as the Fenians. They launched a series of armed raids into Canadian territory between 1866 and 1871. The movement was primarily based in the United States, but it had a significant presence in Canada.