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Article

Murray Hyman Kirsh (Primary Source)

Murray Hyman Kirsh served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. After his grandparents were killed by Nazis in Europe, Kirsh felt it was his duty to enlist to serve in the war. From 1942 to 1944, Kirsh served on the home front as a military officer guarding Allied prisoners of war. Listen to his story of German POWs trying to escape during his watch.

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

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

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

Randolph George Hope (Primary Source)

Randolph George Hope was a member of Canada’s merchant navy, supplying Allied areas of operation around the globe. The merchant navy made more than 25,000 voyages during the Second World War, including the vital supplying of the Soviet Union at Murmansk. Learn about why Randolph left the sugar refinery where he worked in order to serve on the high seas.

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

Jim Leech

James William (Jim) Leech, CM, O.Ont., CD, LL.D, pension fund executive, financial services entrepreneur and philanthropic leader (born 12 June 1947 in St. Boniface, Manitoba). Leech was president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan from 2007 to 2014. He helped develop the pension plan into one of the largest in the world and the highest performing in terms of investment return and member satisfaction. He has also worked with charitable groups and advised both federal and provincial governments. Leech has long been involved with Queen’s University, where he holds the title of Chancellor Emeritus. He is a member of the Board of the non-profit organization Historica Canada, publisher of The Canadian Encyclopedia.

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

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.)

See also Black History in Canada: 1900–1960 and Black History in Canada: 1960 to Present.

Article

Arthur Roy Brown

Arthur Roy Brown, fighter pilot and ace, businessman, civil aviation pioneer (born 23 December 1893 in Carleton Place, Ontario; died 9 March 1944 in Stouffville, Ontario). Brown is credited with killing Germany’s top First World War ace, Manfred von Richthofen, the famed “Red Baron.” Richthofen may, however, have been shot down by two Australian army machine-gunners.

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.

Article

Owen William Steele

Owen William Steele, salesman, soldier and officer (born 28 April 1887 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador; died 8 July 1916 near Englebelmer, France). Owen Steele was an officer in the Newfoundland Regiment who served during the First World War. The regiment suffered horrendous losses in July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme (see The Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel). Steele is best known for the detailed journal he kept from his enlistment to his death in France in July 1916. His journal and letters from the front provide insight into the experiences and impressions of Newfoundland soldiers during the war.

Article

Joseph Whiteside Boyle

Joseph Whiteside Boyle (born 6 November 1867 in Toronto, ON; died 14 April 1923 in Hampton Hill, Middlesex, United Kingdom). Nicknamed Klondike Joe, Boyle founded a gold mining company and became a millionaire in the aftermath of the Klondike gold rush. During the First World War, he equipped a machine gun unit and was a spy with the British secret service in Russia and Romania. He also reorganized the Russian military supply network, rescued Romanian prisoners of war and became the confidant and possibly lover of Queen Marie of Romania.

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

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

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.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Sandra Perron (Primary Source)

Sandra Perron was a captain in the Royal 22e Régiment of the Canadian Forces. She served on peacekeeping missions overseas. Perron completed two tours in former Yugoslavia where she helped many displaced Bosnian children find shelter and much needed care. Listen to Perron’s story as she details her experiences as a Canadian Peacekeeper.

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.