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Facts & Information
As with World War 1, Canadians were not only considered expert and professional soldiers, they were feared by the Germans as an omen of impending attack. The Canadian forces were relied upon to provide defence on the high seas and over Britain, and to spearhead assaults for major battles. Once again Canadians had proved themselves on the battlefield and fought ferociously to win every battle they were engaged in.
Around 1.1 million Canadians served in WWII, including 106,000 in the Royal Canadian Navy and 200,000 in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The first Canadian infantryman to die in World War II was Private John Gray. He was captured and executed by the Japanese on December 13, 1941 in Hong Kong.

Canada was the first Commonwealth country to send troops to Britain in 1939.

During 1939-45 hundreds of thousands of Canadians - more than 40 per cent of the male population between the ages of 18 and 45, and virtually all of them volunteers - enlisted.

Pre-War Canadian Forces
Branch Regular Reserve Notes
 Army  4,261  51,000
Few resources (10 Bren guns for example)
 Air Force  3,100  -
270 aircraft, most obsolete
 Navy  1,800  -
6 modern destroyers, 4 minesweepers
Canadian Armed Forces Intake During WWII (By Province)
Province  Male
RCN Army RCAF Total  % Male 
Prince Edward Island 19,000  1,448  6,333  1,528  9,309  48.18% 
Nova Scotia 123,000  6,837  45,020  7,498  59,355  48.31% 
New Brunswick 94,000  2,737  35,947  6,453  45,137  48.17% 
Quebec 699,000  12,404  138,269  24,768  175,441  25.69% 
Ontario 830,000  40,353  266,937  90,518  397,808  47.77% 
Manitoba 159,000  7,782  48,542  20,120  76,444  48.12% 
Saskatchewan 191,000  6,472  52,306  21,827  80,605  42.38% 
Alberta 178,000  7,360  50,844  19,499  77,703  43.11% 
British Columbia 181,000  11,925  58,246  20,805  90,976  50.47% 
Outside Canada 893  5,892  5,900  16,278 
Not Stated 263  191  454 
TOTAL 2,474,000  98,474  708,535  222,501  1,029,510  41.15% 
630,052 Canadians served in the Active Army. Of these, 25,251 were women. All these men and women were volunteers. In addition, 100,573 men were called up for service under the National Resources Mobilization Act. The Reserve Army numbered 82,163 all ranks at 30 April 1945. Roughly 2,800 served in the Pacific war zone, in addition to the 4,800 engaged in the Kiska operation. Approximately 368,000 all ranks served overseas in the European Zone. Thousands more did duty outside of Canada in the outposts of North America.
Branch Killed Wounded Prisoner Notes
Army  24,870  58,094  6,435
505 died while prisoner of war
Air Force  17,974  ?  2,475
49 died while prisoner of war
Navy  4,154  ?  ?
WWI/WWII Comparison
As far as the Army is concerned, the contrast with 1914-18 is not due entirely or even primarily to the fact that the Canadian Army was inactive for a long period; it stems from the different nature of the war. Our smaller casualties in World War II may be attributed to the more widespread use of tanks; to the fact that in most of our campaigns we enjoyed a great superiority in the air; but above all to the more mobile nature of the fighting. The singularly lethal position warfare of the Western Front of 1914-18 was not repeated, and though the Canadian historian of 1939-45 has to tell the story of many a grim and costly infantry battle, there is no incident in his chronicle parallel to the fighting at Passchendaele in 1917, thus summarized in the Memorial Chamber in the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa: "The Corps returned to the Lens sector, having gained two square miles at a cost of 16,404 casualties".
Canadian Army Statistics
 Proposed Force  20-25,000  Enlistments  705,000
 Enlistments, women  25,000  Volunteers  630,000
 Conscripted  100,000  Officers  45,000
 VE-Day Strenght  490,000  Served in European Theatre  370,000
 Greatest European Strength  280,000  Max. Strength in Canada  265,000
 Casualties (Europe)  75,514  Casualties (Asia)  1,990
 Casualties (Western Hemisphere)  2,026  Twice Wounded  6,071
 Three Times Wounded  492  Four Times Wounded  27
 Five Times Wounded  2  Married Overseas  32,000
 Children from Marrages  16,500  Volunteered for Pacific  83,376
 Discharged VE-Day to Oct. 17  100,000  Women Volunteering/Pacific  8,253
 European Occupation Force  21,549  Repatriated VE-Day to Oct. 17  111,000
 Opr. in Alaska/Atlantic Islands  14,000    
Canadian Government War Expenditure, 1939-1950
Statistics used here are taken from the annual Reports of the Auditor General, and Public Accounts for the fiscal years ending 3 1 March 1940 to 3 1 March 1950. War expenditure did not stop when the fighting ceased and there was a considerable expenditure for demobilization and the reconversion of government departments and agencies; this continued until the end of the fiscal year 1949-1950. The following Table 1 shows war, other, and total Canadian Government expenditure for each of these fiscal years, as well as the total expenditures for the whole period
Fiscal Year Expenditure Total
War Other
1939-1940 $118,291,021.64  $562,502,770.66  $680,793,792.30 
1940-1941 752,045,326.06  497,556,120.38  1,249,601,446.44 
1941-1942 1,339,674,152.42  545,391,902.79  1,885,066,055.21 
1942-1943 3,724,248,890.27  662,875,227.32  4,387,124,117.59 
1943-1944 4,587,023,093.85  735,230,411.42  5,322,253,505.27 
1944-1945 4,418,446,315.21  827,165,608.79  5,245,611,924.00 
1945-1946 4,002,949,197.25  1,133,279,308.57  5,136,228,505.82 
1946-1947 1,314,798,107.16  1,319,429,305.22  2,634,227,412.38 
1947-1948 634,421,025.59  1,561,205,428.30  2,195,626,453.89 
1948-1949 425,573,782.37  1,750,318,551.86  2,175,892,334.23 
1949-1950 468,606,607.30  1,980,009,054.77  2,448,615,662.07 
Total 21,786,077,519.12  11,574,963,690.08  33,361,041,209.20 
The Second World War cost Canadian tax payers much more than the $21,786,077,519.12 shown above. Even for the fiscal year 1949-1950, a further $50,872,629.53 was paid as pensions to disabled veterans and widows of ex-servicemen. The cost of pensions has since increased and will continue to do so, because of the need to offset declining purchasing power of the dollar and the fact that many disabilities will progress as veterans grow older. The cost of hospitalizing veterans will also become an increasing charge. Pensions and hospitalization for veterans will continue well into the 21st Century, at an unpredictable cost. Nor is there any way of estimating what may be the total cost of retiring that portion of Canada's national debt incurred for the Second World War.
Aborigional Canadians
  • At least 3,000 status (treaty) Indians - including 72 women - enlisted, as well as an unknown number of Inuit, Métis, and other Natives. The actual numbers were no doubt much higher.
  • Among this small number of identified Aboriginal members of the forces, at least 17 decorations for bravery in action were earned.


The BCATP was an outstanding success. By the end of the war, it had graduated 131,533 pilots, observers, flight engineers, and other aircrew for the air forces of Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. While over half the BCATP graduates came from the North American continent, the plan trained personnel from all over the world including about 2,000 French, 900 Czechoslovakians, 680 Norwegians, 450 Poles, and about the same number of Belgians and Dutch.

  • 72,835 graduates joined the Royal Canadian Air Force
  • 42,110 graduates joined the Royal Air Force
  • 9,606 joined the Royal Australian Air Force
  • 7,002 joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force


During the Second World War, Canadian industries manufactured war materials and other supplies for Canada, the United States, Britain, and other Allied countries. The total value of Canadian war production was almost $10 billion - approximately $100 billion in today's dollars.

Out of Canada's population of 11.3 million, the total number of workers engaged in essential war industries was 1,049,876, with approximately 2,100,000 more engaged full-time in what was called "essential civilian employment", which included agriculture, communications, and food processing.

  • Britain had entered the war with 80,000 military vehicles of all types; however, 75,000 of these British vehicles were left behind in the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. Virtually defenceless on the ground, Britain turned to Canada - and particularly the Canadian auto industry - to replace what had been lost. Canada not only replaced these losses, it did much more.
  • Canadian industry produced over 800,000 military transport vehicles, 50,000 tanks, 40,000 field, naval, and anti-aircraft guns, and 1,700,000 small arms.
  • Of the 800,000 military vehicles of all types built in Canada, 168,000 were issued to Canadian forces. Thirty-eight percent of the total Canadian production went to the British. The remainder of the vehicles went to the other Allies. This meant that the Canadian Army 'in the field' had a ratio of one vehicle for every three soldiers, making it the most mechanized field force in the war.
  • The Bombardier company of Valcourt, Quebec, built over 150 military snowmobiles. General Motors developed a frame for another snowmobile, of which 300 were built.
  • Canadian Pacific Railway constructed 788 Valentine tanks in its Angus shop in Montreal; its engine was built by General Motors. 5,200 tanks had been built at C.P. Angus and Montreal Locomotive Company shops by the end of the war.
  • 2,150 twenty-five pounder "Sexton" self-propelled guns were built by Montreal Locomotive Works.
  • A heavy utility vehicle body was developed in Canada. Four-thousand such vehicles were manufactured by General Motors in Oshawa. This vehicle body could be mounted on a 4x4 chassis and could, with slight modifications, be used as a personnel carrier, ambulance, light wireless, truck or machinery truck.

Canadian Firefighters

  • Persistent German bombing of cities and factories caused great damage in Britain. Canada sought to give help and the Corps of (Civilian) Canadian Firefighters was organized in 1942 to help British firefighters combat the fires caused by the bombing.

  • 422 men volunteered for the Corps. Only half of these volunteers were professional firefighters; the other half had no experience.
  • The volunteer firemen received $1.30 pay per day from the Canadian government. They received no training other than what the Veteran firefighters could teach them.
  • There were 11 casualties, including three deaths, in the Corps of Canadian Firefighters overseas.


Representatives of several organizations served overseas to provide support to Canadian troops. Although their jobs were often away from the front lines, their work could often be hazardous.

  • 585 volunteers from the Canadian Legion War Services Incorporated, the Knights of Columbus, the Salvation Army, and the YMCA set up canteens and reading rooms for soldiers. Throughout their volunteer duty, they suffered 71 casualties, including eight dead.
  • Medical personnel with the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance Brigade also served. They acted as assistants to nurses and ambulance drivers.

Sources: Veterans Affairs Canada, The Canadian Army 1939 1945 An Official Historical Summary, Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, The Globe and Mail newspaper archive

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