Ad: This forum contains affiliate links to products on Amazon and eBay. More information in Terms and rules


Lieutenant Colonel
Apr 1, 2004
I've been talking with a few Americans recently and I've come to realise they know nothing about what Canada did during the war. This is certainly no shot at America because I know that many other people haven't a clue either. I just want to put out a few numbers and facts about Canada during WWII - feel free to contribute NS, I know you'll love to.

Canada, of 12 million, put 1.1 million people in uniform during World War II! It gave $4 Billion to it's over-seas Allies, and another $1 Billion to Britain. It never received aid from America.

Production wise it was the largest supplier of war material to Britain during the entirety of the war. It built 850,000 military vehicles, 9,000 military vessels, 50,000 tanks, 16,000 aircraft as well as many other materials like synthetic rubber, electronics and ammo. It even produced Uranium for the Manhatten Project.

In 1941 it was the second largest opponent to Hitler, second only to Russia. By 1945 it was the fourth largest Navy in the world.

During the Battle of Britain 104 Canadians served, second only in foreign number to the Polish. These served in 242 Sqdn. and then spread throughout the others. The RCAF 1 Sqdn also took part, first on August 26th...this squadron was renamed to 401 (Ram) Sqdn.

Canada was a vital part of the war effort!!!

There, I had my rant.

...I'm sorry PD, I'm still reeling from the fact that you actually give a sh*t about Canada's war contributions.

I've had this discussion with others before, and the reason hardly anyone knows or cares is actually pretty simple. We were a Commonwealth nation, and as such in those days we flew the Union Jack, wore British uniforms (with CANADA on the shoulder. The same can be said of other Commonwealth countries, with their respective names), and used British markings on mostly British designed (and sometimes built) equipment. To so many people, including many Americans, we were "British". A lot of people don't know, including many Brits.

Yes. I recognised many British people didn't understand that these people were from the Commonwealth or Free soldiers from defeated nations. Bomber Command was something up to 25% Canadian!

I have to admit that I thought America was the biggest foreign supplier of war material. But nope, it was Canada!

I read a funny story recently about the first time American troops saw New Zealanders. Of course the New Zealanders were in British uniforms and the Americans believed them to be British. One made the mistake of sayin' "Hiya, Limeys." :shock: Safe to say, the Americans checked who they were talking to before making comments.

And just because they were wearin' British uniforms it doesn't mean people should forget where they came from. I would give Australia and New Zealand in here but I don't know PRECISE numbers for those places.

I thought you might react that I didn't mention Canada on D-Day (Juno beach being theirs, as you know) and their contribution to the Schedle offensive (which was basically all their own) and the sole fact that the liberation of Holland was largely a Canadian operation.

Oh yeah, and just because I mock Canada all the time, you know it doesn't mean I hate it!! :rolleyes: I'm just as grateful, if not more, for Canada than America. Sorry, Yanks! Ah, I love you lot too. Except Joe...he's evil. :lol:
I believe the Commonwealth aren't thanked enough.

I heard something about the majority of Tungsten came from Australia in the 30's/40's?
Actually, plan_d, you are mostly correct. A lot of folks really have no idea that our neighbors to the north were very important in the allied efforts. When I have given presentations about different battles, I do mention the other nations that were involved. I made a special mention to the Canadian troops in my presentation on Operation Varsity. It was Monty's gameplane, but the Canadians were well involved in it with the US and UK troops.

Hollywood hasn't helped that situation, but we all know how they can and will skew history. Yet they still serve a purpose. If it stirs interest in WWII history, then it's good.
Canadians, and indeed Australians and New Zealanders too, were also heavily involved with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, both in terms of flying personnel and carrier crews. I'm not just talking about Canadians in the Royal Navy, but sailors from the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Naval Reserve, and Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. (I'll use Canada as the example, since it's a "Canada!" thread. Not to in any way diminish the tremendous contributions of the others. Plus it's just a lot simpler this way. ;) ).

PD stated that by wars end we had one of the world's largest navies, which in terms of actual hulls is true, but most of those were actually small corvettes. We built and used a whack of 'em! This doesn't take away from the hard work and determinatiojn of those boys, but it just puts it in a better perspective for anyone thinking "Wow, Canada was a naval power?". Not exactly. Also, the numbers usually factor in all of the smaller auxiliary and gate vessels too. At it's wartime peak, the largest ships in the RCN were two light cruisers handed over to us by the British. They were HMCS Ontario and HMCS Uganda (later renamed HMCS Québec).

In actual fact, it was the Royal Australian Navy who paid the heaviest price in human life out all the Commonwealth states, other than Great Britain.
If I had precise numbers on the other Commonwealth Nations - including the lesser known (Africans, Indians, Burmese etc.) then this would be called "Commonwealth!".

What sparked this was a conversation with a very good friend of mine from Illinois. The conversation got on to the war and I mentioned Canada's help during the war, a passing statement that was replied with "Or lack thereof?" which led me to rant and rant and rant about what Canada did. And now you're all getting it too! I bet NS is loving this, aren't you?

Canada was the production heart of the war against Nazism throughout 1940. Combined with America there was an industry that no one could match. America is time and time again praised for a massive economy that won the war. But Canada is never mentioned, all of us here know why but we also know without them the Western effort against Germany would have been much less capable. Canada not only provided Britain with massive amounts of war material, but the Soviet Union felt good of Canada's production efforts. For instance all of Canada's Valentine tank production in Montréal went to the Soviet Union.

The RCN defended the waters through the Atlantic to their extent of their range. After the "Atlantic Gap" these ships would be picked up by the Royal Navy. The RCN was one of the biggest contributors to the destruction of the Kriegsmarine.

Canada itself was a country brimming with the trainees of other nations. Canada was safe and Britain used it to train many of it's men without disruption from the Italians, Germans or Japanese.

Canadians even landed in France in 1940 and advanced toward Paris. They almost reached it too before the armistice was signed on June 22nd. This was done with the help of a British division.

Canadians were active in the 6th Airborne division, dropping both on D-Day and on the Rhine.

It's quite amazing that Canada is not shown as the massive power it was in those days. Because it was the power of production, Canada had it. Canada was, in my eyes, a super-power through economic power. The only reason, I think, it didn't get a permenant security seat on the U.N council is because it was part of the Commonwealth. Hell, it was much more deserving of a place than France!
That "lack thereof" comment is a product of the modern global situation. Probably because we're not involved in Iraq. I've had "conversations" with a few people about that already. Looking at how we've allowed ourselves to fall economically (Canada) over the last half-century dis.gusts me to no end. This country had so much potential and we basically let it all go. The pattern continues. We've learned nothing from our past mistakes, and by the time we realize it it'll be too late.

But that was an ignorant remark on his part just the same.
I forgot about the Canadians in the PTO and CBI. Aside from the Canadians defending Hong Kong there were other Canadians in the PTO and CBI theatres. They are little known but provided some vital man and machine power.

In Singapore the memorial has 191 Canadian dead on it. The memorial in Rangoon has 51 dead Canadians mentioned. The British handed out 5537 Burma Stars to Canadians. Although I do not know the exact numbers, I do know that there were Canadians spread throughout the RAF squadrons in Burma, India and Ceylon. There were also some RCAF squadrons, as well as Canadians in RAAF squadrons.

Most, if not all, Canadians in the CBI were in some air force.

There are a few accounts of Canadian aerial success during the heavy air combat of Burma. There was even a Canadian that became an ace over Rangoon.

There were also the Canadian Canso (Catalina) operating in the PTO and CBI. One such Canso from RCAF 413 Sqdn. spotted the IJN fleet just in time to save Ceylon.

Probably the most important contribution by the Canadians in the CBI was the inclusion of it's two transport squadrons. RCAF 435 Sqdn and RCAF 436 Sqdn prided themselves on lifting more in their Dakotas than any other transport squadron in the CBI.

In two weeks in Jan. 1945, RCAF 435 Sqdn lifted 2506 tons of cargo and 735 passengers and casualties. RCAF 436 Sqdn, in the whole month, lifted 3184 tons and 2362 passengers and casualties. In a single day, RCAF 435 Sqdn delivered 173 tons in 56 drops and 24 landings.


  • 435_rcaf_sqn_dakota_iii_969.jpg
    20.2 KB · Views: 304
plan_D said:
There were also the Canadian Canso (Catalina) operating in the PTO and CBI. One such Canso from RCAF 413 Sqdn. spotted the IJN fleet just in time to save Ceylon.
Len Birchall, the "Saviour of Ceylon". My grandad knew him personally, and did training with him at RCAF Dartmouth (now CFB Shearwater). He remained an honorary air commodore until his death only last year.


  • lenbirchall_140.jpg
    12.1 KB · Views: 314
:salute: A great man. As were all those that fought during the war!

And, tut-tut, it's "Saviour of Ceylon" - you're not American! :rolleyes:

It's okay, NS, this thread is for Canadians! You're allowed to speak real Canadian now. :lol:
plan_D said:
And, tut-tut, it's "Saviour of Ceylon"
Agh! I hang my head in shame! Sorry Len, wherever you are. #-o

Edited. ;)

Lets hear from some Aussies and Kiwis on this stuff. This is getting interesting.
Any of me fellow Canucks got anything to add?
I agree Plan_D. It seems as though a lot of the so called "I Know Everything" historians on this site that are American think that the US won the war by itself. They dont realize that it was co op event and that everyone contributed a lot.
And who'd have thought I, of all people, would make this thread about the contributions of Canada. I bet that shocked you all. In fact, I reckon you all thought it was going to be something abusive towards Canada.
The Canadians and the Commonwealth in general contributed a lot the allied war effort not only in production but also in the supply of troops, without the Commonwealth Britain would have run out of manpower rather than just suffering from shortages after D-day. It was a great team effort :salute:

Users who are viewing this thread