Military History

War Art

Paul Goranson

The life of airmen during wartime as visualized by Paul Goranson. From top to bottom: Posted to Newfie; Fitters At Work; Raid On San Guisto-Pisa There’s a look of positive acceptance on the face of the young air force corporal as he steadies himself in the crowded train car. The man in blue has a small suitcase in his right hand and a bedroll under his right arm. His capped head is pushed to one side by the duffel bag on his left shoulder. It is 1942 and the quiet corporal is bound for Newfoundland. The painting by Paul Goranson is called Posted To Newfie and it’s a good example of how this war artist saw things during WW II. In her book Canadian Artists Of The Second World War, author Joan Murray states that Goranson’s "literal, illustrative work acutely visualizes the life of air...

Selective Reasoning In WW II: Army, Part 8

Churchill and Mackenzie King Have struggled on for years; What good without psychologists, Are blood, sweat and tears? But now the Bott Battalion’s on its way, So give three cheers The war will soon be won! Who will break the news to Hitler That Bott and his brainy boys Are hurrying off to war – C.R. Myers During the summer of 1941 Hitler was somewhat preoccupied with the invasion of the Soviet Union and apparently missed reports that Canada planned to employ psychologists to screen and classify its armed forces. The decision was big news in Ottawa, however. Professor Edward Alexander Bott, a well known child psychologist, was commissioned as a group captain in the Royal Canadian Air ...

The Early Days Of WW II: Army, Part 7

For most Canadians WW II began on Sept. 1, 1939, when Hitler’s armies invaded Poland. That event, coupled with the sinking of the passenger liner Athenia on Sept. 3, provided ordinary Canadians with all the incentive they needed and thousands rushed to enlist. The Canadian government was much more cautious. Prime Minister Mackenzie King had promised Parliament would decide Canada’s foreign policy so it was not until Sept. 10, after a brief debate, that Canada was officially, and very tentatively, at war.The government hoped it could avoid sending an expeditionary force overseas and had done as little as possible to prepare one. Last minute additions to defence estimates in 1939 provided $7.5 million for the Royal Canadian Air Force to buy aircraft, but less than one million dollars for the...

Hong Kong: There Was A Reason: Army, Part 6

Last year Canadian veterans who fought in the defence of Hong Kong were awarded a bar to be worn on the ribbon of the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. This recognition reminded us of the debt we owe to the men and women who endured so much pain on our behalf. Unfortunately media coverage of the events provided little beyond the most superficial references to it being a "sacrifice" and "a hopeless cause."To understand the decision to reinforce the colony we must try to place ourselves within the swirling events of 1941 and remember that none of the decision makers, including the Japanese, knew that war in the Pacific would begin before the year was out. The United States took the lead in shaping policy in the Pacific. Throughout 1941 American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to fi...

Achievement On The Atlantic: Army, Part 5

The full story of the Royal Canadian Navy’s contribution to Allied victory in WW II has not been told. In Ottawa, the much-reduced Directorate of History at the Department of National Defence is preparing a multi-volume official history, but this will take some years to complete.Until these books are published we must rely on Joseph Schull’s Far Distant Ships and on a number of detailed accounts of specific parts of the story. Marc Milner’s two books North Atlantic Run and The U-boat Hunters are first-rate studies of the Canadian role in the Battle of the Atlantic and David Zimmerman has introduced us to the politics of the naval war effort in The Great Naval Battle of Ottawa. However, we lack an overview that would allow us to place such specialized studies in perspective. Looking at the ...
War Art

Molly Lamb Bobak

The sketches in Bobak's war diary capture some of the more quieter moments in WW II army life. The "front page" (above) illustrates how she turned a diary into a long-lasting work of art. The large, bold headline reads: Heart-rending Scenes On Sunday. Fateful Day Brings Ghastly Parting For Lance-Corporal And Vermilion Friends. Moaning And Weeping As Train Pulls Out! Squeezed between this and an illustration of parading Canadian Women’s Army Corp regulars is the following news flash: On Sunday, Jan. 31, Vermilion Barracks lost another B Company. Reporters rushed to the scene at 12 noon. The mess was ringing with The Khaki Shirts, It’s A Long Way To Tipperary and Auld Lang Syne. "It was heart-rending," remarked reporters, "to see the graduating girls...." While the format for this...

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An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.