Canada And The Italian Campaign During World War II

The history of the Canadian military dates back many years. The military had been involved in numerous wars in bid to gain their sovereignty. It has also been involved in peacekeeping in many countries. Its involvement in the Second World War came after it declared war against Germany in 1939. This involved major campaigns in Italy as well as Northern Europe. During this time, the Canadian military was guarding ships that plied the North Atlantic. At the beginning of the war, Canada was the one controlling the British Commonwealth. Initially, they were reluctant to get involved in the war but later joined in conjunction with Great Britain. With a population of about 12 million soldiers, their force emerged superior (The History Of Canada 2006, Par.2).

In a span of three months, a whole allotment of the Canadian active service force had been moved to United Kingdom and an agreement reached upon for Canada to provide facilities for air force training. The training produced more than 131,000 aircrews. Among them, 72,800, personnel comprised of Canadian pilots, bombardiers, in-flight gunners and navigators. Canadian forces served in almost all spheres of the war. Under the command of Gen. A. G. L. McNaughton, the military was expected to have an extensive and provoking moment guarding Britain for the period that Germany had threatened of attacking them. The first involvement of Canadian soldiers in combat was in 1942. The war cost them dearly when they raided Dieppe. During the 1943 summer, they joined British military in fighting Sicily on Italian soil. Amid the fall of France and German invasion of Union of Soviet Social Republic (USSR) in 1941, Canada serviced Britain with weapons, war materials and food that was greatly required. They also supplied them with pilots and planes that were involved in battle of Britain and the Blitz (Dancocks 1991, PP. 24-35).

The Italian campaign of the Second World War refers to associated operations that took place in and around Italy from 1943 till the end of the war. Combined Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ), was responsible of organizing all operations that took place in the Mediterranean region. It was involved in organizing the attacks that were laid on Sicily as well as campaigns conducted on Italian soil until the defeat of Germany soldiers in 1945. Preceding the victory in the North African Campaign, a disagreement emerged between the allies on strategies to follow in their bid to overcome the Axis. Winston Churchill and his British counterparts proposed use of their customary naval-based marginal approach (McAndrew 1997, PP. 54). Despite having a greater army and naval power, this strategy aimed at fighting as part of an alliance and staging various small side-line operations that would help in failing their enemy. United States on its part opted for a more direct approach in fighting German troops in Northern Europe. To be able to establish this campaign, they needed to first win their battle in the Atlantic. The disagreement became more serious with the United States leader demanding for France to attack as fast as possible while the British encouraged for Mediterranean approach. Americans believed that by attacking France, they would be able to end the war in Europe quickly. Thus, they did not want to engage in other operations that would have delayed their intentions. The British asserted that availability of huge troops that had experience on marine attacks denied them a chance to succeed in directly attacking France ((Dancocks 1991, PP. 37).

In the long run, they agreed to launch an attack on France in 1944. However, the campaign portrayed Roosevelt’s intentions of ensuring that Americans troops were fully involved in the European war while at the same time getting lid of Italian troops. He hoped that this attack would eliminate Italian forces. This would have helped the united naval forces take full control of the Mediterranean Sea. By treating Italians as enemies, it meant that the Germans would have to withdraw their troops from Eastern fronts in bid to assist the Italians thus helping the Soviets. In 1943, the British, American and Canadian troops carried out a massive attack on Sicily using both the naval and air force troops. Their main strategy was the British to attack from north and extend along the coast to Messina with the help of American troops. Germans and Italian troops tried to help Sicily but they did not succeed. They only managed to move most of their troops to the mainland. The British forces landed in Italy on third of September 1943. The Italian government agreed to sign a peace agreement with the allies. The truce was made public by Italy. Although the German troops were ready to defend Italy without their backing, all their troops were surrounded making them incapable of overpowering the British and American troops.

During the Second World War, Canada came up with varied munitions and trucks that were used in the war. One of the groups of trucks used was referred to as the Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck. These trucks were distributed in different regions that were rocked by the war including the Soviet Union. British war office reached an agreement with the Canadian Army to develop military vehicles after Hitler took control of Germany. During the First World War, Canadian troops had been integrated in the war by the British army. This made them ensure that military vehicles manufactured in Canada met the British standards and terms. In 1937, a 15-hundredweight light infantry truck was developed by the Canadian general motors in collaboration with the Ford Motor company of Canada. The vehicle met most of the specifications that were laid down by the British. By 1938, Canadian Military authority had managed to manufacture other heavier military vehicles. One of the major challenges to Canadians was coming up with an industry that could develop war artillery from scratch to help them win the battle. The determination and courage of the Canadians, however, helped them come up with all the required weapons that saw them emerge victorious. It ensured that all its weapon industries were secured from any attack from their enemies. As a result, it became the major supplier of weapons to Britain (Maple Leaf Up 2002, Par. 2-4).

Another vehicle that was manufactured during this period was the ubiquitous universal (also referred to as Bren Gun carrier). This vehicle served in variety of fields which included backing the infantry team and carrying and propelling gun. The vehicle carried medium machine guns and could throw wasp flames. Some of the models manufactured included the variant, MKI, T-16 and the Canadian Windsor carrier. Ford Company of Canada manufactured approximately thirty thousand universal carriers during the Second World War which were driven by an 85hp flathead. Their thickness ranged from 3/8” in the fore hull to 1/4 “on the sides. The Windsor carrier was manufactured later. It was designed with the aim of helping in towing light anti-tank guns and trailers. The vehicle was more stable than the original carrier due to its wheels being more bogie. The vehicle was also made longer than the original carrier and had a gap in the middle of the two bogie sets on either side. It contained a roof duck and cover for driver protection during the rainy season. It helped in towing 6 pdr AT guns and provided more comfort to the drivers (Maple Leaf Up 2002, Par. 5).

In 1940, the federal government came up with a department that was responsible for developing and supplying munitions to Canada and its associates. This saw Canada getting orders from many countries, especially Britain. Britain was given the role of controlling the raw materials that were being used in manufacturing these weapons. They developed 815729 military vehicles which comprised 45710 armoured vehicles. They also manufactured riffles, anti tank guns, light machine guns, submachine guns as well as anti aircraft guns. General purpose 25-pounder weaponry was also developed. The Bombardier industry situated in Valcourt manufactured over 150 snowmobiles. This was later copied by General Motors who developed more than three hundred other snowmobiles. Valentine tanks were developed by Canadian Pacific Railway and general motors.

After the defeat of France, the allies decided to increase the number of their ships to compensate for those destroyed in the war. By then Canada had started building ships to help in patrolling its coasts. Britain requested Canada to make for them twenty six ten-thousand-tonne freight ships. They later ordered for the manufacture of marine accompaniments and minesweepers. This eventually led to Canada producing a huge number of ships that were later to be used in the Second World War by Britain. At the height of the Second World War, Canada was able to manufacture a ten-thousand-tonne SS Front Romaine in a span of fifty eight days. Though these ships were slow, they could readily adapt to varied cargoes with minimal problems. Those who used the ships ensured that weapons produced in Canada reached the intended destinations (Maple Leaf Up 2002, Par. 13).

Despite Canada playing a vital role in development of weapons and military vehicles that saw the British and Americans emerge victorious in the Second World War, Canada has not been recognized as a fighting nation. Little information has been published on the role played by Canada during world war two. Charles Stacey for instance described Canada as an unmilitary state. He argued that Canada had never opted to have a powerful military. In-stead it opted to spend its resources on improving public services and creating consumer goods. However, these does not qualify it not to be recognized as a fighting nation bearing in mind the great contribution they made in the Second World War. Without its contributions, the Allies could not have overcome the Germans.

Involvement of Canada in the Second World War had some benefits as well as damages to Canadian people and industries. More than 40, 000 Canadians lost their lives in the war. It greatly affected the social life of the Canadians as well as its economy. The war saw Canadian agriculture transform to mechanization as there were no people to work in farms. There was an increase in manufacturing industries as well as an increase in government spending. Most of the Canadians got assimilated into industries that were cropping up leading to decrement in the number of those who were unemployed. A lot of women who previously worked as domestic workers moved to be employed in industries. They occupied most of the positions that were left by men as they went for war (Canadian Economy 2009, Par 3-5). Many years before the war; Canada had a poor economic growth. By the end of the war, Canada had a more skilled labor force and had established a lot of industries. As most of the men who had gone for war returned home, great number of women left their jobs and resumed their previous jobs as house wives. Many people who had deferred their marriages went ahead leading to increment in the Canadian population. By the time the war erupted, Canada had recovered from economic depression. This transformed it to one of the countries that offered credits to other countries. The war led to Canada becoming one of the major producers of asbestos, nickel, platinum and radium. It became the second country in production of aluminum, gold, hydroelectric power and building of cargo ships. Most of its industries grew tremendously due to increase in demand of their products. For instance, its newsprint industry attained a milling power that was four times that of the second producing country. When Canadians joined the British in the war, they thought it would be an adventure. However, things did not go as per their expectations. Poor organization among the troops, lack of good leadership and terrible war conditions lead to great suffering of the Canadian troops (Nicholson 1956, PP. 67-70).

Other people that were affected by the war in Canada were the Japanese Canadians. Emergence of war in the Pacific Ocean made Canadians fear that the next area to be attacked by the Japanese would be the British Columbia. This made the British Columbians rise against Japanese who were living in their midst. In early 1940s about 22,000 people of Japanese origin were living in Canada. These people had migrated to Canada to work in the mines and railway sector. They had begun improving their living standards before they were denied the right to lecture, vote and be employed in the public service. Attack of Pearl Harbor and Hong Kong shocked the Canadians. The Japanese Canadians were perceived as spies who had the motive of helping Japan demolish Canada. However, their activities were monitored for a period before they were declared to be loyal to Canada (The History Of Canada 2006, Par. 4).

As most of the Canadians got assimilated to various industries that were emerging in the country, their living standards improved to unprecedented levels. This was not due to an increase in the amount of money paid to workers but since every person could secure a job. With availability of opportunities for full time employment and overtime jobs, it meant that every family member who was above fifteen years could get employed. This led to them eating well leading to reduction in incidences of diseases among the people (Gregory 1997, PP. 12-15).

The losses incurred by Canada in the war abroad were compensated by economic development back at home. Canadians manufactured weapons required in the battle field, farm products and raw materials for use in industries. This led to growth of industries in Canada.

Reference list

Canadian Economy. “1939–1945 – World War II Transformed the Canadian Economy.” 2007. Web.

Dancocks, Daniel G., D-Day Dodgers: Canadians in Italy. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991.

Gregory, Blaxland, Alexander’s Generals (the Italian Campaign 1944-1945). London: William Kimber, 1997.

Maple Leaf Up. “Canadian Military Vehicles in ww2.” 2002. Web.

McAndrew, Bill. Canadians and the Italian Campaign 1943 to 1945. Phoenix: Art global, 1997.

Nicholson, Gerald W. L.., The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945. Ottawa: R. Duhamel, 1956.

The History Of Canada. “Canada and World War II” 2006. Web.

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