Admittedly, the topic of the military history of Canada is very broad. Of course, our Library has a focus on the Air Force, and in seeking out books to share with you, I discovered that we have a variety of approaches to the topic. Here are a few I found:
A Military History of Canada ~ written by Desmond Morton, the author tells the reader that, “this is a country that has been shaped, divided, and transformed by war. There is no greater influence in our history. War has developed our industries, realigned our political factions, altered the roles of Canadian women, and changed Canada’s status in the world.
From the shrewd tactics of Canada’s First Nations to our troubled involvement in Somalia, from the Plains of Abraham to the deserts of Iraq, Morton examines our centuries-old relationship to war and its consequences. This edition (4th) brings the story of our military up to Canada’s role in the 1999 NATO action in Kosovo.”
The book includes the evolution of our Royal Canadian Air Force. One of the photos included is of a Canadian pilot in a Hurricane fighter, “workhorse of both RAF and RCAF fighter squadrons overseas…”
Spencer Dunmore is the author of Above and Beyond ~ The focus of this volume is on the Canadians’ War in the Air, 1939 – 45. ” From the first skirmishes over Europe in September 1939, Canadian airmen served in almost every theatre of the Second World War, from bases in Britain and Europe, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. And in the months and years that followed, with the slaughter mounting in hostile skies around the globe, the contribution of Canadian pilots, navigators, gunners, air bombers, and flight engineers grew out of all proportion to their country’s population.
In the early days of the conflict, great numbers of Canadians served in units of Britain’s RAF and Fleet Air Arm. As the war progressed, however, the Royal Canadian Air Force came into its own, and by Germany’s surrender, forty-eight RCAF squadrons were overseas, almost completely manned by Canadian officers and men.
Combining first person accounts of the action and his own vivid prose, Dunmore captures the high drama and gut-churning tension of dogfights and bomber raids, charts the victories and defeats of the armies and navies below, and recreates the mood abroad in wartime as the world watched the drama unfold.”
One of the photos was of our own Stocky Edwards, “one of the outstanding Canadian fighter pilots of the Western Desert. This shot was taken in March 1942, when Edwards, age 20, had just arrived in the desert. (James Edwards collection).”
The following photo is of 417 (RCAF) Squadron pilots at Marcianise, Italy, being briefed for an operation. (Bert Houle collection)
A Terrible Beauty, The Art of Canada at War ~ “The 104 works presented are selected from thousands which make up the Canadian war art collection…” The author, Heather Robertson, has included writing representative of the two world wars, to share an account of the “ordinary serviceman’s vision and experience. Some of this work is by professional writers; most is not.”
Included in the book is this oil on linen painting done circa 1918 by J. Ernest Sampson. It’s titled Armistice Day, Toronto. The written piece selected to accompany it was by an unknown soldier. In part, he wrote, “Armistice Day dawned clear and crisp. No one was very happy. Now that we were out in the open and winning, it had to stop. ‘Berlin or bust’ now seemed ridiculous. The armistice was officially announced in the Grande Place and the brigade bands played some airs. We had waited four years for this day but no one laughed, no one cheered, no one got drunk…the men were unstrung by the peace…”
For Love and Glory, a Pictorial History of Canada’s Air Forces, was written by J. A. Foster. This book contains photos of a series of aircraft used through the years, along with the history behind them.
This photo is of personnel awaiting kit inspection at summer camp of 111 Squadron, Sea Island, BC, June 9,1939. (National Archives of Canada)
Taken on November 10, 1941, this photo shows the Supermarine Stranraer flying boat of 6 Squadron, Alliford Bay, BC.
“The motto of the Women’s Branch during World War II was ‘We serve that men may fly.’ After years of arguments and dire predictions for and against allowing women to fly front-line fighters, the Armed forces accepted women in the same combat roles as men. The first two female fighter combat graduates were Captains Jane P. Foster (left) and Diana M. Brasseur (right), shown in front of a C5 Freedom Fighter after their training in 1988.”
Aviation Year By Year has as its Editor-in-Chief Bill Gunston. And yes, year by year, we follow the progress of aviation, with photographs and written articles.
In the 1940 section is this photo and article:
” Britain, March 1 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilots and crew along with mechanics and support teams docked today at Liverpool. Their arrival is the first tangible evidence of a deal involving Britain, Canada, Australia, S. Rhodesia and New Zealand to train pilots, navigators and gunners from all these countries. The RCAF entered the war with 4,000 men, but is now besieged by volunteers.
Meanwhile, some pilots who fled Poland when Germany invaded are now in Paris, where their government-in-exile is based, and have joined the French air force. Squadrons of Koolhoven FK,58 and Caudron 714 fighters are flown by Poles. Other Poles have chosen Britain and are being absorbed into the Auxiliary Air Force. Of these, 609 Squadron, based in Yorkshire, includes citizens of Britain, Canada, Poland, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. The question mark looming over these airmen now is how fast the volunteers and the machines can be welded into coherent fighting units.”
“ 1946 ~ Montreal, July Canadian manufacturer Canadair is trying to make a workable marriage between a successful American airframe, the DC-4, and the famous British Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. The idea is that this will meet the needs of both the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA).
The ultimate goal is to produce a pressurized version of the DC-4 using supercharged Merlins to fly at high altitudes where they are more efficient. But to get the project going, it was decided to use unpressurized DC-54 military fuselages with four liquid-cooled 1,725-hp Merlin 620s. The first of these hybrids, to be named North Star, was flown this month by Bob Brush of Douglas and Al Lily of Canadair and will be one of an order of 24 by the RCAF. TCA is expected to order up to 50 of the pressurized versions.”