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Canada and the War
Liberation of Canadian prisoners at Shamshuipo Camp, Hong Kong, September 1945. - AN19810684-016
Liberation of Canadian prisoners at Shamshuipo Camp, Hong Kong, September 1945.

The Canadian Armed Forces: Canadian Prisoners of the Axis Powers

8,995 members of Canada's armed forces became prisoners of the enemy, and several hundred Canadian civilians too. Some fell into enemy hands in several large groups. First were the 1,685 Canadians of the Hong Kong garrison ( see Hong Kong, December 1941 ). 1,946 Canadians were captured by the Germans at Dieppe ( see Dieppe Raid, August 1942 ). A steady stream of RCAF aircrew, particularly from Bomber Command, were taken into German camps.

Undernourishment and boredom were the prisoners' great enemies. They received the same type of rations as their captors. In Germany, however, these rations became more and more inadequate over time and in Japan, the portions and quality were always inadequate by western standards. The Red Cross provided reading materials and sent supplementary parcels of food but delivery of these was infrequent. The Canadian Legion sent textbooks for those who wished to spend their time learning new things.

The German Gestapo shot fifty Allied fliers, including six Canadians, after a 1944 escape attempt. A significant number of those taken prisoner in Normandy by the 12th SS Panzer Division ( Hitlerjugend ) were murdered. 260 of the Canadians taken at Hong Kong died in Japanese prison camps, either in Hong Kong itself or in Japan, from malnutrition, overwork, lack of medical attention or brutality. Some Canadian aircrew were killed by the angry civilians they had bombed, even before they could be taken as prisoners.

Once the war was over, three Canadian Dieppe prisoners were charged and convicted for their assistance to and collaboration with the Germans. They served prison sentences.

There were worries at home about prisoners in the deteriorating conditions of 1945, but nearly all were liberated by the advancing Allied armies, including the Russian Red Army, or freed themselves when the enemy surrendered.

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