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The Second World War 1939–1945

On September 10, 1939, Canada declared war on Germany, which had invaded Poland on September 1. In so doing, it aligned itself with Great Britain and France in opposing German aggression. Although very poorly prepared for war, Canada built up large land, naval and air forces. The whole country became involved as the critically important industrial and agricultural industries expanded to support the war effort. Canada provided ships, aircraft, vehicles, weapons, raw materials and food for the allied powers. The cost of war was high: of the 1.1 million Canadians who served, 42,042 died and 54,414 were wounded.

The world during the Second World War. Most Canadians fought in or over northwestern Europe, Italy and on the Atlantic Ocean.
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National Archives of Canada DND RCAF PL 3055
National Archives of Canada DND Army WRA 338
National Archives of Canada DND RCN Z-1425
National Archives of Canada DND Army 50087
National Archives of Canada DND Army 36898
Canadian War Museum 19800341-001

"[You are] defenders of the faith and of civilization against the domination of free countries by barbarism."

— William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, December 1939


September 1939 Canada enters the Second World War
December 1939 First Canadian troops arrive in England
June 1940 After the fall of France, Canada’s war effort greatly expands
December 1941 The fall of Hong Kong
August 1942 The Dieppe Raid
January 1943 The official Second World War art program begins
December 1943 The Battle of Ortona, Italy
June 1944 The Invasion of Normandy
May 1945 Holland liberated, Germany surrenders
September 1946 Official Second World War art deposited at the National Gallery
October 1971 Canada’s war art is transferred to the Canadian War Museum

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