The Canadian Army at War

The Canadians in Britain, 1939-1944

The Years of Waiting

With a Foreword by
Lieutenant-General J.C. MURCHIE, C.B., C.B.E.
Chief of the General Staff, Canada

Published by Authority of the Minister of National Defence


The decision to publish a series of contemporary historical booklets on the Canadian Army was taken by the Minister of National Defence the Honourable J.L. Ralston, C.M.G., D.S.O., in February 1944. The text of the present booklet was compiled and written by the Historical Section of the General Staff, Canadian Military Headquarters in Great Britain, and was completed in October 1944.

Some passages from articles contributed to the Canadian Geographical Journal by members of the Section have been incorporated, by permission of the Canadian Geographical Society.

The illustrations consists mainly of paintings by official War Artists of the Canadian Army and photographs by Canadian Army Overseas Film and Photo Units.


This booklet is the first of a series, compiled form official records, which is being produced with the object of giving the people of Canada somewhat fuller information than it has hitherto been possible to publish concerning the work of their Army in the present war.

This first volume is concerned with the experiences and activities of the Canadians in the United Kingdom during the long and trying years of waiting which preceded their becoming engaged in active operations. Later booklets will tell how they acquitted themselves when action came.

The story which the present volume relates is unique in the history of the Empire. It describes in detail the important role which Canadian troops played in the defence of Britain, in the days when that country was threatened with invasion. It tells also the story of the troops' relations with their British hosts. More than a quarter of a million Canadian volunteers, who had enlisted in the hope of seeing early acton, were stationed in the Mother Country, without being given the opportunity of a blow at the enemy, for periods of up to five years. The maintenance--and, indeed, the improvement--of their morale and discipline, under these singularly difficult conditions, reflects the greatest credit on two parties: the brave, generous and hospitable people of Britain, on one side,

and the officers and men of the Canadian Army Overseas on the other. The whole incident is one which hosts and guests alike will remember with pride in times to come; and it will have its effect--and a very desirable effect--upon the future of the British Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is based upon mutual goodwill and understanding; and those qualities have never been better exemplified than in the relations of Canadian and Briton during the years treated in this little book.

J.C. Murchie
Chief of the General Staff.


I. Five Years in Britain
    The Canadians Arrive--Warders in the Gate--Sussex by the Sea--"Scene: England; Afterwards France".
II. The Weapon on the Anvil
    The Shadow of Invasion--The Battle Drill Idea--The Prelude to Attack
III. The Days of the Blitz
    A Grand-Stand View--"A Dreadful and Impassioned Drama"--A Big Week in Liverpool--Hit-and-Run
IV. Sappers at Work
    Drilling and Tunnelling--Barring the Gates--The Road Builders--Harnessing the Waters--To Keep Them Flying--The Quest for Strategic Minerals--The Constructors.
V. A Little Behind the Front
    The Reinforcement Units--Scottish Forests and Canadian Foresters--Under the Geneva Cross--Young Ladies in Khaki.
VI. The Canadians and the British People
    Getting to Know Each Other--"Single Men in Barracks"--A Quarter of a Million Ambassadors.

Transcribed and formatted by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation