Chapter XIX

Repatriation and Demoblization

As soon as the war in Europe was over, the process of repatriating and demobilizing the men of the Canadian fighting force began.

For this plans had been in readiness. If only because of shortage of shipping, repatriation was bound to take many months and priorities were certain to be a matter of burning interest. The principle "first in, first out" would have been desirable from the viewpoint of abstract justice; but it was impossible to apply it without qualification, for many of the officers and men who had been "in" longest were indispensable to administration. A system of point-scores was set up (each month's service in Canada counted two points, each month's overseas service three, while the scores of married men, or of widowers or divorced men with dependent children, were increased by 20 per cent), and as far as possible priorities for repatriation were allotted in accordance with individual scores. The men with longest service who could be spared were released from their units and sent home in drafts; the majority of the men of the Army returned in this manner. Subsequently, the major units, the gaps in their ranks filled in part at least by low-point men from their home regions, returned home as units, and the cities and towns of Canada saw the regiments that had borne their names with honour on so many battlefields marching through their streets once more.

When the fighting ceased there were some 282,000 men and women of the Canadian Army serving in the European Zone (including Britain). The highest priority for returning went to the volunteers accepted for the Pacific Force, who were to have "thirty clear days' leave at home" before their further service. For these and men with high scores the repatriation mill began to grind with commendable promptitude after the end of hostilities. During June of 1945, more than 17,000 members of the Canadian Army sailed; homewards; in July the number rose above 26,000. The movement continued as shipping became available. On 16 October 1945 the Minister of National Defence was able to tell the House of Commons that 111,000 men had returned from Europe since VE Day. By 28 February 1946 the back of the tremendous job was broken; a total of 238,293 Army personnel had then been brought home since hostilities ended--a most satisfactory administrative achieve-ment. Thereafter the liquidation of Canada's remaining overseas commitments proceeded gradually but steadily. The final stage consisted of returning the men


who had staffed the Repatriation Units1 and done the other administrative work involved in settling the business of the Canadian Army Overseas. The grand old CunardWhite Star trooper "Aquitania", which had carried the Headquarters of the 1st Division to England in the first convoy in. December 1939, now brought the last men back. The final large group, about 900. strong, reached Halifax on 21 January 1947.

Repatriating the officers and men was not the whole story. The Canadian Government also brought to Canada at public expense the wives and children whom many soldiers had acquired during their long stay overseas. By 7 August 1947, transport had thus been provided for 40,764 brides and 19,608 children of Canadians of the three services; of these, the vast majority came from Britain, and about 80 per cent of the wives and 85 per cent of the children were those of Army men.

Along with repatriation went demobilization. The great force built up during nearly six years of conflict now began to melt quietly away. The total strength of the Canadian Army at the time of Germany's surrender (including all personnel doing full-time duty) was 491,942. By October 1945 nearly a day were being discharged. By 31 July 1946 the strength of the Active Army (the wartime force, as distinguished from the small Interim Force set up to tide over the transition from war to peace) was down to 38,148 all ranks. Small numbers of officers and men of the wartime force continued to serve for a short time longer to assist in the multifarious tasks of "run-down" administration; but, except for a few individuals, all of them had returned to civil life by 30 September 1947. The Army had now reverted to peacetime status, and comprised an Active Force (the regular component, which, reflecting the lessons of the war, was both larger and better equipped than the Permanent Force of 1939) and a Reserve Force (the old Non-Permanent Active Militia, which had done so much to make the wartime achievements possible, and which was now likewise reorganized and placed upon a sounder basis than ever before). During the fiery trial of 1939-45 the units of both forces had acquired new honours to set beside those won by earlier generations.

For a time the Canadian Army took part in the occupation of Germany. On 10 August 1945 the Government announced that Canada was contributing Army and Air Force contingents "for the present phase of the occupation". The Army contribution was to be "the reconstituted 3rd Canadian Division and certain administrative and lines of communication units totalling about 25,000 all ranks". Apart from key personnel who were necessarily retained the Canadian Army Occupation Force was organized from individuals volunteering for the service and from men with low point-scores. The Force was commanded by Major


General Vokes. Its area of occupation, which formed part of the 30th Corps District, was the north-western corner of Germany where the Canadians had fought; its headquarters was at Bad Zwischenahn.

The C.A.O.F. as finally constituted had an establishment strength of 21,574 all ranks. It played its part in Germany for a year after the surrender, maintaining order, assisting in the control, disarmament and disbandment of the German forces, and performing a multitude of miscellaneous duties. In December 1945 the Canadian Government advised the United Kingdom of its intention of withdrawing the force,2 and the first units left Germany late in the following March. On 15 May 1946 the 3rd Canadian Division turned over its area to the 52nd (Lowland) Division. The men who had formed the Occupation Force were repatriated to Canada during the spring and early summer.

The National Effort In Two Great Wars

During this Second Great War, 630,052 Canadians served in the Active Army. Of these, 25,251 were women. All these men and women were volunteers. In addition, 100,573 men were called up for service under the National Resources Mobilization Act.3 The Army's total "intake" was thus 730,625. Its peak strength at a given time was 495,804, reached on. 22 March 1944. The Reserve Army, the part-time force equivalent to the pre-war Non-Permanent Active Militia, numbered 82,163 all ranks at 30 April 1945. Approximately 368,000 all ranks served overseas in the European Zone. Roughly 2800 served in the Pacific war zone, in addition to the 4800 engaged in the Kiska operation. Some thousands more did duty outside of Canada in the outposts of North America.

It is a matter of interest to compare this effort with that of the First Great War. In 1939 the population of Canada was considerably larger than in 1914--the official estimates for these years being 11,267,000 and 7,879,000 respectively. In the war which began in 1914, 628,462 Canadians are recorded as having served, most of them in the military forces, for the Dominion's naval forces in that conflict amounted only to about 10,000 men, while her contribution to the British air forces was about 24,000. It will be noted that the figure for all three services is considerably less than the total of Canadians serving in the Army during the more recent war. In the war of 1939-45, however, Canada also maintained very large air and naval forces. In the course of the struggle, a total of 249,624 men and women served in the Royal Canadian Air


Force and 106,522 in the Canadian naval forces. The total enlisted or appointed into the three armed services for full-time duty was thus 1,086,771, or roughly 9.65 per cent of the 1939 population.4 This compares with 7.98 per cent for the war of 1914-18. When one takes into account the further fact that Canada's industrial contribution in 1914-18, though very considerable, was certainly materially less than in 1939-45, the fact appears to emerge that the total of national effort in the more recent and longer war was greater by a respectable margin.

Happily, however, the same is not true of the sacrifice of blood, tragically heavy though this was. Canada's fatal casualties of 1914 18 numbered 60,661, or 9.65 per cent of the total enlisted. For the Second Great War the Army's total casualties in all categories as known in July 1947 were 74,374, of which 22,964 were fatal. For all three services fatal casualties numbered 41,992, or 3.86 per cent of the total enlisted.5 The contrast with 1914-18, so far as the Army is concerned, is not due entirely or even primarily to the fact that the Canadian Army was inactive for a long period; it stems from the different nature of the war. Our smaller casualties in the more recent struggle may be attributed to the more widespread use of tanks; to the fact that in most of our campaigns we enjoyed a great superiority in the air; but above all to the more mobile nature of the fighting. The singularly lethal position warfare of the Western Front of 1914-18 was not repeated, and though the Canadian historian of 1939-45 has to tell the story of many a grim and costly infantry battle, there is no incident in his chronicle parallel to the fighting at Passchendaele in 1917, thus summarized in the Memorial Chamber in the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa: "The Corps returned to the Lens sector, having gained two square miles at a cost of 16,404 casualties".

One other comparison may be made. The Canadian Army of 193945 was much more an army of the native-born than that of 191418. Of 619,636 enlistments recorded for the Canadian Expeditionary Force of the First Great War, only 318,728 were set down as Canadian-born; that is, about 51.38 per cent. Of the remainder, 237,586 were born in Great Britain or other British countries. In 1939-45, a total of 618,354 of the men and women of the Canadian Army reported Canada as their country of birth. This is 84.61 per cent.

An Army of Citizen Soldiers

The army which Canada placed in the field in 1939-45 was, like its


gallant predecessor of 1914-18, a civilian army in the sense that it was not composed of professional soldiers. The tiny Permanent Force, it is true, proved itself a national asset of inestimable value, and provided the country with a group of senior commanders whose abilities and professional skill would have rendered them distinguished in any company. Yet even of the senior commanders many were not soldiers by profession. At the conclusion of hostilities with Germany, three of Canada's five fighting Divisions were commanded by officers who in 1939 had been captains or majors in the Non-Permanent Active Militia, and who were none of them even graduates of the Royal Military College. They were soldiers, and very good ones; but they were citizen soldiers. In this they were thoroughly representative. The typical Canadian fighting man of 1939-45 was a volunteer, who came forward of his own free will to do a duty which he did not find pleasant but which, he knew, had to be done. He forsook civil life with reluctance, and when the victory was won he returned to it with alacrity.

Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to suggest that the men who broke the Adolf Hitler Line or cleared the Hochwald were simply civilians in uniform. Nothing could be more undesirable than to foster in the minds of Canadians the dangerous delusion that any Canadian citizen can merely put on military costume and thereby find himself immediately a first-class soldier. The Canadian Corps of 1914-18 was effective in the field because it was a highly-trained and very experienced formation. The Canadian Army of 1939-45, by the time it went into action, was better trained than any peacetime regular troops have ever been. Even so, its units found that they still had something to learn on the battlefield. Regiments, and Armies, are not made overnight, however excellent the raw material (and the Canadian raw material was the best possible); they are formed, as Kipling once remarked, by the expenditure of time, money and blood. The increasingly scientific nature of war has only lengthened the time required. A Canadian general officer recently expressed the personal view, founded on very wide experience in the field in 1939-45, that "the modern infantry soldier requires at least twelve months' intensive training".

Yet no one who knew the Canadian Army of 1939-45 can doubt that it owed much of its effectiveness to the fact that it was Canadian. Many an observer has recorded how the pulse of the national life beat within the Corps of the First Great War, more and more strongly as the conflict proceeded. The men of the Second Great War inherited this national consciousness and to them their Army was a living symbol of their country's position in the world. They were proud of it and its specifically Canadian nature. And to a country only too conscious of its internal divisions it is a matter of importance that they thought of themselves as Canadians and not as citizens of a particular province or


local community. Circumstances forced the sense of embracing nationality upon them, and as time passed the local jealousies frequently found between units from different sections in the early months of the war steadily declined. Even between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians, with the formidable barrier of language to surmount, the comradeship of the battle field materially improved an understanding which had notoriously been far from perfect. It would be palpably absurd to suggest that the overseas Army wholly solved within itself this fundamental national problem, but it is the present writer's opinion that decided progress was made and that during the war mutual respect and liking between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians in the service grew in a marked degree. And he is quite certain that to many Canadians, returning from service abroad, who had grown accustomed to thinking of themselves as Canadians, and not as citizens of Nova Scotia or British Columbia, of Toronto or Montreal or Winnipeg, the rediscovery of the abiding localism of Canadian life came as a shock, and not a pleasant one. That localism, it is to be hoped, suffered some permanent weakening as the result of the experiences of Canadian men and women during the years between 1939 and 1945.

We have tried in this book to tell some part of the story of the most momentous undertaking in Canada's national history: her contribution to the overthrow of the bloodiest tyrannies of modern times. We have had a large canvas on which to paint, and if the picture lacks colour, definition or meaning the fault lies solely with the artist. During this war Canadian soldiers fought the Japanese in Asia and the Germans and Italians in Africa; they sailed to the Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen and to the fog-bound Aleutians; they did duty in Iceland, the Antilles and South America; they helped to extend the defences of Gibraltar. They were among the foremost of the defenders of the United Kingdom when it was the last citadel of European freedom. They bore the brunt of the largest and most significant of the Allies' raids against Europe's coast in the days when the enemy controlled it from the North Cape to the Pyrenees. Above all, they played their part, and that no small one, in two great campaigns: they fought for twenty arduous months in Italy, and were in the front of the fight in the last mighty struggle in North-West Europe from the Norman beaches to Luneburg Heath. They left a trail of triumphs behind them, and did honour to their country wherever they set the print of their hobnailed boots.

The Army that did these things is already little more than a memory. Many thousands of those who made its reputation sleep in


alien ground; and of the survivors the vast majority have returned to civilian pursuits and are scattered about the country and the world. Canadians will do well, however, to cherish the recollection of this remarkable fighting force. In the most desperate crisis of which human records tell, it was Canada's strong right arm. With it she intervened on the world's battlefield and struck good blows for the good cause. The men and women who made up this army dispersed gladly about their business when their task was done. They left to their fellow-Canadians, for today, the peace which they and their brave comrades of other services and other lands had bought with toil and blood; for tomorrow, and the myriad perils and uncertainties with which tomorrow is always fraught, they bequeathed to their countrymen, for their inspiration and support, a tradition of service, sacrifice and victory.


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