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 19 Dec 07

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Copyright © 1998-2007
Geoff Winnington-Ball
All Rights Reserved
The Canadian Army Overseas '39-'45
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IN THE LONG, HOT SUMMER of 1939, the storm clouds brewing over the continent of Europe began to take an ominous shape, and Commonwealth armies had begun to slowly shake off the lethargy brought on by two decades of neglect in the aftermath of the wholesale slaughter of World War I.
The hopeless, fragile bubble of an uneasy peace had finally burst.  
In Canada, a primarily agricultural dominion of 11 million souls, that meant a mad scramble on behalf of our miniscule, under-equipped 5,000-man Permanent Force to dust off long-ignored plans for a general mobilization and rearming. Frantic calls went out across the country to the units of the Active Militia to begin mobilizing for the coming conflict; and to industry at large to gear up for war production.
The Canada Decal
The 'Canada'
Many still hungry from the lean years of the recent depression, men from all walks of life all across the country dropped what they were doing and flocked into the headquarters of their local regiments to volunteer their services to king and country. Some showed up to parade dressed in the moth-eaten uniforms their uncles or fathers had worn in 1918; others with nothing but what they had on their backs.
In the beginning, there were no uniforms, boots, kit or weapons for them, save a few well-worn leftovers from WW1. It did not matter. The men came anyway, possessed of the same spirit which had carved this country out of an unforgiving wilderness only a few generations before. From the city and the farm, from the small town, the mine and the vast wasteland of the Canadian Shield, they brought with them a unique, quiet determination to finish the job their fathers had begun only a few years before. Their Monarch and their Nation had asked them to help; they set aside the tools with which they had carved a life and a living out of a harsh world, and prepared to face an uncertain future whose only acceptable object was... Victory.
CMP Trucks
Canadian Military
Pattern Truck
At the same time, our industry was setting up for wartime production, on an unprecedented scale. Vehicles, tanks, ships, aircraft, small arms and more poured off the assembly lines after a short, hectic tooling-up. While much of what was produced was adapted from British designs, all had a uniquely-Canadian stamp to it which denoted quality and reliability. Many examples survive today, and it's because of this we're able to bring you this web site, such as it is.
And our soldiers marched on, first to England in 1939, and hence to hitherto unknown environs such as Dieppe, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. It is not generally well known that until April 1945, a scant few weeks before the end of the war in Europe, the First Canadian Army was comprised entirely of volunteer troops. Canadian formations in both Italy and Northwest Europe consistently fought well-understrength through the balance of their wars, while hundreds of thousands of healthy, uniformed troops languished at home at the behest of a government lacking the will to impose overseas conscription. This, too, was as uniquely Canadian as was the tenacity and endurance of our fighting men themselves: the volunteers of the Canadian Army Overseas.
Canadian Armour
Ram Kangaroo
Their victory would one day be won, but at a cost undreamt-of by any at the time. Here we bring you one small element of their story. Lest We Forget.

MAPLE LEAF UPis an organization dedicated to the recovery, restoration and preservation of the artifacts of this unique period in Canadian history. The name, and the logo, are taken directly from the signs posted all the way along the road leading uo to the Canadian Front. This was the logistics lifeline, at one time extending from the Normandy beaches right through France and deep into the Low Countries. Along this hard-won path roared legions of Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) trucks, bearing their priceless cargos of food, ammunition, weapons and reinforcements; and back down from the Front, along a route appropriately marked 'MAPLE LEAF DOWN', the ambulances full of wounded gently picked their way around the craters and shell holes.

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It is to these volunteers of the Canadian Army Overseas that we dedicate this site. They did this country proud, and it's unlikely their kind will ever be seen again. In their twilight years, we remember them as those whose spirits personnified the best that Canada had to offer. MAPLE LEAF UP!
Join us now for a journey through into another era. Please click on any of the subject bars to the left to start.  

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