From the rubble of forgotten war efforts such as the Indigenous soldiers or the women in the front lines, the civilian efforts to help in World War 2 lies at the very bottom of it. In September of 1939, Canada declared war on Germany sparking the Canadian involvement in WW2. Most able men from the east and west coast had enlisted into the military, the remainder were women, children, the elderly and the disabled. They’re considered civilians as they weren’t apart of any armed forces or the police force.
While most of the recognition for the allies victory in WW2 went to the soldiers, civilians were essentially the backbone of the Canadian army. Civilians had played an important role in supporting Canada during world war 2. They’ve supplied the allies with arms, volunteered overseas for reasons outside of the military, helped fund and feed the army, as well as give humanitarian aid.
To begin with, civilians were behind the mass production of war arms for the allies.
After the departure of the soldiers, Canada needed a strong workforce at home to supply the allies at war. This proved successful with the efforts of factory workers. Following the battle of Dunkirk, British troops had left behind 75 000 of their 80 000 military vehicles. Canada’s response to this produced 800 000 transport vehicles, 50 000 tanks and well over a million small arms (“Canadian Production of War Materials”). Britain had few allies at the beginning of WW2 as the rest of Europe was under Nazi control. This meant the British and the remainder of the allies had to rely on Canada to supply the war.
The munition and vehicle production rate of Canada ended up being fourth among all the allies. To put this into perspective, for every 6 soldiers they’d be 2 tanks made (“Canadian Production of War Materials”). Aside from just tanks and vehicles, civilians had also mass-produced warships. A combined total of 126 000 workers were hired in 90 different shipbuilding plants across Canada. Their collective effort had produced 4047 naval ships, 300 anti-submarine warships, 410 cargo ships and 348 ten thousand tonne ships (“The War Economy and Controls: Shipping and Shipbuilding”). In addition to shipbuilding, Canada has also produced 16 000 aircraft, one of them being the mosquito. Known as the fastest aircraft used by the allies in WW2, the mosquito is an example of a community contribution to the war. Various small companies helped in making specific parts of the mosquito, such as the Canadian Power Boat Company that made the flaps. All these parts made by different companies were later sent to factories to be assembled (“Canadian Production of War Materials”). In short, the everyday work of civilian factory workers had greatly assisted the allies on the Warfield. Approximately $9.5 million worth of material was made with 70% of those materials going to the allies. Without the mass production of arms by civilians, the allies would have been a great loss.
Secondly, civilian volunteers provided help for background problems. Throughout WW2, Britain was always in short supply of resources, such as lumber. This time it wasn’t because of the lack of trees, but rather the lack of loggers. The Newfoundland Forestry Unit was made in response to this. It was specifically requested for the unit to be made of civilians to avoid training an army (Civilian Support to the Armed Forces). As a result, 3600 men had volunteered and were sent overseas to harvest trees. Later on, 2100 of these loggers were to be a part of the British Home Guard. Another example of noncombat help was the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which had sent over 70 000 potential pilots to study abroad in Canada. There were 6000 civilians employed as chefs, mechanics, engineers, and laborers. (“The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan”) Furthermore, the flying course was often taught by local airline companies and flying clubs, ones that included experienced pilot veterans of WW1. Even communities have pitched in by paying for the flight program. As much as 14 schools were completely funded by civilians. Lastly, a well known civilian organization that assisted in non-combat aspects of the war overseas was the Corps of (Civilian) Canadian Firefighters. After the German Blitzkrieg attacks, many British cities had caught fire. To help The British National Fire Service put out fires, the Corps of Civilian Canadian Firefighters was made in 1942. Over 400 men from different career backgrounds were enlisted and sent overseas. Most of the firemen were students, clerks, accountants, truck drivers or backup firemen before they joined the corp (Civilian Support to the Armed Forces). Unlike the normal firemen at home, the Corp of Civilian Canadian Firefighters had to learn to deal with enemy bombs as well as putting out fires. In addition to this, they also built fire stations. Eventually, the Canadians became in charge of handling fires as the British National Fire service withdrew from the program. The corp was expected to be on call and respond to fires that were as far as 50 miles away. In 1944 with the war nearing its end, the corp returned home to Canada with the feeling of pride on their shoulders for doing a good deed. Though the times of war were tough for Britain, Canadian volunteers fixing background problems led to a smoother path towards victory.