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Hie 208 4 1 1 Essay

1032 words - 5 pages

HIE 208 – Canadian Military History
Assignment 4-1-1

Canadian Armed Forces at the Outbreak of War in 1939?
Lessons Learned and Relearned from Great War

Royal Military College of Canada (RMC)

To discuss the condition of the Canadian Armed Forces prior to the outbreak of

World War II we must first look at the political climate, culture and economy leading up to

1939. During this time Canada was in a policy of Isolationism after recovering form the

massive loss of life in the Great War.1 An anti-war sentiment stemmed from the

war time losses of over 60,000 Canadians – great losses for a ...view middle of the document...

The Navy was devastated by King’s 1922 decision to reduce it by 40 percent only

maintaining two Destroyers.4 Despite the cutbacks, Commodore Hose was able to establish a

1000 man strong Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. The Air Force established in

1920 was due to British contribution of almost 5 million dollars.5 To ensure the survival of

the Air Force it was tied to civil aviation development. Coupled with the development of the

British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which trained aircrews from Commonwealth in

Canada at the British expense, the Air Force was able to maintain a small element. After

World War I Canadians were not mentally prepared for another war and the King’s

government went as far as to reject Hitler as a major threat. Nevertheless, on the eve of

World War II, Canada was not prepared for war. “Twenty years of neglect had weakened

Canada’s defences. The nation could not even defend its own coasts, let alone dispatch fully

equipped and trained forces to Europe.”6 This narrow vision of world events resulted in

Canada relearned the same lessons of unpreparedness it had been situated in prior to outbreak

of World War I.

During World War I, Hughes chaotic mobilization included recruiting problems and

problems producing war equipment – the very same problems now faced by King.7 At the

start of World War I the military was not ready to go to war when it was sent and they were

not prepared for a long fight. The same was true for the Canadian military at the start of

World War II. Consequently, much like the Borden government in World War I, the King

government had to use conscription and force military service. Conscription divided Canada

along language and cultural lines – French versus English Canada. Once again, conscription

had little impact on the war as World War II ended less than a year later and worsened

relations between English-French Canada.

The military of World War I had failed to grasp technology fast enough before battle

and this was the similar fate for the soldiers going to the front in World War II. In both cases

it can be argued that a lack...

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