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Sixty years ago, on June 6, 1944, the liberation of Europe began with the d_day invasion, involving the combined forces of Great Britain, the United States, Canada and their allies. Several Ontario-based regiments participated in the landings and fighting on a section of the beach at Normandy code-named Juno.
Canada spent 4 years training and equipping its own armed forces
and those of its allies in anticipation of participating in the
liberation of Europe. During that time Canadian airmen and seamen
fought in the Battle of Britain and the Battle
of the Atlantic. Elements of the Canadian army helped
defend Hong Kong in 1941 and led the Raid
on Dieppe in 1942. The Canadian army played a significant
role in the invasion of Sicily and the mainland
of Italy in 1943, leading to battles at Ortona,
the Liri Valley and the Gothic Line.
But the main effort to defeat Germany by the Western Allies was
always expected to come in northwestern Europe.
The Allied landings at Normandy on June 6th, and the subsequent break through of the German lines came at a high cost in lives and material destruction. 14,000 Canadians landed on the first day of the invasion. By the Fall of 1944, the First Canadian Army had more than 100,000 men in Europe as the long campaign to liberate France, Belgium and Holland continued.
The Archives of Ontario has many records from this period, but very few relating to the military campaigns in Europe. We are remembering the contribution of Ontario, its citizens and all Canadian soldiers on that day by exploring how the Home Front supported the war effort through the recruitment and training of soldiers, the production of arms and raising the financial resources needed to pay for it all.
Listen to four women war workers at the General Engineering munitions plant in Scarborough as they explain how they felt when they heard the invasion had begun. These clips were taken from the radio program Let's Visit (1945).
“…he told me not to worry. I feel that our job is so much more important now because we can see how the ammunition is being used. The sooner it is turned out, the sooner they will be home. I thought a little nervous at first, then remembered this is what he had waited for five years. I am sure he is happy, now that he can play his part in helping make this world at peace for his two sons.”
Mrs. Frieda White (who received a cable from her husband just prior to the invasion)