Second World War Timeline | The Canadian Encyclopedia
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Second World War Timeline

The Second World War was one of the most significant events in Canadian history. Canada played a vital role in the Battle of the Atlantic, and contributed forces to the campaigns of western Europe beyond what might be expected of a small nation of then only 11 million people. Between 1939 and 1945 more than one million Canadian men and women served full-time in the armed services.

Dieppe Raid
  1. September 01, 1939

    Second World War Timeline 

    World War II Begins

    World War II began when Adolf Hitler sent the German army into Poland.

  2. September 03, 1939

    Second World War Timeline 

    Wartime Prices and Trade Board

    The Wartime Prices and Trade Board was established to control inflation and to ensure that social unrest did not interfere with the upcoming war effort.

  3. September 10, 1939

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canada Declares War on Germany

    Canada declared war on Germany, 7 days after Britain and France. The first Canadian troops left for England in December. Although "obliged to go to war at Britain's side," King's delay of a week was a symbolic gesture of independence.

  4. December 10, 1939

    Second World War Timeline 

    First Troops Sail for Britain

    The first Canadian troop convoy sailed for Britain escorted out of Halifax by HMC ships Ottawa, Restigouche, Fraser and St. Laurent.

  5. December 17, 1939

    Second World War Timeline 

    Air Training Plan Established

    The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was established. Operating from 1940–45 the BCATP trained some 131,000 airmen — one-half the total Commonwealth aircrew — a decisive Canadian contribution to victory in the Second World War.

  6. April 11, 1940

    Second World War Timeline 

    Vancouver Shipyards Gear up for War

    Vancouver shipyards began to build corvettes and minesweepers for action in the Battle of the Atlantic.

  7. April 25, 1940

    Second World War Timeline 

    Québec Women Get Vote

    Québec women were the last in Canada to earn the rights to vote and run for office in provincial elections.

  8. June 05, 1940

    Communist Party of Canada

    Second World War Timeline 

    Communists Declared Illegal

    Nazi, Fascist and Communist groups were declared illegal in Canada, and their leaders were jailed.

  9. June 21, 1940

    Second World War Timeline 

    Conscription Act Passed

    Parliament passed the National Resources Mobilization Act, providing for the conscription of able-bodied men for home defence. It was amended in 1942 by Bill 80, giving the government power to conscript for overseas service.

  10. June 21, 1940

    Second World War Timeline 

    National Resources Mobilization

    The National Resources Mobilization Act responded to the public clamour for a more effective Canadian war effort that arose in the wake of the stunning German victories in Belgium and France.

  11. August 05, 1940

    Camillien Houde

    Second World War Timeline 

    Houde Arrested for Sedition

    Camillien Houde, the mayor of Montréal, was arrested by the RCMP for sedition in having advised Québec men not to take part in the compulsory National Registration.

  12. August 17, 1940

    W.L.M. King and F.D. Roosevelt

    Second World War Timeline 

    Ogdensburg Agreement

    PM Mackenzie King and President Roosevelt held a conference on the defence of North America at Ogdensburg, NY. The Odgensburg Agreement was signed, and the Permanent Joint Board of Defence was created on August 18.

  13. August 25, 1940

    Second World War Timeline 

    McNab Meets Enemy

    Squadron Leader E.A. McNab, of the Canadian fighter squadron, first met the enemy during the Battle of Britain. By October the squadron had downed 30 enemy aircraft.

  14. January 23, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    German Prisoner Escapes

    Oberleutant Franz von Warrna escaped from a train near Smiths Falls, Ont., and returned to Europe. He was the only German prisoner of war to make it back across the Atlantic from Canada.

  15. April 20, 1941

    W.L.M. King and F.D. Roosevelt

    Second World War Timeline 

    Hyde Park Declaration

    Mackenzie King and F.D. Roosevelt signed the Hyde Park Declaration, uniting the economies of the two countries for war.

  16. April 29, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Women Admitted to the Québec Bar

    Québec law was changed to admit women to the Bar. They would have to wait until 1956 to become notaries.

  17. June 11, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Census Released

    The census reported the population of Canada as 11 506 655.

  18. June 27, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Women Enlist in Army

    The federal government passed legislation that allowed women to enlist in the army.

  19. August 14, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Atlantic Charter

    At Placentia Bay, Nfld, British prime minister Winston Churchill and American president F.D. Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter.

  20. August 18, 1941

    Jean Flatt Davey

    Second World War Timeline 

    Jean Flatt Davey is Appointed to the CWAAF Medical Branch

    After being recruited for the newly created Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (CWAAF) in 1941, Jean Flatt Davey was appointed to the medical branch. She was the first female doctor to become a commissioned officer in the Canadian Armed Forces and only the second officer (after Kathleen Oonah Walker) commissioned in the CWAAF. Davey and Walker soon toured the country, selecting the first 150 members of the CWAAF.

  21. September 18, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Vancouver Asahi Play Last Game

    The Vancouver Asahi played their last baseball game as the Japanese community was banished to exile on farms and internment camps.

  22. December 07, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canada Declares War on Romania

    Canada declared war on Romania, Hungary, Finland and Japan.

  23. December 07, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Japan Attacks Pearl Harbor

    Immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, 38 Japanese Canadians were arrested as subversives. Twelve weeks after the attack, the federal government used the War Measures Act to order the removal of all Japanese Canadians residing within 160 km of the Pacific Coast. About 21,000 Japanese Canadians in BC, more than 75 per cent of whom were Canadian citizens, were fingerprinted, issued identification cards and removed from their homes. More than 8,000 were moved to a temporary detention camp (where women and children were held in a livestock building) at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver. (See Japanese Canadians Held at Hastings Park.)

  24. December 08, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canada Declares War on Japan

    Canada joined Great Britain and the US in declaring war on Japan after the Japanese attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7.

  25. December 08, 1941

    Canadian and British prisoners in Hong Kong, waiting to be liberated, 30 August 1945.

    Second World War Timeline 

    Japanese Attack Hong Kong

    The Japanese attacked the mainland (Kowloon) side of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong itself on December 18. Hong Kong surrendered on December 25. Numerous Canadians were killed or died in Japanese prison camps.

  26. December 19, 1941

    Second World War Timeline 

    Osborn Earns Victoria Cross

    Gallantry shown by Company Sergeant-Major J.R. Osborn, Royal Winnipeg Grenadiers, in action against the Japanese at Hong Kong on this date led to the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.

  27. January 01, 1942

    United Nations Headquarters

    Second World War Timeline 

    United Nations Term Used

    The name "United Nations", coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was first used in the "Declaration by United Nations" of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

  28. January 13, 1942

    HMCS <i>Halifax</i>

    Second World War Timeline 

    Operation Drumbeat

    Germany's first strategic advance by submarines on North American shores began as Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag).

  29. January 14, 1942

    An internment camp for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, 1945.

    Second World War Timeline 

    Order-in-Council Authorizes Internment of Japanese Canadians

    A federal Order-in-Council declared a zone extending 100 miles inland from British Columbia’s Pacific coast as a “protected area” and authorized the removal of all male Japanese nationals between the ages of 18 and 45 to interior internment camps. Two months later, the removals would be expanded to include all Japanese Canadians. The internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War is a deep scar on our historical memory.

  30. February 26, 1942

    An internment camp for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, 1945.

    Second World War Timeline 

    Japanese Canadians Interned

    Invoking the War Measures Act, the Department of Justice issued a notice that called for the internment of citizens of Japanese ancestry. Some 20,881 men, women and children, 75 per cent of whom were Canadian citizens, were removed from their homes and moved to temporary detention camps. They remained in detention for the remainder of the Second World War.

  31. June 20, 1942

    Second World War Timeline 

    Japanese Shell BC Coast

    A Japanese submarine fired a few shells at Estevan Point on Vancouver Island, with no damage.

  32. July 20, 1942

    Sicily, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    Veterans' Land Act

    The Veterans' Land Act made provision for returning veterans to obtain loans in order to buy land.

  33. August 07, 1942

    Second World War Timeline 

    Battle for Guadalcanal

    Guadalcanal, in the southern Solomon Islands, was assaulted by the US Marines in one of the most bitterly fought campaigns of World War II.

  34. August 19, 1942

    Dieppe Raid

    Second World War Timeline 

    Dieppe Raid

    Canadian and British troops raided the French port of Dieppe to test German defences. The raid lasted only 9 hours, but of the nearly 5000 Canadian soldiers involved, more than 900 were killed and 1874 taken prisoner.

  35. August 19, 1942

    Second World War Timeline 

    Merritt Awarded Victoria Cross

    Vancouver's Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt became the first Canadian in WWII to win the Victoria Cross, for his bravery during the Dieppe Raid. Taken prisoner, he spent the rest of the war in POW camps.

  36. September 09, 1942

    Second World War Timeline 

    Wartime Information Board

    The Wartime Information Board was established to influence the public's interpretation of the war.

  37. Second World War Timeline 

    Sinking of the SS Caribou

    A German U-boat sank the Sydney to Channel-Port Aux Basques ferry, SS Caribou, with the loss of 167 lives - the worst inshore disaster of the Battle of the Atlantic in Canada.

  38. November 08, 1942

    Victoria Cross

    Second World War Timeline 

    Frederick Peters Earns Victoria Cross

    Actions by Captain Frederick Peters of the Royal Navy at Oran, North Africa earned him the Victoria Cross.

  39. November 08, 1942

    Second World War Timeline 

    German Agent Lands

    The first German agent landed from a U-boat off New Carlisle, Québec and was promptly arrested by the police.

  40. January 01, 1943

    First Lancaster Bomber

    Second World War Timeline 

    RCAF Bomber Group

    The airmen of the Canadian bomber squadrons became part of 6 Group, the first non-British formation to become part of the RAF Bomber Command. They flew their first operation on January 3/4 laying mines off the Frisian Islands.

  41. January 13, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    HMCS Ville de Quebec Sinks U-Boat

    HMCS Ville de Quebec sank the German submarine U-224 in the western Mediterranean Sea.

  42. February 02, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    Germans Surrender at Stalingrad

    The German army surrendered to the Soviet army at Stalingrad, generally considered one of the turning points of WWII.

  43. July 10, 1943

    Sicily, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    Invasion of Sicily

    The Canadian 1st Infantry Division and the 1st Tank Brigade took part in the invasion of Sicily.

  44. August 17, 1943

    W.L.M. King and F.D. Roosevelt

    Second World War Timeline 

    Québec War Conference

    Churchill and Roosevelt held the 6th Anglo-American War Conference, hosted by Mackenzie King (first Québec Conference) in Québec City.

  45. August 24, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    British-Canadian Nuclear Research Program Merges with American Manhattan Project

    At the beginning of the Second World War, the UK’s nuclear weapons program was the most developed in the world. It had been transferred to Canada in 1942 due to the threat of a Nazi invasion and the bombing of Britain. At the Quebec Conference of August 1943, the British-Canadian program merged with the American Manhattan Project. Canada supplied and processed uranium, researched the production of plutonium, and provided scientists and facilities.

  46. September 18, 1943

    Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS)

    Second World War Timeline 

    Adelaide Sinclair Becomes First Canadian Director of the WRCNS

    Adelaide Sinclair was appointed commander of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS). Under her leadership, the service grew significantly. By the end of the war, more than 6,700 women had joined the WRCNS. Canadian “Wrens” served in 39 trades, from administration and signalling to coding and intelligence. Sinclair was director of the WRCNS until 1946, when the service was disbanded. She was the first Canadian director of the service as well as the first woman in the Royal Canadian Navy to earn the rank of captain.

  47. October 14, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canada Medal Approved

    The Canada Medal was approved by King George VI and the Canadian Cabinet. It was the first distinctly Canadian decoration, although it was never awarded.

  48. December 14, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    Triquet Awarded Victoria Cross

    Major Paul Triquet, Royal 22nd Regiment, was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in Italy.

  49. December 20, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    Battle of Ortona

    Infantry from the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada attacked Ortona, Italy. The German forces withdrew on the night of December 27.

  50. January 08, 1944

    Second World War Timeline 

    HMCS Camrose Sinks U-boat

    HMCS Camrose and HMS Bayntun sank the German submarine U-757 in the North Atlantic.

  51. March 20, 1944

    Henry Duncan Graham Crerar, army officer

    Second World War Timeline 

    Crerar Appointed Commander

    Henry Duncan Graham Crerar was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the 1st Canadian Army.

  52. September 01, 1944

    Dieppe Raid

    Second World War Timeline 

    Liberation of Dieppe

    The 1st Canadian Army liberated Dieppe, scene of the previous disaster.

  53. September 11, 1944

    Québec Conference, 1943

    Second World War Timeline 

    2nd Québec War Conference

    The 2nd Québec Conference of Allied leaders Winston Churchill and F.D. Roosevelt was held at the Château Frontenac in Québec City, hosted by Mackenzie King.

  54. October 01, 1944

    Second World War Timeline 

    Battle of the Scheldt Estuary

    The 2nd Canadian Division crossed the Antwerp Canal to begin the freeing of the Scheldt estuary and the port of Antwerp.

  55. October 20, 1944

    Second World War Timeline 

    Battle for Aachen

    After a fierce defence by the Germans under Gen Hermann Balck, the Allies captured Aachen, the first German city captured by the Allies in World War II.

  56. November 29, 1944

    Second World War Timeline 

    Troops Mutiny at Terrace, BC

    Officers regained control of their troops at the Terrace, BC, army base after 5 days of mutiny among soldiers, the most serious breach of discipline in the Canadian military during WWII.

  57. December 24, 1944

    Second World War Timeline 

    Clayoquot Torpedoed

    HMCS Clayoquot was torpedoed by U-boat 806 and sinks in the Halifax approaches.

  58. December 27, 1944

    Second World War Timeline 

    HMCS St. Thomas Sinks U-boat

    HMCS St. Thomas sank the German submarine U-877 in the North Atlantic.

  59. January 16, 1945

    After a series of fierce battles, Canadians finally seized Falaise on 16 August 1944.

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canadian Casualties Announced

    Canadian casualties from the start of the Second World War to November 30, 1944, were reported at 78 985, including 28 040 killed.

  60. January 20, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    First Conscripts Overseas

    The first of Canada's home defence forces conscripted for overseas duty arrived in Britain. The government confirmed that over 6000 "zombies" absent without leave in Canada would be classed as deserters.

  61. February 08, 1945

    Battle of the Rhineland

    Second World War Timeline 

    Operation Veritable

    Operation Veritable, a joint offensive by the 1st Canadian Army and British troops, was launched in the Rhineland area of Holland.

  62. February 24, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    CBC Shortwave Radio Service

    The CBC began its international shortwave radio service. The first broadcasts were directed mainly to Canadian forces overseas.

  63. February 25, 1945

    Victoria Cross

    Second World War Timeline 

    Cosens Earns Victoria Cross

    Sergeant Aubrey Cosens of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada earned the Victoria Cross for his heroism in fighting with the 1st Canadian Army in the Battle for the Rhineland. He died in action.

  64. March 01, 1945

    Victoria Cross

    Second World War Timeline 

    Tilston Wins Victoria Cross

    Major Frederick Tilston of the Canadian Army won a Victoria Cross for leading an attack on the Hochwald Forest defence line in the Battle for the Rhineland.

  65. March 05, 1945

    United Nations Headquarters

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canada Attends UN Conference

    Canada was invited to attend the United Nations Conference in San Francisco.

  66. March 24, 1945

    Victoria Cross

    Second World War Timeline 

    Topham Wins Victoria Cross

    Corporal Frederick George Topham, a medical orderly with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, won the Victoria Cross for rescuing wounded men despite his own injuries in fighting east of the Rhine River in Germany.

  67. March 29, 1945

    Officers Group #2

    Second World War Timeline 

    Air Training Plan Closes

    A ceremony in Ottawa marked the closing of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. One of Canada's major contributions to the Second World War, the plan trained 130 000 pilots.

  68. April 14, 1945

    Celebration, Netherlands 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Liberation of Arnhem, Holland

    Troops of the 1st Canadian Army liberated Arnhem in Holland after 2 days of fighting.

  69. April 16, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Sinking of HMCS Esquimalt

    German U-boat U-190 sank HMCS Esquimalt near the Halifax lightship. U-190 surrendered to Canada on 11 May 1945 and was sunk ceremonially on 21 October 1947 where she had destroyed the Esquimalt.

  70. April 18, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Push to the IJsselmeer

    1st Canadian Corps pushed north to the Ijsselmeer, isolating German forces in the western Netherlands.

  71. May 07, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    VE-Day Riots

    Victory in Europe Day (VE-Day) riots broke out in Halifax. About 10 000 servicemen looted and vandalized the city's downtown.

  72. May 07, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Germans Surrender

    The Germans surrendered unconditionally to the western Allies, and to the Soviets the next day.

  73. May 07, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    End of World War II in Europe

    Hostilities ceased in Europe. The unconditional surrender of Germany was signed at Rheims on May 7, and it was ratified at Berlin on May 8.

  74. June 26, 1945

    United Nations Headquarters

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canada Joins United Nations

    Canada joined the United Nations at its founding.

  75. July 18, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Bedford Magazine Explosion

    An ammunition barge blew up at the naval magazine jetty on Bedford Basin, Halifax harbour. A chain reaction of fire, explosion and concussion rocked Halifax for a day.

  76. August 06, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima

    An atomic weapon was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, leaving 130 000 people dead or missing.

  77. August 09, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Bomb Dropped on Nagasaki

    The second atomic bomb of World War II was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

  78. August 09, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Last Canadian Recepient of Victoria Cross Dies

    Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray of Trail, BC, died attacking a Japanese warship in the Pacific. He was the last Canadian (and the only fighter pilot in WWII) to receive the Victoria Cross.

  79. September 02, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Japanese Formally Surrender

    The formal surrender of the Japanese took place on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, bringing the Second World War to a close. Altogether 1,086,771 Canadians, including 49,252 women, served in the armed forces. Total fatalities were 41,992.

  80. December 14, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Canadian Prisoners Shot

    Nazi general Kurt Meyer personally gave orders for Canadian prisoners of war to be shot.

  81. December 28, 1945

    Second World War Timeline 

    Nazi Prisoner in Canada

    A Canadian military court in Aurich, Germany, found Major-General Kurt Meyer guilty of war crimes: he was the only Nazi prisoner imprisoned in Canada after the war.

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