08 May 2020

WW II: those who served in Europe

Even after 75 years there is no database of Canadians who served in Europe in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

One source that is (somewhat) available is lists of soldiers repatriated.

According to the official history on VE Day the strength of the Canadian Army in the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe was 281,757 all ranks.  Repatriation started in the following month when 15,665 men and women of the Army left the UK. In July, 33,775 Army personnel moved towards Canada. By the end of December 184,054 Army men and women had returned. The period of the largest movement was December 1945 and January 1946 when 82,474 of all ranks returned. The strength of the overseas army on 31 January 1947 was down to 630 all ranks.

The records are described at Library and Archives Canada as "Directorate of Movements" and are in the National Defence records, microfilm only, originals likely destroyed after filming. The marine activities rail and air activities are on microfilms C-5547 to C-5568 and C-5589 to C-5741.

Many of the reels are on Heritage/Canadiana but none I could find had the repatriation passenger lists. There were some images like that below, many are fuzzy, that document where individuals in a Corps which was on leave would be -- often the wife.

I'm told that when Canadiana acquired "Directorate of Movements" microfilm from LAC many were not open, but they are now. When LAC reopens we'll see if we can get them made available to Canadiana. A step toward a searchable list.

Another source is lists published in newspapers. Some Ottawa examples are:

List of Names of Ottawa Cameron Highlanders and Other Troops Aboard Mauretania
The Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) 07 Dec 1945, Fri Page 7

List Names of 558 Ottawa and District Troops Expected to Arrive at Halifax January 2
The Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) 31 Dec 1945, Mon Page 8

Families Jam Ottawa Station to Welcome Returning Glens
The Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)31 Dec 1945, Mon Page 9


John McConkey said...

My father (Sergeant, RCAF) was repatriated in May 1945 but arrived from the UK to New York and then traveled by train to Montreal. I wonder if this was the normal route back.

JDR said...

Do you know why he returned at that time? He would be the exception rather than the rule, but it certainly wasn't unknown. My great uncle returned to Canada via NY toward the end of the First World War.

John McConkey said...

That's interesting, John. It never occurred to me that my father was repatriated early. He was a radar technician based on the Isle of Wight in 1942 (where he met my mother). In 1943 he and his unit were posted to North Africa. They then followed the invasion force through Sicily to Italy using their mobile radar equipment to provide early warning of approaching enemy aircraft.

JDR said...

I wonder if he volunteered to serve in the Pacific. That was one reason for early repatriation.