W force : the Canadian Army and the defence of Newfoundland in the Second World War

Kavanagh, Robert L. (1995) W force : the Canadian Army and the defence of Newfoundland in the Second World War. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

In 1934, with the virtual collapse of its economy, Newfoundland surrendered representative and responsible government to a commission appointed by the government of the United Kingdom. At the same time technology such as the airplane was increasing Newfoundland's strategic worth and making its security an important factor in the defence of North America. Yet, on the eve of World War II Newfoundland had no local defence forces and depended for protection on the distant and overextended resources of Britain's Royal Navy. -- When the international situation deteriorated during the late 1930s Canada became concerned about Newfoundland's military weakness but was reluctant to become involved in the colony's defence. With the fall of France in 1940 Canada's relationship with Newfoundland underwent a fundamental shift. Changing strategic considerations and the country's own defence requirements led directly to Canadian intervention. The despatch of military and air force units to secure Newfoundland's vital airfields represented the first stage of an extended commitment to the island's defence. -- A greater extension of Canadian control over Newfoundland's defence came with the establishment of W Force. Comprised of elements of Canada's expanded wartime army, W Force was assigned responsibility for defending the island against enemy incursions and providing security for existing and proposed defence facilities. -- The American decision to station troops in Newfoundland in 1940 posed a threat to Canada's pre-eminent role in the island's defence. The Canadian response was to hedge American command responsibility, to increase the Canadian commitment and to integrate Newfoundland into the Canadian defence orbit. -- Newfoundland became less important to North American defence as the war effort shifted towards Europe and the Allied invasion of German-occupied Europe. This led to a reduction of Canadian Active Service Force units in Newfoundland and their replacement with personnel conscripted under the National Resources Mobilization Act, a situation that continued until the end of the war. -- Since the last decade of the nineteenth century Canada and Newfoundland had come closer together socially, culturally and commercially. World War II now brought them together strategically and militarily. The interaction between Canadians and Newfoundlanders was for the most part amicable and ultimately beneficial for both. For Canada it had been a costly but necessary investment, given the tenor of the times. Tens of millions had been poured into the Newfoundland economy creating thousands of jobs and an infrastructure that lasted beyond the war. Canadian undertakings in Newfoundland were, however, based on sound military practice and research for this paper found no evidence that Canada's activities were motivated by anything other than wartime exigencies.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5557
Item ID: 5557
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 193-199.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > History
Date: 1995
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Canada. Canadian Army--History; Canada. Canadian Army. W Force; World War, 1939-1945--Newfoundland and Labrador; Newfoundland and Labrador--History, Military; Newfoundland and Labrador--Strategic aspects

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