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Banner: From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History

Canadian Military History: An Overview
War of 1812
Rebellions of 1837 and 1838
Northwest Campaign
South African War
First World War
Second World War

General References

Government and the Military

Troops and Traditions

Personal Stories

Aboriginal Peoples

Multicultural Communities


Art, Music and Literature


Web Research
Second World War


The authors have included the English edition of works if they are available in both French and English. Items marked with an asterisk (*) are known to be available in French. Most titles included in this guide are held by Library and Archives Canada, and many are available for interlibrary loan, both within Canada and abroad.

The Second World War and Family History

The first point of contact for many researchers investigating the military career of a family member is the individual's personal military file, controlled by Library and Archives Canada. However, unlike the case of the First World War, many veterans of the second conflict are still alive or have died recently and therefore enjoy the protection of the Privacy Act. Complete access to a file may only be available with the veteran's permission. If the subject of research died during the war, "The Canadian Virtual War Memorial"
, sponsored by Veterans Affairs Canada, is an invaluable source of information, with links to the official Canadian "Books of Remembrance" and the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

To put an individual's service into perspective, the researcher may wish to consult the published unit history of the ship, regiment or squadron in which the individual served, as well as unpublished military unit war diaries, air force operations record books or naval reports of proceedings. In addition to providing context for an individual's service, such books and documents could provide additional personal information about those serving with a particular unit. Some unit histories are listed in this pathfinder. The unpublished diaries can be located through the Library and Archives Canada website Further biographical information can be found in published guides to wartime honours and awards, as well as in the honour rolls and service rolls of towns, universities and schools, churches and even some businesses.

A torrent of books and studies have come forth recently on subjects such as the politics of the war, the home front, and land, sea and air operations. Published memoirs, diaries, collections of letters, or similar materials placed more recently on the World Wide Web, provide information about the impact of the war on individuals. Local newspapers, a large number of which are available on microfilm through Library and Archives Canada, can provide a view of the consequences of the war at the local level and a variety of information on the wartime service of individuals from the community.

Material of interest to the family historian is found throughout this pathfinder, but the Web Research section and the works in this Commemoration section that pertain to Decorations and Medals, Service Rolls and Rolls of Honour and Memorials, Monuments and Graves may be particularly useful.

Included here are a few examples of successful models for family or organizational history, as well as Dubé's and Wright's guides to Canadian military service records.

Brown, Elizabeth, et al. -- The Army's Mister Brown : a family trilogy, 1941-1952. -- Edited by Harcourt Brown. -- Parry Sound, Ont. : H. Brown, 1982. -- viii, 234 p.

  • A fine family history of Robert Brown, who served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in the Pacific; Quentin Brown in the RCN in the Atlantic; and Elizabeth Brown, who was in UNRRA

Dubé, Timothy. -- "Per ardua ad astra : a concise guide to Canadian personnel records and RCAF service information of the Second World War". -- Canadian military history. -- Vol. 9, no. 1 (Winter 2000). -- P. 75-79

In the morning : biographical sketches of the veterans of Victoria County, Cape Breton, that served in both World Wars. -- Edited by Bonnie Thornhill and W. James MacDonald. -- Sydney, N.S. : Univ. College of Cape Breton Press, 1999. -- 567 p.

They served for freedom = À la défense de la liberté. -- Edited by Wellington Legion War Veterans Club. -- [Wellington, P.E.I. : Royal Canadian Legion, Wellington Branch 17], 1986. -- 319 p.

  • Includes short biographies of the members of the Wellington, P.E.I., Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion from both world wars

Wright, Glenn. -- "Standing on guard for us : documenting Canadian military service in the twentieth century". -- Families. -- Vol. 33, no. 2 (1994). -- P. 85-97

Young, Albert Charles. -- 24 good men and true : members of Branch #142 of the Royal Canadian Legion. -- New York : Vantage Press, 1992. -- 219 p.

  • Stories of veterans of both world wars

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