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The march to war accelerated in 1939 and the great powers rushed to find protection in alliances. The Soviet Union undertook to form an alliance with the British and French and asked Lord Halifax to come to Moscow for discussions. The British balked at the invitation due to their suspicions that the Soviets might use an alliance as an excuse to occupy and annex Poland. The British Foreign office eventually sent a minor official names Reginald Ranfurly Plunckett-Ernle-Erle-Drax who had no real power to negotiate and set off for the Soviet Union not by plane but by ship which took considerably longer.

The Soviets offered to sign an alliance with England, France, Poland and a few other countries in order to deter Germany from trying to invade or annex any more countries or territory. The Poles refused to allow any Soviet forces to enter their territory, the English and French believed that Germany and the Soviet Union were mortal enemies and would not accommodate each other and let the negotiations drag on.

Stalin was not entirely sure that the English and French might not be forming an alliance behind his back and felt increasing pressure to come up with something that would protect the interests of the Soviet Union. Stalin began to explore his other options. He came to believe that if he could stay out of the war that seemed to be coming, then the two blocks, the fascist and the democracies could once again bleed themselves dry as they did in the first world war. The Soviet Union could stand aside as the two alliances fought to a stalemate and the Soviet Union might then intervene on one side or the other for territorial gain.

The Germans did not want to fight a two front war and Hitler saw an opportunity to split the east and the west by offering the greedy Stalin more territory and benefits then he could refuse and neutralize the eastern front. This would leave Nazi Germany free to invade Poland and then turn all of their military force to the west to deal with France and England.

Canada continued to be an interested spectator in the unfolding events but did not interfere or offer to intervene in European affairs. Canada was still struggling to emerge from the depression while the regular army had been reduced after the first world war and by 1939 was a skeleton of what would be needed for any action abroad.

The German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was instructed by Hitler to determine whether the Eastern Front could be taken out of the equation by coming to terms with the Soviets and on August 14, 1939 he contacted his counterpart in the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav Molotov to see if they were interested. The Soviets viewed this proposal as an opportunity to avoid being the one country left out in the cold and the potential target of aggression. They agreed to negotiate and with 5 days had signed an economic agreement with the Germans and on August 23rd the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact was signed. The agreement was to last for 10 years and committed both countries to not attacking each other for that period. Hitler had his timetable and Poland and the west were the first on his list. The Soviets had guaranteed that if Germany attacked Poland and went to war with France and England, they would not become involved but would continue to supply Germany with the raw resources that were committed to in the economic agreement.

 

 

They also signed a third and secret pact which divided eastern Europe up between them in exchange for not going to war against each other. Poland would be divided, the Baltic states would go to the Soviet Union and a few other territories were allotted to one or the other.

The rest of the world was stunned to hear that the two arch rivals had signed the pact and many in the west realized that they had irrevocable blundered and that war was now imminent. Hitler also knew that war was coming and his plans left less then a week before the attack on Poland was to begin.

On September 1, 1939, claiming that the Poles had raided across the German boarder, Hitler launched the first Blitzkrieg and overran Poland in a few short weeks. The west was paralyzed with inaction and awaited Hitler's next move. The Second World War had begun.

On June 2, 1941 Hitler was to break the Nazi Soviet Pact by launching the largest land invasion in history upon the Soviet Union.

Canada was forced to act but responded with great hesitancy. The bloodbath of the WWI still remained a vivid memory to many Canadians and although the war started on September 4th it was not until September 4th that the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King began to act and his actions were those of someone looking for an exit from the theatre. He instructed the finance minister that the approval of expenditures should be for no more then a force that would protect Canada's shores. He then instructed the Minister of Defence to downplay recruiting in order to avoid to much excitement. King felt that Canada might not even send any troops to fight in Europe.

On September 7th King was surprised to hear from his cabinet that Canada should prepare to send an expeditionary force and the mobilization plan which had been initiated on September 1st began to be envisioned as the process by which this force would be organized and dispatched to England. Finally, on September 19th, Canada declared war on Germany and entered the Second World War. 

 




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Reference: www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/eras.html