Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 239–258 | Cite as

Prisoner of War Relief and Humanitarianism in Canadian External Policy During the Second World War

  • Neville Wylie


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 0.
    Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 3rd Transatlantic Studies Conference, Dundee, July 2004, and the London Conference on Canadian Studies, Christ Church Canterbury, October 2004. The author would like to thank Greg Kennedy, Hamish Ion, Keith Neilsen, Tony McCullough, Terry Crowley and Hector Mackenzie for their comments on these drafts, as well as the journal’s two anonymous ‘readers’.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    Roosevelt had suggested the role when he met King in November 1935 and returned to the image four years later during the Royal visit to America in June 1939. See Canadian National Archive (hereafter NAC.). MG26 J. W. L. Mackenzie King diaries, entries for 8 Nov. 1935, and 11 June 1939. For the royal visit to the United States and Canada, see David J. Reynolds, ‘FDR’s Foreign Policy and the British Royal Visit to the USA, 1939’, Historian, 45 (1983), 461–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 1a.
    Peter Bell, ‘The Foreign Office and the 1939 Royal Visit to America: Courting the USA in an era of isolationism’, Journal of Contemporary History, 37/4 (2002), 599–616, and in generalCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 1b.
    Galen Roger Perras, Franklin Roosevelt and the Origins of the Canadian-American Security Alliance, 1933–1945 (Praeger, 1998).Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    King Diary, entries for 24 and 25 Aug. 1943.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    King Diary, entries for 25 Aug. 1943.Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    C. P. Stacey, Mackenzie King and the Atlantic Triangle. The 1976 Joanne Goodman Lectures (Toronto, 1976), 58.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    For the efforts of Norman Robertson, head of Canada’s Department of External Affairs, to persuade King of the need for an active Canadian role in the conference, see Stacey, Mackenzie King and the Atlantic Triangle, 56–58.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    For King’s views on flag flying at the start of the conference, see Donald Crichton, The Forked Road. Canada 1939–1957 (Toronto, 1976), 105.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    J. E. Read, ‘Tentative observations on Wrong Comments’ 21 Aug. 1943, NAC. Wrong Papers, MG30 E101 vol 4. file 24. For the influence of Canadian civil servants on external policy see especiallyGoogle Scholar
  11. 7a.
    J. L. Granatstein, The Ottawa Men. The Civil Service Mandarins, 1935–1957 (Toronto, 1982), andGoogle Scholar
  12. 7b.
    John Hilliker Canada’s Department of External Affairs, the Early Years: 1909–1946 (Toronto, 1990).Google Scholar
  13. 8.
    King, Diary, entry for 25 Aug. 1943.Google Scholar
  14. 9.
    Dominions Office memo. ‘Relations with Canada (briefing for PM for Quadrant.) Aug 43’. The National Archive: Public Record Office (hereafter PRO.) D035/1486.Google Scholar
  15. 10.
    See David J. Reynolds, The Creation of the Anglo-American Alliance 1937–1941. A Study in Competitive Cooperation (London, 1981), 115–19Google Scholar
  16. 10a.
    C. P. Stacey, Canada in the Age of Conflict: a history of Canadian external policies. Vol. 2. (Toronto, 1981), 305–22, andGoogle Scholar
  17. 10b.
    J. L. Granatstein, Canada’s War. The Politics of the Mackenzie King Government, 1939–1945 (Toronto, 1975), 42–158.Google Scholar
  18. 11.
    John Bartlet Brebner, North Atlantic Triangle: The Interplay of Canada, the United States and Great Britain (New Haven, 1945). For the former view see Creighton, The Forked Road, esp, 38–101, and the latterGoogle Scholar
  19. 11.
    J. L. Granatstein, How Britain’s Weakness forced Canada into the arms of the United States. The 1988 Joanne Goodman Lectures (Toronto, 1988).Google Scholar
  20. 12.
    See for example, John Alan English, ‘Not an Equilateral Triangle: Canada’s Strategic Relationship with the United States and Britain, 1939–1945’, in B. J. C. McKercher and Lawrence Aronson (eds.), The North Atlantic Triangle in a Changing World: Anglo-American-Canadian Relations, 1902–1956 (Toronto, 1996), 147–183, andGoogle Scholar
  21. 12a.
    David MacKenzie, ‘Canada, the North Atlantic Triangle, and the Empire’, in Judith Brown and Wm. Roger Louis (eds.), The Oxford History of the British Empire. Volume IV. The Twentieth Century (Oxford, 1999), 574–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 13.
    Dominions Office memo. ‘Relations with Canada (briefing for PM for Quadrant.) Aug 43’. PRO. D035/1486.Google Scholar
  23. 14.
    For Canadian views of the shackling incident, see Jonathan F. Vance, ‘Men in Manacles: The Shackling of Prisoners of War, 1942–1943’, Journal of Military History, 59 (July 1995), 483–504, and in generalCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 14a.
    S. P. Mackenzie, ‘The Shackling Crisis: A Case Study in the Dynamics of Prisoner-of-War Diplomacy in the Second World War’, International History Review, 17 (1995), 78–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 15.
    King chose not to mention POW policy or the shackling crisis with his guest, despite subjecting Churchill to a litany of complaints when he attended a meeting of the Canadian cabinet war committee on 11 August. NAC. War Committee Minutes. No 254, 11 Aug. 1943. RG2 Series 7c, Vol. 13. Reel. 4876.Google Scholar
  26. 16.
    For a succinct summary of the various views on this subject see Dean Oliver, ‘Canada: fact and fancy’, in Peter Liddle, John Bourne and Ian Whitehead (eds.), The Great World War 1914—1945. Vol. 2. Who won? Who lost? (London, 2000), 233–42.Google Scholar
  27. 17.
    For Canadian preparations for the 1929 conference see NAC. RG25 Series A2 Vol. 192; and British criticisms of the other dominions, Sir George Warner to Montgomery, 27 July 1929. PRO. FO373/2550 T8958. Regrettably John Hutchinson and Geoffrey Best both say little about the 1929 conference: John F. Hutchinson, Champions of Charity. War and the Rise of the Red Cross (Boulder CO: Westview, 1996)Google Scholar
  28. 17a.
    Geoffrey Best, Humanity in Warfare. The modem history of the international law of armed conflicts (London, Methuen, 1980), but seeGoogle Scholar
  29. 17b.
    André Durand, From Sarajevo to Hiroshima. History of the International Committee of the Red Cross vol 2 (Geneva: Henry Dunant Institute, 1984), 247–67.Google Scholar
  30. 18.
    It is unclear whether Ottawa was influenced by America’s decision to delay ratification until 1932.Google Scholar
  31. 19.
    For this process see Jonathan F. Vance, Objects of Concern. Canadian Prisoners of War Through the Twentieth Century (Vancouver: University British Columbia Press, 1994), 99–112.Google Scholar
  32. 20.
    Memo by Alfred Rive for Norman Robertson 7 Feb. 1942. NAC. RG25. Series G2 Vol. 2942.Google Scholar
  33. 21.
    Here, a distinction ought to be made between Canadians captured while fighting in British units — of which there was a large number — and those who enlisted in Canadian units.Google Scholar
  34. 22.
    See Memo for the Prime Minister by Norman Robertson 19 Dec. 1941. NAC. RG25. Series G2 Vol. 2942. For Robertson’s views on foreign policy, see J. L. Granatstein, A Man of Influence. Norman A. Robertson and Canadian Statecraft, 1929–1968 (Toronto, 1981), esp. 109–56.Google Scholar
  35. 23.
    South Africa, which declined to negotiate a head-for-head exchange for its Zam Zam survivors, preferring instead to await the result of negotiations for a general exchange, never did secure the early release of its nationals.Google Scholar
  36. 24.
    Memo for the Prime Minister by Norman Robertson 19 Dec. 1941. NAC. RG25. Series G2 Vol. 2942. By Sept. 1941 the number of Canadians interned in occupied Europe had fallen to 375. Memo of 15 Sept. 1941.NAC. MG26 J4 vol 410 file 3975., Memos, by A. Rive (Special Section, Dept, of External Affairs) 21 June and 18 Aug. 1941. RG25 G2 vol. 2874. Dept. External Affairs, Ottawa, to the DO, 5 Jan. 1942. PRO. D035/998/4.Google Scholar
  37. 25.
    See P. H. Gordon, Fifty Years of the Canadian Red Cross (Toronto, 1969), 68–75, History. Toronto Branch. The Canadian Red Cross Society, 1914-1948 (Toronto, 1949), 37–75.Google Scholar
  38. 25.
    McKenzie Porter, To all men. The history of the Canadian Red Cross (Toronto, 1960), 88–90Google Scholar
  39. 26.
    See Gordon (CRC) to Davies (ARC) 11 July 1941; Mitchell (ARC) to Gordon 17 July 1941. U.S. National Archive and Records Administration, Maryland, (hereafter, NARA.), RG200 Group 3 Box 993. 619.0/02.Google Scholar
  40. 27.
    See for example Gordon’s letter to Philip Ryan (ARS National Fl.Q.) 25 Aug. 1941. NARA. RG200 Group 3 Box 993. 619.0/02.Google Scholar
  41. 28.
    See David J. Reynolds, The Creation of the Anglo-American Alliance, 115–19.Google Scholar
  42. 29.
    See Creighton, Forked Road, 62–87 and in general, Edelgard E. Mahant and Graeme S. Mount, An Introduction to Canadian-American Relations (Scarborough, Ontario, 1989, 2nd Edn), 153–72.Google Scholar
  43. 30.
    See Kent Fedorowich, ‘‘Cocked Hats and Small, Little Garrisons’; Britain, Canada and the Fall of Hong Kong, 1941’, Modem Asian Studies, 37/1 (2003), 111–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 31.
    See memo by A. Rive for H. Wrong, ‘Proposal for Canadian Consul-General at Berne and functions of Swiss Consul-General in Canada’, 3 Dec. 1942. NAC. RG25 Series G2 Vol. 2942.Google Scholar
  45. 32.
    Memo. ‘American Red Cross — Canadian Red Cross Society. Relief Shipments to Prisoners of War in Europe — 1944’, 1 Jan. 1945. NARA. RG2 Branch 3. Box 993. 619.2/02.Google Scholar
  46. 33.
    Porter, To all men, 90–1Google Scholar
  47. 34.
    CRC memo. ‘Canadian Red Cross Society activities in connection with POW’, 20 Sept. 1943. NARA. RG200 Band 3 Box 992 619.2/02.Google Scholar
  48. 35.
    See W. N. Medlicott, The Economic Blockade. Vol. 1. (London, 1952), 549–57Google Scholar
  49. 35a.
    Joan Beaumont, ‘Starving for Democracy: Britain’s blockade of and Relief for Occupied Europe, 1939–1945’, War & Society, 8/2 (1990), 57–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 35b.
    J. H. George, ‘Herbert Hoover and World War II relief’, Diplomacy & Statecraft 16/3 (1992), 389–407.Google Scholar
  51. 35c.
    Meredith Hindley, ‘Constructing Allied Humanitarian Policy’, The Journal of Holocaust Education 9/2 (2000), 77–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 36.
    Department of External Affairs to Vincent Massey (High Commissioner, London) 25 Aug. 1942. NAC RG2 Series B2 Vol. 120.Google Scholar
  53. 37.
    W. L. M. King to Col. J. Ralston, no date, circa late Dec. 1943. NAC. RG2 Series B2 Vol. 120.Google Scholar
  54. 38.
    The ARC provided 700,000. Gordon, Fifty Years of the Canadian Red Cross, 73. In general see International Committee of the Red Cross, Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World War (September 1, 1939 — June 30, 1947) Vol. III, Relief Activities (Geneva, 1948). For CRC support of these efforts see inter alia, Minutes of Meeting between representatives of the AMC, BRC and CRC, 23 Dept. 1943. NARA. RG200 Group 3. Box 992. Gordon to Mitchell 21 May 1943. Box 993.Google Scholar
  55. 39.
    Jonathan F. Vance, ‘The Trouble with Allies: Canada and the Negotiation of Prisoner of War Exchanges’, in Bob Moore and Kent Fedorowich (eds.), Prisoners of War and their Captors in World War II (Oxford, 1996), 69–85, andGoogle Scholar
  56. 39a.
    Kent Fedorowich, ‘Doomed from the Outset? Internment and Civilian Exchange in the Far East. The British failure over Hong Kong, 1941–1945’, Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History, 25/1 (1997), 113–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 40.
    Minute by General Roseway for the Permanent Under Secretary at the War Office, 9 Jan. 1943. PRO. WO32/9380.Google Scholar
  58. 41.
    S. P. Mackenzie, ‘The Treatment of Prisoners of War in World War II’, Journal of Modem History, 66/3 (Sept. 1994), 487–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 42.
    See Vance, ‘The Trouble with Allies’, 80 and P. Scott Corbett, Quiet Passages: The Exchanges of Civilians between the United States and Japan during the Second World War (Kent OH, 1987).Google Scholar
  60. 43.
    Fedorowich, ‘Doomed from the Outset?’, 133Google Scholar
  61. 44.
    See minute by Eden, 20 Jan. 1945, cited in Vance, ‘The Trouble with Allies’, 80.Google Scholar
  62. 45.
    For the German reaction see Otto Köcher to German Foreign Ministry, 30 July 1942, and 8 Aug. 1942. Politisches Archiv. Auswärtiges Amt. R40786.Google Scholar
  63. 46.
    See below. This was true in both the shackling crisis (late 1942) and Featherstone incident (mid-1943), when London’s policy was based on an evaluation of German and Japanese behaviour.Google Scholar
  64. 47.
    Letter by L. Pearson to O. J. Skelton 23 Feb. 1939. NAC. MG26 Series Nl, vol. 14. ‘I have myself been trying to discover them’, Pearson continued, ‘but all I can secure is a vague assurance that they are from ‘sources that have proved reliable’. I think they probably mean the Secret Service’.Google Scholar
  65. 48.
    Charles Vining (Chair, Wartime Information Board) to Mackenzie King, 30 Nov. 1942. NAC. RG2 Series B2 vol. 20.Google Scholar
  66. 49.
    J. D. Ketchum (Reports Branch. Wartime Information Board), ‘The chaining of prisoners and Canadian autonomy: a suggestion for action by Canada’, 20 Nov. 1942. NAC. RG2 Series B2 vol. 20. For Canada’s view of the shackling crisis see Vance, ‘Men in Manacles’, 483.Google Scholar
  67. 50.
    Dr. Routley (CRC) to Mitchell (Director Insular and Foreign Operations, ARC) 23 Jan.Google Scholar
  68. 1942.
    NARA. RG200 Branch 3. Box 993.Google Scholar
  69. 51.
    Lester Pearson diary entry of 11 Jan. 1940. NAC. MG26. N8.Google Scholar
  70. 52.
    Ottawa’s functionalist approach is analysed in Granatstein, The Ottawa Men, 126–33 and idem., ‘Hume Wrong’s Road to the Functional Principle’, in K. E. Neilson and R. A. Prete (eds.), Coalition Warfare: An Uneasy Accord (Waterloo, 1983), 53–77.Google Scholar
  71. 53.
    War Committee Minutes, No. 244. 23 June 1943. NAC. RG2 Series 7c. vol. 13, Reel 4876. Winston J. Churchill to W. L. Mackenzie King 19 June 1943. Churchill College Archive Centre, Cambridge. CHAR 20/113. For the Featherstone incident see W. Wynne Masson, Prisoners of War. Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War (Wellington, 1954), 356–61. Not all Canadian officials were happy with this decision: See Vincent Massey (Canadian High Commissioner in London) to Department of External Affairs 25 May 1943 and memo, by H. G. Stone (Dept. Ext. Affairs), 21 May 1943. NAC. RG25 G2 Vol. 3190.Google Scholar
  72. 54.
    Minute by Roseway for Assistant Chief of Staff, 6 June 1943. PRO. WO32/9380.Google Scholar
  73. 55.
    See P. H. Gore-Booth (British embassy, Washington) to G. Magam (Canadian embassy, Washington) 25 Oct. 1944. PRO. CAB122/665.Google Scholar
  74. 56.
    Memo. ‘Some Comments on Intra-Commonwealth Relations’, by Hume Wrong and Arnold Heeney, 17 Aug. 1943. NAC. Hume Wrong Papers, MG30 E101 vol 4. file 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of the Journal of Transatlantic Studies 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neville Wylie
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations