Canada’s military history in Northwest Europe has been told many times. On 6 June 1944, Canadian forces landed on Juno Beach as part of Operation Overlord, before quickly establishing a bridgehead and moving inland where they encountered, but ultimately overcame, stiff resistance. As the German Reich shrunk in the face of the Allied advance, the Canadians were tasked with liberating the Netherlands. Images of jubilant crowds greeting the Canadians have been seared in the collective memory. If you visit Normandy today, you will find tokens of thanks in the monuments and local traditions that scatter the Norman coast. But liberation was not achieved simply through tanks, bombs, and bullets. At the sharp end were not just German forces but also civilians who found themselves caught in the path of war. Their presence presented several military and humanitarian problems. Liberation was a messy business. In this episode, David Borys joins our program to discuss the monumental task facing Civilian Affairs, their crucial role in military operations and humanitarian aid, and the myths and realities behind the liberation of Northwest Europe.
David Borys is a Canadianist who specializes in Canadian Military History specifically examining the changing nature that warfare has wrought on Canadian society. His most recent book titled Civilians at the Sharp End examines the relationship between the soldiers of First Canadian Army and the civilians of northwest Europe during the Canadian army’s liberation route in the final two years of the Second World War. He also produces the popular podcast Cool Canadian History, a bi-weekly podcast on everything and anything to do with Canadian history. You can find it on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and at coolcanadianhistory.com