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Those Left Behind

Albertans contributed to the war effort in a variety of ways. Children, women, farmers, and industrial labourers were vital in contributing to Alberta's economy. Despite differences in ethnic backgrounds and political philosophies, Albertans were united in their determination to support their troops and do what was necessary to win the war.

With the exception of some—conscientious objectors—Albertans steadfastly supported the war effort. Those who did join the military and/or serve abroad found many ways to contribute to the war effort; they did everything from gathering recyclable materials to buying Victory Bonds and from giving blood to organizing milk drives. People were eager to assist and whole communities worked together to ensure projects succeeded. This was perhaps most notable in rural regions of the province where farmers aided one another in the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of crops. During the evening, those left behind would gather around a radio and listen attentively to the evening news. Reports from the BBC and CBC would provide Albertans with the latest events from Europe and elsewhere.

Women entered the workforce in increasing numbers as more and more men joined up and left home for overseas. Explore The Women's War to learn more about how women contributed to the war effort, on the homefront and abroad.

Meanwhile, children continued receiving an education. They were expected to sing God Save the King and to salute the Union Jack on a daily basis. Students, including conscientious objectors, who did not adhere to their patriotic duties were chastised by the public and frequently faced suspension. Schoolchildren were also expected to contribute around the house, doing chores, volunteering, recycling, and running errands. Their efforts would free up time for adults who could then reorient their efforts toward the war industry.

Farming was an important industry during the war. However, those who stayed behind to farm struggled to stay afloat. Competition was fierce and finding reliable farm machinery was difficult. Labour shortages were common in agriculture and industry. During the war, Alberta's rural population declined as people abandoned their farms and headed to the city in search of work. For those who did not enlist, wartime industry employed much of the population. By 1943, facing a shortage in coal production, Prime Minister King announced a “national emergency” in coal production. Workers were transferred from non-essential work to coal mining. Labour unrest and shortages were common during this tumultuous period.


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            For more on Alberta during World War II, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
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