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The Alberta Sacrifice

The Second World War had once again proven Albertans to be self-reliant and courageous. Young men and women rushed to Alberta's military recruitment centres eager and ready to do their part. They believed in the cause and they believed they could make a difference. Whether they served in the Army, the Royal Canadian Navy, or the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Albertans contributed to the eventual Allied success in Europe and the Pacific. In total, 7,360 Albertans served in the Navy, 19,499 in the RCAF, and 50,844 fought in various Army regiments.

According to the Alberta Legislature Library, 3,344 Albertans lost their lives during the Second World War. An additional 5,764 Canadian troops died during the campaign in Italy including hundreds of soldiers from the Loyal Edmonton Regiment (LER). At Sicily, the LER suffered 54 dead and 108 wounded. During the intense battle at Ortona, the LER lost 64 troops in December alone. In the disastrous raid on Dieppe, the town of Stettler lost 24 of its young men. Other small rural communities across Alberta lost dozens of young men. At the Battle of Normandy, which saw eight weeks of intense fighting, 18,500 Canadians, many of whom were Albertans, died. The various regiments involved in the campaign at Normandy included the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, South Alberta Regiment, Calgary Highlanders, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), Lord Strathcona's Horse, and the Calgary Regiment. When the war finally ended nearly six years later, thousands of Albertan families would be left without a husband, father, son, or brother.

Albertans who did not enlist in Canada's military made their own sacrifices by staying behind and contributing to the war effort in their own unique way. Albertans did not want a war; it was thrust upon them. Yet, they responded in a united and steadfast effort. They recognized that sacrifices, at home and abroad, were going to be made in order to win the war. Most Albertans responded to the war effort by donating time, labour, and money. Anyone could invest in Victory Bonds: children could make donations as little as 25 cents. Practically every community in Alberta surpassed its War Bond objective. Red Deer, for example, raised $83,000 more than it had initially anticipated.

Both the provincial and federal governments encouraged families to ration certain products in high demand by the military. Gasoline, for example, was used sparingly by Albertans during the war. Meat, sugar, tea, and coffee also came under stringent wartime controls. Metals were collected by locals and donated to manufacturers for the construction of guns and tanks. The Second World War marked one of the greatest recycling campaigns of the 20th century. Children scoured the countryside in search of garbage that could be transformed into something useful. Saucepans, toothpaste tubes, rubber gloves, chewing gum wrappers, and bathing caps were just some of the items collected by children and housewives. The sacrifices made by all Albertans, young and old, were necessary for the Allied victory in Europe and the Pacific.

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