Timeline

20 February 1939

Canadian Life

The San Francisco Exposition presents: nylon stockings!

June 1939

Science & Technology Milestones

Pan American Airways becomes the first airline to operate scheduled transatlantic passenger and airmail service.

1 September 1939

Canadian Life

Germany invades Poland which leads to the outbreak of the Second World War.

3 September 1939

Canadian Life

Britain and France declare war on Germany.

10 September 1939 - The Second World War

Canadian Life

(CAVM 24084)
(CAVM 24084)

Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939, following the declarations made by Britain and France on 3 September.

The 1930s had been a decade full of crises. It began with Japan invading a Chinese province in 1931 and, two years later, saw the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany and the birth of a fearsome dictatorship. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, and a bloody civil war began in Spain the following year. In 1938, Germany gobbled up Austria, broke up Czechoslovakia, and then turned toward Poland. In March and April 1939, France and the United Kingdom offered Poland a guarantee of assistance in the event of a German attack. Unconvinced that the two countries would go to war to help Poland, Germany invaded the country on 1 September 1939. It was this move that prompted Britain and France—and subsequently Canada—to issue war declarations.

By the time the Second World War came to a close in August 1945, fifty million people had died, more than thirty million of them civilians. Hoping to build a lasting peace and prevent another war of this magnitude, the victors established the United Nations Organization in October 1945. Another outcome was the abundance of technologies developed as a result of the conflict, from radar to nuclear energy, which were to profoundly change the postwar world.

October 1939

Science & Technology Milestones

Germany and Britain are the first to use radar in combat.

31 October 1939

Canadian Aviation Events

The Maple Leaf II training airplane designed by Canadian engineer “Elsie” MacGill, makes its first flight.

17 December 1939 - The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Canadian Aviation Events

(CAVM 15050)
(CAVM 15050)

On 17 December 1939, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom signed an agreement that launched the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) in order to train aircrew for the Allied forces.

Soon after the start of the Second World War, discussions were revived on the British government’s earlier proposal of operating flying schools in Canada. Canada agreed to cover most of the scheme’s costs, but insisted that Canadian graduates carry distinctive insignias.

The BCATP was the largest element of the Commonwealth’s training effort, and it fell under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Training began in April 1940. At its peak, the BCATP included more than one hundred schools and almost 11 000 aircraft. When the books were closed in March 1945, it had trained more than 130 000 pilots and aircrew from the Commonwealth and other countries. The BCATP was arguably Canada’s greatest contribution to the Allied victory in 1945. With the return of peace, many of the bases used by the military became civilian airports and remained in use for decades to come.

1940

Science & Technology Milestones

The first Canadian-built Hurricanes arrive in England.

1940

Science & Technology Milestones

U.S. automobile manufacturer Oldsmobile introduces the first mass-produced, fully automatic transmission.

1940

Science & Technology Milestones

Canadian scientist Martin Kamen co-discovers carbon-14, which becomes a crucial tool in dating organic material.

1940

Canadian Life

Canadian Norman Breakey invents the paint roller.

January 1940 - The First Anti-G Suits

Science & Technology Milestones

(CAVM 31968)
(CAVM 31968)

Canadian Dr W.R. Franks test flew the world’s first G-suit in January 1940. Before the start of the Second World War, Franks had been working on a water-filled suit designed to help pilots remain fully conscious under strenuous combat conditions, since combat pilots performing violent manœuvres are subjected to powerful forces, or “G forces,” which can cause a temporary loss of vision or consciousness. Documented cases go as far back as 1917 but the introduction of high-performance aircraft in the 1930s exacerbated the risk to pilots.

A production model of the G-suit was used for the first time in combat over North Africa on 8 November 1942. Security concerns and issues of comfort during long missions prevented further use of the Franks suit.

In Europe, many American fighter pilots wore a U.S.-designed G-suit in combat from mid-1944 onward. And with the introduction of jet aircraft, G-suits became indispensable.

16 February 1940

Canadian Aviation Events

The first Royal Canadian Air Force unit (110 Army Co-op Squadron) sets sail for the United Kingdom.

10 May 1940

Canadian Life

Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

10 July 1940 - The Battle of Britain

Canadian Life

(CAVM 25066)
(CAVM 25066)

The Battle of Britain began on 10 July 1940.

In the months following the September 1939 invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, Britain and France had refrained from launching heavy attacks on Germany. But this “Phony War” came to an end in April and May 1940 with Germany’s assaults on Scandinavia and Western Europe. British ground troops deployed to help the French were forced to leave much of their equipment behind in their hasty departure from France.

Germany then set out to conquer Britain, through aerial bombing or invasion. In either case, the defending Royal Air Force (RAF) needed to be crushed. The campaign known as the Battle of Britain began on 10 July 1940, when Germany began its air attacks on commercial ships; it targeted RAF bases later on. In September, Germany began to bomb urban areas. By the end of October, however, it was clear that Hitler could not reach his objective. Although regular nighttime raids would continue until 1941, Britain’s victory in the first major campaign to be fought primarily by air forces put an end to the Battle of Britain.

26 August 1940

Canadian Aviation Events

A first time a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron goes into action, during the Battle of Britain.

11 November 1940

Canadian Aviation Events

The first transatlantic ferry flight of aircraft from Newfoundland and the United Kingdom takes place.

11 November 1940

Canadian Aviation Events

Formation of the Air Cadet League of Canada is authorized so that young men can be trained for combat duty during the war.

1941

Canadian Life

Population of Canada: 11 506 655.

14 January 1941

Canadian Life

On BBC radio, a Belgian refugee suggests using the letter V—for Vrijheid (victory) or Victoire—to protest German occupation; and a massive “V for Victory” campaign begins.

1 May 1941

Canadian Life

The feature film Citizen Kane is released on Broadway.

15 May 1941

Science & Technology Milestones

Britain’s first jet airplane, made by the Gloster Aircraft Company, makes its initial flight.

18 August 1941

Canadian Life

Royal Canadian Air Force pilot John Magee writes his sonnet “High Flight.”

1 December 1941

Canadian Aviation Events

The first members of the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (later the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division) are declared ready to serve.

7 December 1941

Canadian Life

Japan attacks the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

8 December 1941

Canadian Life

The United States enters the Second World War.

1942

Science & Technology Milestones

Canadian Industries Limited establishes Canada’s first and world’s second nylon textile mill in Kingston, Ontario. The nylon produced is used primarily for parachutes.

14 January 1942 - Igor Sikorsky and the Helicopter

Science & Technology Milestones

(CAVM 32055)
(CAVM 32055)

On 14 January 1942, a pilot flew the prototype of the first mass-produced helicopter, the Sikorsky R-4.

Even though individuals in many countries had been testing helicopters since 1907, no significant progress was seen until the 1930s. At the forefront of developments during this time were France, Germany and the United States. In the latter case, the main force was a Russian-born engineer named Igor Sikorsky. In 1939, faced with the possible closure of the new Vought-Sikorsky Division of the United Aircraft Corporation, he supervised construction of a helicopter. Sikorsky himself undertook the test flight on this somewhat unsteady machine in September of the same year. By mid-1941, he had set a new world endurance record by remaining airborne for 92.5 minutes.

Though the 1942 prototype flight was a success, the Sikorsky R-4 was not introduced to service until 1944, and it was preceded by a German helicopter produced in small numbers and flown from ships based in the Mediterranean. These facts notwithstanding, decades after that first wobbly flight in 1939, Sikorsky Aircraft remains one of the most successful helicopter manufacturers in the world.

20 January 1942

Canadian Life

The Wannsee Conference in Germany marks the beginning of the Holocaust.

24 February 1942

Canadian Life

The Canadian government invokes the War Measures Act, giving it power to have all those of Japanese origin, including Japanese Canadians, moved to internment camps.

24 March 1942

Canadian Aviation Events

Canadian Pacific Airlines is formed.

Spring 1942

Canadian Aviation Events

Pilot Helen Bristol Harrison becomes the first Canadian woman to join the British Air Transport Auxiliary, a civilian group that ferries airplanes between factories and air bases.

1 July 1942

Canadian Life

The 75th anniversary of Confederation.

18 July 1942

Science & Technology Milestones

The first jet fighter to go into service, Germany’s Me 262, makes its first flight.

August 1942

Science & Technology Milestones

The Manhattan Project is formed in the United States with the aim of developing an atomic bomb.

19 August 1942

Canadian Life

Canadian and British forces launch an amphibious attack against the German-occupied port of Dieppe, France.

3 October 1942

Science & Technology Milestones

Germany’s V-2, the world’s first ballistic missile, designed by Wernher von Braun, is launched successfully for the first time.

8 November 1942

Science & Technology Milestones

The Canadian-designed Franks Flying Suit is used in operations for the first time.

1943

Science & Technology Milestones

Canadian researchers develop a method to de-ice propellers in flight.

1943

Science & Technology Milestones

Dutch physician and Resistance member Willem Kolff invents the first kidney dialysis machine.

1943

Science & Technology Milestones

Canadian researchers develop a fast and safe way of mass-producing magnetic magnesium, a light metal alloy used for Second World War fighter aircraft.

January 1943

Science & Technology Milestones

Jacques-Yves Cousteau tests the prototype of scuba equipment that is to revolutionize underwater work.

January 1943

Canadian Life

Canada’s Second World War art program is established.

23 January 1943

Canadian Life

The classic movie Casablanca—a romantic drama set in the Second World War—is released in the United States.

April 1943

Canadian Life

French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry publishes his bestseller Le Petit Prince, which draws in part on his own flying experiences.

27 July 1943

Canadian Aviation Events

Canada’s first regular transatlantic service begins, operated by Trans-Canada Air Lines.

12 August 1943

Canadian Aviation Events

The first Canadian-made Mosquito arrives in England.

15 September 1943

Canadian Aviation Events

The first Canadian-built Lancaster arrives in England.

1944

Science & Technology Milestones

British engineers develop an instrument landing system to help aircraft land in bad weather.

Spring 1944

Canadian Aviation Events

The Canadian Flying Clubs Association becomes the Royal Canadian Flying Clubs Association.

6 June 1944

Canadian Life

D-Day—the largest invasion in history—begins as thousands of Allied forces land on France’s Normandy coast to liberate Europe from German occupation.

October 1944

Canadian Aviation Events

Canadair Limited is formed, taking over the aircraft manufacturing factory of Canadian Vickers Limited in Montreal, Quebec.

1945

Science & Technology Milestones

Hugh Le Caine, a researcher at Canada’s National Research Council, invents the world’s first synthesizer, the “Sackbut.”

31 March 1945

Canadian Aviation Events

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan is terminated.

19 April 1945

Canadian Life

The International Air Transport Association is formed to represent, lead and serve the airline industry.

30 April 1945

Canadian Life

Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin headquarters.

7 May 1945

Canadian Life

In Reims, France, Germany signs an unconditional surrender to end the war in Europe.

8 May 1945

Canadian Life

An official statement declares Victory in Europe (VE) Day, following Germany’s surrender.

6 August 1945 - The Atomic Bomb

Science & Technology Milestones

(U.S. Air Force photo)
(U.S. Air Force photo)

An American Boeing B-29 bomber, nicknamed Enola Gay, dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan on 6 August 1945. The attack killed up to 70 000 people; thousands more were to die of radiation poisoning.

In November 1938, scientists in Berlin, Germany had performed a nuclear fission experiment that proved it was possible to split uranium atoms. This breakthrough, reported in a paper published soon after, caused a sensation.
A group in Paris confirmed the findings and went further: if a large number of uranium atoms were split very quickly, a chain reaction could ensue, releasing a huge volume of energy. Ultimately, this opened up the possibility of creating a “super bomb.”

Alarmed by the prospect of Germany developing a nuclear weapon, British and American scientists pressed their governments to invest in research on the subject. Progress was slow until August 1942, when the United States launched the Manhattan Project and development of atomic weapons began in earnest. The first test, in July 1945, was a success.

Since the war, atomic energy has been put to more positive use by power companies in many countries (including Canada) to produce electricity.

2 September 1945

Canadian Life

Japan signs the “Instrument of Surrender” in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

October 1945

Canadian Life

Birth of the United Nations Organization.

1 December 1945

Canadian Aviation Events

Avro Canada Limited is established, and takes over from Victory Aircraft Limited.