Abstract

Shifting Integration from British to American Predominance in Canadian Munitions Production”

This paper reassesses the oscillation between British and American influences on the mobilization of Canadian business and industry for munitions production before and during the Second World War. As a British Commonwealth nation sharing a continent and economy with the United States, Canada followed a pragmatic approach toward the financing and equipping of its army, navy, and air force. The Canadian military relied almost wholly on purchase, designs, and technical expertise from the United Kingdom until a pre-war scandal involving the Bren light machine gun suggested better arrangements. The department of munitions and supply, created in 1940, funneled British requests for munitions and organized Canadian government and industry for expanded volume production in targeted areas of shipbuilding, aircraft manufacturing, land fighting vehicles, as well as guns and ammunition. Due to existing business connections and wartime pressures, American practice and equipment increasingly competed with British types that still factored in Canadian scales of production. The British themselves progressively moved toward standardization with American-type equipment, particularly in advanced fields such as sensors and computer-controlled gunnery. Canada’s fighting forces, for practical reasons, retained an allegiance to British accoutrements of war, even as war production and business shifted into decidedly North American directions. The situation was made more complicated by the significant proportions of Canadian munitions production devoted to supplying deployed British and American forces, in addition to Canada’s own armed forces. The contradictions in the efforts behind Canada’s war production record, which has largely been seen as successful, were apparent to the government officials and business people involved, though typically attract little historical consideration.