Oakville Images

With not even a quarter century’s passing after the First World War, the war that was to have ended all wars, Canadians were again involved in the world's conflicts. On 10 September 1939, Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared war on Germany. In Oakville, enthusiasm for serving Canada was strong. Even before war was declared, First World War veterans and younger men flocked to the local Lorne Scots armouries to offer themselves for active service.

Just over a year later, from a small population of 3900, there were 500 Oakville men and women in the active service forces. By 1945, the number had climbed to 782 enlistments, reported to be the one of the highest percentage of volunteers per capita of any municipality in Canada.

Newly enlisted service men and women, those originally from Oakville and those who moved to Oakville later, faced an unknown and uncertain future. Despite the uncertainty, Canadians were determined to serve their country, even when they faced obstacles. Oakville resident Alvin Duncan was turned down twice in his efforts to enlist: once for failing an aptitude test and once for health reasons.

But Duncan knew his test results were fine, his health good. As a Canadian of Black ethnicity, he'd been rejected for the colour of his skin. Determined to serve, Duncan sat for the test again in another location and passed, then convinced his commanding officer to intervene with the medical staff. Surmounting both hurdles, Duncan went on to serve as a radar mechanic in the Hebrides.

An equally determined Robert W. Davis was also rejected for service. Turned down in Toronto because he was employed in an essential war-time industry, the undeterred Davis offered his services again in Hamilton. This time he listed his occupation as ’unemployed’ and was accepted. Davis went on to repair and construct ships for the Royal Canadian Navy.

In Oakville and across Canada, whether they faced it with enthusiasm or simply a sense of duty, people's lives took an abrupt turning into an unknown future.


Oakville Overseas, 1st Division, Canadian Active Service Force (C.A.S.F.) March, 1940. For many men, this was their first time abroad. [ Image Details ]
Notice of Call for military training for Ivan Mavrinac, 4 April 1941. Ivan became a Staff Sergeant with the Royal Canadian Engineers. He was stationed at A5CETC (Canadian Engineers Training Centre) in Petawawa from 1941 to 1945. [ Image Details ]
Canadian troops being transported on the Duchess of York from Canada to Europe during the Second World War.  [ Image Details ]
Soldiers at Badajos Barracks, Aldershot, England. "Jimmie" William James Andrew Gibb (centre) became a gunner for the Second Canadian Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery, First Division. He served in Italy from 1943-1945. [ Image Details ]