As the Second World War drew to a close in Europe, the focus shifted to the repatriation of service personnel to Canada. Is there someone in your family tree who served overseas during the War? Were they among the early, middle or late cohort of returnees?
Nearly 300,000 members of Canada’s military were anxious to put the war behind them, return home and get on with their lives. In addition, Canada would be welcoming 63,000 dependent wives and children. Except for a small number who took their discharge in the United Kingdom, most service men and women had no interest in extending their absence from home. Repatriation promptly was, however, an enormous challenge. The United States, Australia and New Zealand were equally anxious for their personnel to return home, which depended on the ships’ availability.
The bar chart above, based on the document “The Repatriation of the Canadian Military Forces Overseas, 1945-1947,” shows that returning personnel as soon as possible after VE Day was a priority. The government was only too aware of the post-war riots in England in 1918-1919, fueled partly by soldiers frustrated at the slow and seemingly disorganized repatriation plans. In 1945, Canadian service men and women wanted nothing more than to get home, see family, settle down, find employment and enjoy the peace.
The document linked above lists the ships used for
repatriation from June 1945 to February 1946.
“Pasteur” carried 19,843,
“Duchess of Bedford” 6,567,
“Empress of Scotland” 6,711,
“Queen Mary” (1 trip) 6,157,
“Queen Elizabeth” (7 trips from October 1945 to February 1946) 71,912,
“Nieu Amsterdam” (3 trips) 19,755.
The following made one trip each:
“Duchess of Richmond,” “Britannic,” “Monarch of Bermuda” and “Georgie.”
“lIe de France was kept in Canadian service from July 1945 to June 1946 – carrying 57,205 in 9 trips.
“Aquitania,” after making one trip in June 1945, was taken off to return in January 1946 and up to March 1947, taking to Canada 19,607 army personnel.
The Directorate of Movements (Department of National Defence) created a file for every voyage. A finding aid, searchable by the ship’s name, is available on Collections Search, LAC. Many of these records, now digitized and available on Heritage, Canadiana, contain passenger lists but are not name searchable. See the post Military Monday: Crossing the Atlantic WW2 for further details.
Thanks to Glenn Wright for bringing this source to my attention and for editorial comments.