On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, Canada’s Military and Civilians will pause for two minutes of silence to remember those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom—the ultimate sacrifice.
Hamilton, with a population of 101,000 was less than 70 years old in 1914 when the Great War, World War I, broke out. During those years even the coveted Grey Cup Game was suspended until 1920.
Hamiltonians participated in the First World War mainly as combatants due to Col. Sir Sam Hughes’ mobilization plans for the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. There were no major battles associated purely with Hamiltonians. The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry would later receive battle honors in four consecutively numbered overseas battalions of the C.E.F.
In 1939 Hamilton, by then a well establish industrial city with a population of 155,000 people, once again became a major player in another war – World War II. This time not only with soldiers, but by training both civilians and armed forces personnel. The men were trained in flying, wood-working and sheet metal pattern making. The women took up sewing, using power operated sewing machines, all of which would help the men overseas.
Otis-Fensom (Otis Elevators) constructed in 14 weeks what would become the largest anti-aircraft gun plant in the British Empire. They also produced the largest supply of war posters and signs. Even the Hamilton born Win Mortimer, who would later go on to ink some of the most iconic Superman and Batman comic book covers and sequences, was honing his skills in the plant.
Westinghouse was retooled and expanded to produce anti-aircraft guns as well as parts for the Mosquito bomber. They also devised a system for producing cheaper and faster methods of creating aluminum. International Harvester made parts for Canada’s first Lancaster Bomber. Arcelor-Mittal, then known as Dofasco, created a highly specialized steel plate used for armor. By the end of 1941 all the armor plate produced in Canada came from Dofasco. Stelco and Dofasco would produce half the steel in Canada near the end of 1945.
National Steel Car was involved in both wars. The Toronto plant fabricated steel bodies for trucks used during the first war. In 1939 it started an aircraft division in Malton, Ontario, building a reconnaissance aircraft known as the Westland Lysander III. The Hamilton division produced both artillery shells and parts for tanks as well as other military vehicles.
Firestone made both aircraft and vehicle tires including the hard rubber tires used as tank suspensions. Firestone also made self-sealing cells used in aircraft fuel tanks.
Even the women in Hamilton were busy making jams for the hospitals, refugees and evacuees in Great Britain. Almost 1.1 metric tonnes was shipped overseas by mid- 1940. The women of Hamilton also packed P.O.W. parcels at a property leased by the Red Cross in Hamilton’s downtown core; a staggering 3 million boxes at a rate of 10,000 boxes a month.
Hamiltonians, through many other impressive wartime achievements, certainly lived up to it’s nickname of ‘The Ambitious City’.