In the First World War – the Great War of 1914-1918 – the Canadian Corps had covered itself in glory and by 1918 gained a reputation as the fiercest, most deadly Allied fighting force on the Western Front.
A generation later, in the Second World War, the Canadians faced tasks demanding of all guts but offering little glory. Undaunted, they fought bravely, often desperately, in crucial but unglamorous campaigns – campaigns now largely forgotten.
As in the popular and critically acclaimed For King & Empire series, military historian Norm Christie takes us to the battlefields – on land, at sea and in the air. In For King & Country we will relive the Second World War and the exploits of a generation just now passing into history.
Over six one-hours, the series will provide an in-depth treatment of the Second World War from a Canadian point of view. Each episode will inform viewers about the major Canadian campaigns and engage in a critical analysis of how these campaigns marked major turning points in the war, and for Canada itself.
Canadian blood was spilt in all of these battlefields and in hundreds of others around the world. Everywhere are Canadian memories: of battles fought, of struggles lost and won. Everywhere are relics: burnt-out tanks, rusting aircraft, monuments, cemeteries and stories. Everywhere the dead lie forgotten, waiting to be remembered. For King & Country remembers the stories of these men and women – one of Canada’s greatest generations.
The series will take an intimate approach to telling soldiers’ stories. Norm Christie, joined by some of the men who fought, Canadian battlefields, monuments and cemeteries throughout the world. They guide us through the Second World War from the point of view of ordinary soldiers who tell their stories in their own words. Using a unique mixture of archival footage, photographs, artwork and actuality, the series will create a sense of what it was really like to fight “For King & Country.”
Breakthrough Films & Television Production in Association with History Television Inc.
Part 1: Passing the Torch
When war is declared in 1939, thousands of Canadians eagerly sign up to defend Britain and its Commonwealth. After Britain’s shattered army returns from the Continent in June 1940, the Canadian First Division of 15,000 men is the only fully equipped armed force left in Britain; but it will be a long time before they fight. Veteran, RAF Ace (14 Kills in Britain and Malta), BC’s Butcher Barton tells his story of the Battle of Britain in 249 Squadron, RAF.
In the frigid, stormy waters of the North Atlantic, for six years, the ships of the Canadian Navy herd giant convoys of defenseless merchant ships, fighting off “wolf packs” of German submarines as they close in for the kill. Several times Nazi U-boats almost starve Britain into surrender in this desperate seesaw, touch-and-go battle that sends thousands of Canadian sailors to an icy or a fiery death.
Part 2: Hour of Darkness
Norm visits the remains of the old battlefield of Hong Kong, where Canada’s soldiers first went to war. In an impossible situation, the 2000 Canadians simply vanished after the fall of the British Colony at Christmas 1941. Many were killed in battle but as many would die at the hands of the brutal Japanese as POWs. Veteran Alf Babin of the Royal Rifles revisits St Stephens where he witnessed the slaughter of wounded, and tells his story. One in three Canadians would never return home.
Part 3: The Forgotten Army Pt 1
First episode on the Canadians in Sicily and Italy. In July 1943, Canadian ground troops finally get their chance to fight as 25,000 of them storm ashore in torrid summer heat on the southeastern beaches of Sicily. The Allied commanders thought Sicily and Italy would be easy; Adolf Hitler decides otherwise. Norm takes us to the beaches of Sicily where the 25,000 Canadian soldiers land and from Messina to Ortona, from Monte Cassino to Rome and to Rimini, Norm follows the Canadians as they battle their way north, in what becomes “the forgotten campaign”.
Part 4: The Forgotten Army Pt 2
Second episode on the Canadians in Sicily and Italy. By December of 1943, Canadian forces in Italy had helped topple Mussolini’s Fascist Regime, liberated dozens of Italian towns, and immobilized some of Nazi Germany’s best troops. With the Canadians at the gates of Ortona it appeared likely the Germans would abandon the town.
Part 5: Battlefields of Normandy
On the night of June 5, 1944, Canadian parachute troops touch down in darkness in German occupied France. They blow up, and occupy, vital bridges near the Normandy coast. At dawn on June 6 1944,D-Day, 15,000 Canadian troops storm Juno Beach, and begin to fight inland. Norm takes us to the defenses of Hitler’s Atlantic wall, to the beaches and cemeteries, and canals and villages of Normandy, and we storm ashore with Canadian troops on D-Day.
Part 6: Road to Victory
While the British, under General Montgomery, and the Americans, under General Patton, compete to see who can advance the farthest and quickest, the Canadians, advancing up the French, Belgian, and Dutch coast, do vital but dirty work. Norm Christie takes us to the Channel Ports, to Ghent and Antwerp, as the Canadians struggle along the coast and as they fight to open up the Scheldt Estuary, freeing Antwerp.