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Recruitment and Enlistment
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Britain declared war with Germany on 3 September 1939. Four days later the Summerside Journal reported that over 200 men had enlisted at the local Armoury. They had not waited for Canada's declaration on 10 September. Within two weeks these men of the PEI Highlanders were on their way to the Borden ferry accompanied by the Summerside Citizens' Band for a fitting send-off.

After this immediate response, the men of Prince County continued to enlist at the Armouries. The Journal began to carry a special section titled "With the Canadian Forces" which featured photos of two or three local men in uniform. Another regular item - "Recruits Leaving for Training" - listed Islanders who had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

A nationwide recruiting campaign for the Army began in May 1941. The goal was to enlist 32,000 men in a two-month period. From that point forward, recruitment was ongoing with local volunteers going to the Armoury building on Summer Street.

Applicants for the RCAF travelled to Charlottetown until September 1941 when the Recruiting Director for PEI started to visit Summerside. Beginning January 1942 a mobile recruiting unit from Moncton visited the Town Hall every month. Men interested in the Navy were obliged to sign up in Charlottetown.

By December 1941, it was reported that 6000 Islanders had joined the army and navy and 926 men and 13 women had joined the air force. The PEI response to the air force was considered to be very good. Perhaps the existence of the training schools in Summerside and Charlottetown and later Mount Pleasant was a factor in the allure of that branch of the service.

Not all applicants met the medical requirements. As a form of recognition for those not accepted, the government issued Applicant for Enlistment badges. According to a report in a major newspaper, Islanders had the highest standing in the nation when it came to physical fitness.

Under the National Resources Mobilization Act of 1940, the Canadian government "called up" and trained thousands of men for military service. It promised not to force anyone to serve overseas. By the spring of 1942, the war situation led the government to seek release from that promise. The national plebiscite of 27 April 1942 was hotly debated across the country. PEI was solidly behind a YES vote as numerous speeches, letters, and editorials indicated. The results in the province were five to one affirmative, the highest level of support in the country. Overall, the people of Canada gave authority to the government to use conscript forces whenever necessary.

Despite the results of the plebiscite no immediate action was taken to send anyone overseas who did not volunteer to go. The men trained under the National Resources Mobilization Act were known as NRMA soldiers and those who refused to volunteer for fighting overseas came to be known as Zombies.

Beginning in the summer of 1941, there was a call to women to join the military. Newspapers were filled with ads designed to inspire females to join the armed forces. The army sought women for the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC). The RCAF used catchy verses as enticement and coined the phrase "She Serves that Men May Fly." Free booklets were distributed to potential recruits. In 1942 the navy began to recruit for the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS), which became known as the WRENS.

In December 1942, the government announced that single men and childless widowers between 19 and 40, as well as married men between 19 and 25, were to register before 1 February 1943 thus making them liable for compulsory military service. The Department of Labour handled the registration, providing the special forms at Post Offices, Mobilization offices, and Employment and Selective Service offices across the nation. The deadline was extended to 1 March to ensure that the registration was as complete as possible.

In the spring of 1943, boys of seventeen could enlist with their parents consent. Anyone previously rejected because of "remediable defects" would be reconsidered. Ads such as "Don't Be a Slacker - Join the Army Now" began to appear. Qualified young men were offered a free year in university. The army and the air force combined recruiting efforts in October 1943 in order to best utilize an applicant's aptitude. If a man did not meet air force requirements he would be put in the army.

Recruitment ads continued to appear in the press during 1944. There was urgent need for trained troops to replace battle-weary men on the fronts. In an effort to stimulate men to fight in Europe the government introduced an Overseas Badge of Honour for any army man who volunteered to go overseas - "a soldier who believes in carrying the war to the enemy."

The serious shortage of reinforcements in Italy and northwest Europe in the summer and fall of 1944, led Defence Minister J. L. Ralston to insist that the NRMA trained soldiers be sent to keep battalions up to strength. Prime Minister Mackenzie King did not want to use conscription to send troops even though the 1942 plebiscite had cleared the way. The "conscription crisis" culminated with Ralston's resignation on 1 November 1944 and the appointment of General MacNaughton in his place. The infantry situation in Europe, however, did not change, and within three weeks the Cabinet passed an order-in-council that sent almost 13,000 NRMA soldiers overseas.

On the local scene, a special Honor Roll Gallery appeared in the window of Holman's, the town's largest department store. The town officials issued parchment certificates for those serving overseas. In December 1943 the Journal in a special issue to honour RCAF Station Summerside published a list of Summerside "boys" and "girls" who had enlisted in the air force.

There were numerous instances of Summerside families who had two or more sons serving in the armed forces. Some of the notable examples were the MacNeill, McInnis, Linkletter, Phillips, Clow, Inman, Gallant, Arsenault, and Durant families.

An Ottawa press release in October 1944 reinforced the splendid record of PEI enlistment that had previously been claimed. The article stated, "PEI Leads Canada in Percentage of Men in Service." The final figures released by the Wartime Information Board in July 1945 showed that British Columbia had taken the lead with Prince Edward Island as a close second.