There are actually not one but three Maple Leaf Up sites: one died with its owner, but still contains valuable information; one is a thriving forum spun off from that first website; and another is a profit-making venture independent of the others.
The name was a natural for Canadian Military History. Before the Maple Leaf was the Canadian Flag, the Maple Leaf Route was how units, men, and supplies got to and from the Canadian forces at the front in Northwest Europe. Because the Canucks might be fighting in any cardinal direction at any given time, the road to the front was marked with the sign, Maple Leaf Up, and the road back to the rear, the depots, England, and Canada with Maple Leaf Down.
All three attempt to tell the story of the all-but-forgotten armed forces of the Dominion of Canada in the Second World War. Our favorite is actually the moribund, old, original website, MapleLeafUp.net. Unfortunately, the original founder Geoff Winnington-Bell, passed away years ago, and the promise of the site was never entirely fulfilled.
1. Our Favorite: MapleLeafUp.net
Here is Winnington-Bell, describing his site and plans.
MAPLE LEAF UP is a private Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the all-volunteer Canadian Army Overseas in World War II.
We represent that generation of young Canadians who voluntarily risked their lives in Overseas Service in this tumultuous war, now all but forgotten. Many served, although not nearly enough; and too many paid the ultimate price for their honour. In doing so, however, their courage forever cast Canada as a nation willing to endure any hardship to ensure that the cancer of fascism shall not plague this fragile world of ours.
We remember these men, by the things they did and by the tools they employed to win their remarkable record. Through our efforts in preserving the vehicles, weapons and equipment of this historic era, we endeavour to perpetuate the memory of this trying time and of these magnificent men, who volunteered to serve their country at a cost inconceivable to Canadians facing the dawn of the twenty-first century.
Canada’s contribution was out of all proportion to the scanty population of the country at the time, and deserves to be memorialized. To put things in perspective, on D-Day the US covered two beaches, the UK two, and Canada one. By war’s end, there were whole divisions of Canadians in Northern Europe (and another in Italy), never mind the Canadians at sea or in the RCAF or RAF (there were even some Canadians who fought in the US forces. There always are). At the outbreak of the war in 1939, though, the Canadian population was just under 11.3 million, less than 10% of the American, and less than 25% of the British. Canada’s GDP imbalance with its allies was even stronger.
The Canadian standing army in 1939, the Permanent Force, was 5,000 officers and other ranks… practically a rounding error of the strength of her European enemies, and yet, she still managed to send a very significant force to fight in Europe. How Canada got from 5,000 men equipped with Great War hand-me-down weapons to fielding mighty forces on land, sea and air within five years is a story for the ages. Here’s the overview from the site:
Frantic calls went out across the country to the units of the Active Militia to begin mobilizing for the coming conflict; and to industry at large to gear up for war production.
Many still hungry from the lean years of the recent depression, men from all walks of life all across the country dropped what they were doing and flocked into the headquarters of their local regiments to volunteer their services to king and country. Some showed up to parade dressed in the moth-eaten uniforms their uncles or fathers had worn in 1918; others with nothing but what they had on their backs.
In the beginning, there were no uniforms, boots, kit or weapons for them, save a few well-worn leftovers from WW1. It did not matter. The men came anyway, possessed of the same spirit which had carved this country out of an unforgiving wilderness only a few generations before. From the city and the farm, from the small town, the mine and the vast wasteland of the Canadian Shield, they brought with them a unique, quiet determination to finish the job their fathers had begun only a few years before. Their Monarch and their Nation had asked them to help; they set aside the tools with which they had carved a life and a living out of a harsh world, and prepared to face an uncertain future whose only acceptable object was… Victory.
At the same time, our industry was setting up for wartime production, on an unprecedented scale. Vehicles, tanks, ships, aircraft, small arms and more poured off the assembly lines after a short, hectic tooling-up. While much of what was produced was adapted from British designs, all had a uniquely-Canadian stamp to it which denoted quality and reliability. Many examples survive today, and it’s because of this we’re able to bring you this web site, such as it is.
And our soldiers marched on, first to England in 1939, and hence to hitherto unknown environs such as Dieppe, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. It is not generally well known that until April 1945, a scant few weeks before the end of the war in Europe, the First Canadian Army was comprised entirely of volunteer troops. Canadian formations in both Italy and Northwest Europe consistently fought well-understrength through the balance of their wars, while hundreds of thousands of healthy, uniformed troops languished at home at the behest of a government lacking the will to impose overseas conscription. This, too, was as uniquely Canadian as was the tenacity and endurance of our fighting men themselves: the volunteers of the Canadian Army Overseas.
There is a Canadian spin to it, of course. The voluntary nature of Canadian service pre-1945 has less to do with Canadian public-spiritedness, and more to do with Canadian multiculturalism. Francophone Canadians were not interested in fighting for Great Britain, as they saw it, in either World War. And as far as fighting for France was concerned, they were as likely to sympathize with Pétain, the collaborator, as De Gaulle, the resister.
While many French Canadians rallied to the Red Ensign (Canada’s pre-’67 flag) and fought voluntarily for Canada, it wasn’t the perfectly-proportionally-represented minority depicted in modern Canadian war films. Canadian politicians and soldiers had to lead their French-speaking fellow citizens to war, they couldn’t order them.
Two things Maple Leaf Up does cover that are little credited elsewhere: Canadian war production and Canadian-specific vehicles.
But the site deserves to be read, as a look at the many great (and often unknown, especially to Yanks and Brits) contributions that Canadian soldiers, sailors, scientists and industrialists made to victory.
2: Interactive: MLU Forums
The Forums of the original site thrive today with Canadian and worldwide interest in history, arms, and equipment. Dedicated restorers (mostly Canadians, but there are Britons, Yanks and Australians involved, too) of Canadian military vehicles and artillery abound. Indeed, there’s some great antitank guns and other artillery represented here. Here’s a 17 Pounder chassis (no tube; he has has a dummy built for display) that was recovered for restoration by Rob Fast in Western Canada in 2011. The 17 Pounder (which was about 3″ or 77 mm caliber) was the best antitank gun fielded by the Allies during the war. It was usually used with a full-caliber solid shot, but HE rounds and subcaliber APDS/T were also available.
There’s even one Australian, Tony Baker, who says he uses a 1942 Ford Canada CMP artillery tractor as his daily driver.
3: Plenty of Content: MapleLeafUp.ca
MapleLeaf Up .ca calls itself “The Canadian Military History Web Magazine.” The best thing about this site is that it has a goodly number of war stories by Canadian WWII vets.
We were surprised by how interesting the story of the Canadian memorial atop Vimy Ridge was.
It took designer and sculptor Walter Allward 15 years from commission to consecration — using stone from Diocletian’s Palace. He always said the idea came to him in a dream.
The Canadian gains at Vimy were one of the rare accomplishments of the Battle of Arras, a typically unimaginative attempt to exchange soldiers’ lives for yardage of wasteland.
And here all these years, we thought Maple Leafs were just flags and the Toronto hockey team.
Taken together, these sites remind one of the days before the media-hound Trudeau clan, when Canada was a world power in the physical world, and not just the hockey rink and in NGO circles. It’s a reminder that for every 1%er Canadian one meets in a smug NGO expat enclave, Helping The Little Brown People by living like Cecil Rhodes with lots of ill-treated servants, there’s the 99% heritage of lumberjacks, voyageurs, and the sixty-eight survivors of the Newfoundland Regiment at the Somme (Reminder: we’ve got to write about them one of these days), even though the Newfies were technically not yet Canadians at that time — theirs was a separate Dominion, coequal with Canada and Australia, until later.