Nene K270 Pre-War (The Dirty Thirties)

The Dirty Thirties

Canada like all the world was just recovering from the devastating depression of the early 1930's and the long struggle to put people back to work. Its population was about fifteen million. Supermarkets had not been heard of and many of the services were delivered by horse and cart, the milkman came early every morning, most people had ice boxes, not refrigerators, and ice was delivered by horse and cart as well as coal to heat the home. Radio was a major source of entertainment and we were avid listeners of Amos and Andy, the Happy Gang, Saturday night hockey and the boxing matches from Madison Square Garden. It was a different sort of life. There was no medicare, unemployment insurance, no family allowances. The model A Ford was rolling off the assembly lines at Detroit. Each family worked hard to survive. This was the kind of world we lived in. Life wasn't easy.

World War II Posters. Photos for Canadian War Museum by William Kent.
Copyright : Canadian War Museum, Canadian Museum of Civilization.

In Europe the ominous sounds of two totalitarian states was being heard around the world. Italy was making noises in North Africa against the Ethiopians and Germany making aggressive moves against its neighbours. Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, made a special trip to Germany to meet with the German Chancellor, Adolph Hitler and returned home triumphant, that Germany would not make further aggressive moves. It was a short lived peace. Canada's pre-war navy was hardly up to the kind of war that would be fought in the coming months. The backbone of the Canadian effort became the Corvette doing heroic convoy duty.

Germany invaded Poland with lightning speed and before we knew it the world was engaged in global war. The apparently invincible Maginot Line was overrun and German troops swept through France. British troops were evacuated from France and the war began in earnest. The British navy was considered superior, but this was a different kind of war and the German submarine fleet created havoc amongst the merchant ships. One of the darkest moments in the war was the sinking of the battleship the HMS Hood (1), the pride of the British navy. At home the country rapidly mobilized for war. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour stunned the world with the complete devastation of some ships of the U.S. Pacific fleet. There was a sombre mood in the country. Canada was rapidly equipping itself with a fleet of corvettes and frigates that proved to be effective in protecting convoys across the Atlantic. Amongst this fleet was HMCS Nene.

The Home Front

Recruiting offices for the navy, army and airforce were established all across the country. We joined the navy by the thousands, not knowing what the future held. For mothers and fathers and wives left at home it was a trauma, to see their sons and husbands face the perils of war. Many of the crew were just newlyweds, leaving their brides at home. Sacrifices were made to aid the war effort. There were shortages of goods, rationing of foodstuffs, gasoline and other essential war supplies. Thousands worked for munitions factories. Women took an active part in the war effort making munitions and the other armaments of war. Large industrial factories like Canadian Locomotive, General Electric, Westinghouse, were converted to war production. Tanks, transport vehicles, ships were being turned out in record numbers. In Britain and on the continent incessant bombing by the Axis, destroyed homes and national monuments. Coventry, London and Liverpool were especially hard hit by bombs.

1   For those interested, there is a graphic account of the sinking of H.M.S. Hood by the Bismark and the pursuit of the Bismark by the British fleet in Winston Churchill's book, The Grand Alliance.'

(Source: Nene Lives; ed. Kenneth Riley, ppg. 7 - 8)

Webmaster: Dan Delong - Updated: November 30, 2002