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Glossary

Air Force - Used generically to mean the military air resources of a nation. Also a very large air formation made up of two or more groups, as in the British 2nd Tactical Air Force that supported the Allied armies that liberated north-west Europe in 1944-5. Canada contributed some fifteen fighter squadrons under six Canadian 'wing' headquarters that made up over a third of the combat strength of the 2nd Tactical Air Force.

Airborne - In the Second World War airborne army forces were either parachutists or glider-landed troops.

Allies - The nations allied againsts the Axis powers during the Second World War. Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, France, China, Canada and Australia were the principal Allies.

Army - Used generically to mean a nation's land forces. Also a very large formation made up of two or more army corps, as in 1st Canadian Army, which at its peak strength in 1944-5 included about 160,000 personnel.

Axis - The alliance of Germany and Italy in 1936, later including Japan and the other nations which opposed the Allies in the Second World War.

Battalion - Basic combat unit of the army. A Canadian infantry battalion included four rifle companies and a support company, which was equipped with heavier weapons; the total strength was approximately 850 personnel.

Battery - A company-sized sub-unit of artillery, whose major equipment was usually eight artillery pieces. The most common artillery weapon was the 25-pounder, which fired an explosive eleven-kilogramme shell to a range of about ten kilometres. Two or more batteries made up an artillery regiment.

BCATP - British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

Blitzkrieg or Blitz - A German expression, borrowed by the English-speaking Allied nations, whose translation is "Lightning War." The term characterized rapid thrusts by tank and truck-carried infantry forces closely supported by bomber and fighter aircraft that gained Hitler his early victories. Shortened to "blitz" it came to mean the German day and night bomber attacks against London in 1940 and after.

Brigade - An army formation of two or more battalions (or regiments in the case of armoured brigades), of up to five thousand men. The Canadian Army had both infantry and armoured (ie., tank) brigades.

Commandos - Specially-trained British and Canadian shock troops who were landed from the sea on the enemy coast.

Company - An army sub-unit. Canadian Army infantry companies had about one hundred and twenty soldiers.

Corps - An army formation made up of two or more divisions. Also the collective name for units of a similar type, as in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, whose many units provided transport, catering and other basic support services to the army.

D-Day - The Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy in France on 6 June 1944. Also, the code name for the secret date for the launching of a military operation.

Demobilization - To disband military units, dispose of their equipment and return their personnel to civilian life, most notably after the end of a war.

Division - An army formation made up of two or more brigades, usually fifteen thousand or more men. The Canadian Army had both infantry and armoured (ie, tank) divisions.

Gestapo - The internal security police of Nazi Germany.

Group - A large air force formation usually composed of four or more squadrons and the bases from which they operated. The largest Canadian group was Number 6 (RCAF) Group, of the British Bomber Command. By 1945 Number 6 (RCAF) Group included fourteen squadrons that operated nearly three-hundred heavy four-engine bombers from ten bases in northern England.

Luftwaffe - German Air Force

NRMA - National Resources Mobilization Act. The Canadian legislation, passed by Parliament in 1940, that enabled the government to call up men for compulsory military service.

RAF - Royal Air Force (Great Britain)

RCAF - Royal Canadian Air Force

RCN - Royal Canadian Navy

Repatriation - Returning someone to his or her country of origin, such as the return of Canadian military personnel from Europe to Canada.

SS - Schutzstaffel, a German expression that literally means "defence echelon." It was the military wing of the Nazi party, which served as Hitler's personal bodyguard and provided guards for concentration camps. The SS also raised élite combat formations for the field armies.

Squadron - The basic unit of the air force, usually of ten to eighteen aircraft.

Theatre - A large geographic area in which military operations were coordinated, eg. - the North American theatre

Tickertape - The long paper strip produced by a telegraph machine. This material was customarily thrown from windows to greet celebrities.

U-Boat - Short for Unterseeboot, a German submarine.

VE Day - Victory in Europe Day, celebrated on 8 May 1945, which marked the capitulation of Germany to the Allied powers.

Vichy - A city in central France, the capital of unoccupied France, 1940-1942, and, by extension, the political regime led by Marshal Pétain, which ruled France from Vichy after the French defeat in 1940.

Wing - An air force formation made up of two or more squadrons



    Date created: September 19, 2003 | Last updated: October 22, 2009