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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Introducing the Canadian Infantry

The Canadian army leading up to WW2 was very small and ill equipped. The standing army numbered only a little over four thousand men, and the reserves just over fifty thousand. As the War broke out in Europe, Canada intended to supply one division to help in the ETO and one division to defend the homeland. As the war evolved, so did Canada's commitment. Out of a population of a little over 11 million, close to 10% of the population ended up serving across all branches of the military. Canada's ground troops initially took on small roles. During the battle of France one brigade was attached to the BEF, and another battalion was sent to help, however the collapse of France happened so rapidly that it arrived too late and it was also withdrawn. Canada also sent a couple of battalions to help defend Hong Kong 1941. Most of these men were captured, with as many dying in captivity as had died during the battle. The Canadian army also supplied 5,000 men for the disastrous Dieppe raid in 1942. They went in along with 1,000 British commandos, suffering 60% losses. Their next contribution, of increasing significance, came when they helped with the invasion of Sicily in the summer of 1943 and the subsequent campaign up the Italian boot. This cost them an additional 25k casualties. The next major engagement happened when fifty thousand Canadians participated in D-Day, landing at Juno beach. The Canadian troops made the greatest gains that day despite the Juno area being only second to Omaha Beach in German defenses. These troops continued to fight in the Normandy campaign, eventually helping to encircle and destroy the German army in the Falaise pocket. In the fall of 1944, Canadian troops helped liberate the heavily fortified Sheldt estuary, which was key in order for the allies to be able to ship goods through the port of Antwerp. There is a recent movie from 2020 called 'The Forgotten Battle' that shows the challenging circumstances of the Canadian attack. Canadian troops then helped liberate the rest of the Netherlands during the winter of 1944/45, which was badly needed as the Dutch were starving at the time. Throughout the course of the war, 730,000 Canadians served as ground troops, with 42,000 of them paying the ultimate price. In terms of toy soldiers, there have not been any manufacturers that have released sets explicitly meant to represent Canadian troops. Most recently Mars released a set representing Commonwealth troops, which many of us would like to think of as Canadians. Let's take a look. 

Mars British Commonwealth Troops
Mars British Commonwealth Troops
This release from Mars portrays British Commonwealth Troops, which I guess means that you could use them as any number of nationalities. I know many collectors would like to use them as Canadian. What's nice about them is that a couple of them are wearing a leather vest, which I gather is called a jerkin. Another nice touch is that among their poses they have a prone piat firing team. As far as I recall, only 21C had made a prone piat firing paratrooper, but it did not have a loader. The set is pretty good overall, with almost all figures in good action, fighting poses. My only disappointment is the figure on the left, which I find very poorly sculpted. Like several other Mars figures, his arms are tucked next to his body as if he were trying to hold something with his arm pits. He actually looks worse when you look at him directly from the front. I really wish by now Mars had figured out how to properly sculpt arms in more natural positions. Other than that, it is a pretty nice set, and a welcome representation of a unique nation/service branch.

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