- The Patriotic Consensus: Unity, Morale, and the Second World War in Winnipeg by Jody Perrun
Following the close of World War II, many publications have appeared in Canada treating the topic of Canadian armed forces members and their military service abroad. These imprints include a great number of articles, article compilations, documentary collections, monographs, and surveys, which, among a variety of topics, analyse and describe battles, campaigns, and regimental histories, as well as the biographies and reminiscences of individuals. Unfortunately, the authors of these publications paid practically no attention to the developments on the home front.
It is therefore commendable that Jody Perrun has decided to concentrate in his monograph on metropolitan Winnipeg in order to reveal the role of one city in supporting the war effort. Winnipeg was the second-largest city, after Vancouver, in Western Canada. According to the 1941 census, the city had 290,540 inhabitants. While its population was largely of British origin, there also existed large communities of Ukrainians, Jews, Germans, Poles, and Scandinavians, as well as other smaller ethnic groups: 38.1 per cent of Winnipeggers were of an ethnic origin other than British or French. Such variation within the city’s population and differences in their ideologies could create negative consequences for the unity and good morale required for proper war endeavours.
The subject matter contained in this monograph is presented in an introduction, six chapters, and a conclusion. The first chapter shows the reasons for a substantial unity with regard to the war effort in Winnipeg. The second, entitled “Us and Them,” concentrates on the city’s ethnic groups and shows why some of them did not fit into the category of patriotic consensus. The conscription issue is examined in some detail. The third chapter discusses various instruments created in wartime finances, such as Victory Loans and “belt-tightening,” and the roles of public spectacles, which aimed to bolster morale and consensus. The fourth shows [End Page 413] that, despite some centrifugal tensions that divided Winnipeggers, there still existed a substantial degree of consensus for the war effort. The last two chapters, which deal with family issues during the war years, stress various problems relating to material welfare and the consequences of separation.
The Patriotic Consensus: Unity, Morale, and the Second World War in Winnipeg contains an impressive scholarly apparatus: appendices, tables, illustrations, maps, copious notes to the introduction and each chapter, a list of abbreviations, a lengthy bibliography containing primary and secondary sources, and a detailed index. Perrun has achieved his aim admirably: to portray a history of Canadians’ experience of World War II in Winnipeg. This book will be enjoyed especially by those who lived in Winnipeg during the war. The new generations born during the conflict or in the years following it will find the book not only to their liking but also instructive. Of course, the monograph is also recommended to the public at large, in Canada and elsewhere.
It should be pointed out that the author is not shy to criticize. He states, for example, that the war was not a unifying experience for all of the ethnic minorities in Winnipeg: “Half of the Canadian population did not share British ancestry, but the public discourse about the war promoted the values of the Anglo-Canadian charter group that controlled the levers of political, social, and economic power.” He stresses that the hysteria that appeared throughout Canada relating to “foreigners,” the suspicion with regard to their loyalty, and the unjust treatment of ethnic minorities were regrettable sins of our forefathers. On the whole, these newcomers proved to be loyal to Canada, and a great many of them enlisted voluntarily in the regiments raised in Winnipeg or joined various branches of the Canadian armed forces. Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski of Winnipeg may be listed as an example. Serving in the 413 “Moose” Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, he was posthumously awarded, for “valour of the highest order,” the Victoria Cross.