Throughout both World Wars, the Yukon Territory set an illustrious example of wartime contribution for the rest of the country. During the First World War, Yukoners gave generously to the war effort, contributing roughly twenty times the national average (in terms of dollars per population size) by raising by 1917 nearly $100, 000. Over six hundred territorial residents volunteered for service out of a population of five thousand. Even the Commissioner of the territory, George Black, stepped down from his position and raised a group of 250 men known as the “Black Contingent”. Several members of the Yukon Council followed suit. Another such resident, Joe Boyle, sponsored a machine gun battery of fifty men. These volunteers were known as the Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery, and fought as part of the First Motor Machine Gun Brigade at Vimy. The unit’s war diary reveals that it provided support to the 4th Canadian Division in its successful attempt to capture the highest point of the ridge while suffering a handful of casualties.
During the Second World War, Yukon played a significant role as a key link in a transportation hub supporting the war effort through what was known as the North West Staging Route. About 30, 000 American and Canadian servicemen and civilian workers expanded the facilities of a series of airfields across the Northwest and built a 2,300km-long highway to Alaska to develop an air route to send assistance to Russia. During the 21 months that the program was operational, 7, 983 aircraft were delivered to the Russians.
1. Coates, Ken and Morrison, William. Land of the Midnight Sun: A History of the Yukon. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.
2. Cohen, Stan B. The Forgotten War: A Pictorial History of World War II in Alaska and Northwestern Canada, Volume 1. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., Inc., 1981
3. Gates, Michael. “Yukon’s World War 1 soldiers are not forgotten.” Yukon News, Friday, November 14, 2014.
4. Gates, Michael. “Let’s remember the Yukoners who fought at Vimy Ridge during the First World War.” Yukon News, Friday, April 17, 2015.
5. Library and Archives Canada. Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery War Diary. April 1917, paged 7-10.
Featured Image: Credit: The MacBride Museum of Yukon History.