Canada in the Second World War

Events

Canadian Flag in Normandy

Unfurling of the Canadian Red Ensign at First Canadian Army HQ in Normandy, June 29th, 1944.

Unfurling of the Canadian Red Ensign at First Canadian Army HQ in Normandy, June 29th, 1944.
Photo by Ken Bell. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-137915.

The maple leaf was used as a badge to identify Canadian units and their equipment, weapons and vehicles, as well as their aircraft and ships, which were the same as those used by the British. But, after four years of war, this unassuming symbol on the buttons of uniforms or stencilled on jeeps was no longer appropriate to the scope of Canada’s military involvement alongside the Allies. Canadian units needed a stronger common national symbol.

In preparation for D-Day, General H.D.G. Crerar handed out Canadian flags to his officers, for display at division and brigade headquarters. On June 29th, 1944, the Red Ensign was flown on the HQ of the First Canadian Army near Amblie, in Normandy, to celebrate Dominion Day two days later. For the first time in history, Canadian soldiers were fighting under their very own colours.

The Canadian Red Ensign carries in its upper left corner the Union Flag or Union Jack, the flag of the United Kingdom, made of the combination of three crosses, those of Saint George, Saint Patrick, and Saint Andrew. The ensign also bears the coat of arms of Canada, granted by King George V in 1924. It remained Canada’s national flag until 1965 when it was replaced by the red and white maple leaf flag.

Major-General R.F.L. Keller addressing Canadian troops in Normandy, August 2nd, 1944.

Major-General R.F.L. Keller addressing Canadian troops in Normandy, August 2nd, 1944.
Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-129169.