Reflecting on World War II
On this Remembrance Day, we reflect on those who served and are still serving in the armed and auxiliary forces. Nearly 1,500 BMO employees served during the Second World War.
During wartime, BMO’s Staff Magazine was an important tool, allowing our service members to keep in touch with their colleagues and loved ones back home. Excerpts from letters to their colleagues were published on a regular basis in the bank’s Staff Magazine along with updates as to what branch staff were doing to support their colleagues serving on the front.
The column entitled “Gleanings from the letters of members of the staff now overseas” offers vivid insight into enlisted staff members’ experiences on the frontlines and the sacrifices they made during times of war. Many of the letters published in the column describe the Blitz, a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom. For example, a letter from A.W. Newton, who served as a Major in the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps, describes:
“Since I have landed in this country some five months ago, I have run into several B. of M. men, and must say, that it is like meeting a brother…Air-raids have been fairly hot and heavy for the past while, but they seem to be slowing up now […] So far I have been very lucky, in fact that goes for our whole unit. Bombs have come down all around us, but our names have not been on any of them. Our Waterloo Place branch has been giving us wonderful service in the Field…”
Image: Photograph of A.W. Newton speaking on behalf of the Pointe Claire branch of the Canadian Legion, Staff Magazine, February 1950.
Back home, staff shared what they were doing to help, which included acquiring wool and knitting socks, scarves, and long sea boot stockings. In the year 1941, $1,108.24 had been collected via staff donations and turned into 531 knitted articles. These contributions were greatly appreciated and helped the morale of those fighting.
On this day, we acknowledge the sacrifices made.
Image: Photograph of employees at Head Office displaying their knits for the Overseas Parcels League, a league that supplied comforts to those on the front lines, Staff Magazine, August 1941.