Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Public Discourse of Mechanization: the Buy-A-Tank Campaigns

The Canadian idea of mechanization as the means to save soldier's lives was greatly heightened after the fall of France in May 1940. The so-called Blitzkrieg seemed to be irrefutable proof for arguments that the tank was the war-winning weapon. By the summer of 1940, a portion of the Canadian public had become disenchanted with the scale of Canada's war effort, and sought to raise money to equip the Canadian army with the tools deemed necessary for mechanical, motorized warfare.
The tank, in popular opinion,was deemed the technology necessary for the Canadian Army to modernize and overcome the mechanized German menace.  This public discourse of mechanization is evident in Kitchener, Ontario's "Buy-A-Tank" campaign. Fundraisers called for private donations for the purpose, and set up carnival games which had a particular war-time flavour. One newspaper account noted that "would-be archers pay 25 cents for three bow-and-arrow shots at a likeness of the German chancellor.
Miami Daily News, 4 June 1940.
The Regina Leader Post reported that such enthusiasm was encouraged by Minister of National Defence, J. L. Ralston's announcement that the government welcomed the donation of money and war materials.   A campaign to buy-a-tank was also underway in Prescott, Ontario.  Money was donated from industry, municipalities, and individuals.  The Leader Post reported that a tank from Camp Borden would be featured in the parade that would end the drive.  The paper noted, "firms that wish to have the tank stop in front of their offices for the taking of publicity pictures will pay $10 for the privilege."  The two-week drive in Kitchener was estimated to reach $25,000 total, which would provide for two tanks at the government's official figure of $12,000 at tank.
A year later, the Montreal Gazzette reported boys in a youth parade displaying their patriotism mixed with a strong dose of boyish fascination with the tank.  The sign on the front of their "armoured vehicle", constructed of corn-flakes boxes and bicycle parts, read "Help Buy a Tank, Buy Victory Bonds."

"Operator Offers Slot Machines to Aid Buy Tank", Regina Leader-Post, 13 June 1940, page two.

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