A World Worthy of Their Sacrifice

HBC governor penned wartime words of encouragement and solace.
Written by M.C. Reid Posted September 5, 2023

The Second World War was the deadliest conflict in history, claiming the lives of an estimated sixty million people worldwide. Canada joined the war in September 1939 and suffered nearly forty-five thousand war dead. On the home front, countless Canadians sacrificed in countless ways to help to achieve victory over the Axis forces.

Yet, strangely, The Beaver was largely silent on the war. Only rarely would news of the conflict appear in its pages, and even then it was mostly relegated to the back sections of the magazine — often consisting of damage reports during the Blitz from Beaver House, the Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters in London, England, or perhaps a Christmastime note of encouragement from HBC Governor Patrick Cooper. Just a few months after the war’s start in August 1939, Cooper appeared in the December 1939 issue to wish “good luck” to the soldiers fighting overseas as well as to HBC staff across Canada and around the globe. “One of the chief dangers of war is that it may seriously dislocate our lives and that of the community,” Cooper wrote. “Good luck to you all, whether in the fighting forces or carrying on your job in the Company. We shall think of each other often and wish each other well, looking forward to a time when we are all re-united.”

Six fraught years later, the war ended in August 1945. In December, Cooper returned to The Beaver to celebrate the reunions taking place as men and women in uniform returned home from overseas. Amid the joy and the hope for a better future, Cooper took time to speak directly to those who had lost loved ones during the conflict. “To those who can only sit in sorrow and remembrance I send my deepest sympathy,” he wrote. “I know you will all join with me in giving them this pledge: that we shall not fail in the new struggle that must now begin to build a world worthy of their sacrifice.”

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This article originally appeared in the October-November 2023 issue of Canada’s History.

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