Prisoner of War (POW)
Soldiers, sailors and airmen captured by the enemy and kept in captivity. Until the middle of the 19th century, the status of POWs varied considerably. In Middle Ages Europe, the wounded enemy were usually "finished off" and prisoners kept were only those that might bring in a ransom, be exchanged or put to forced labour (such as captured sailors used as galley slaves). More humane practices towards POWs, influenced by the churches, slowly evolved in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance so that, by the 17th and 18th centuries, massacre and torture was considered uncivilized and immoral, at least against other Europeans. The treatment of POWs largely depended on agreements between the conflicting nations. Often, officers were asked to give their "parole" as a promise to behave and not to escape, and could thus spend the war living in comfortable residence until exchanged. Officers, considered noble or gentlemen, were not to be used for work and not to be tortured for information. Enlisted men could be put to labour and might be in camps or in floating prison ships until exchanged. POWs could include women and children, who were treated according to their class in society. In late 17th century Canada, there was a prison in Québec to house New Englanders, usually captured by parties of allied Indians, until exchanged. During the War of 1812, many American POWs were kept in Québec and on prison ships at Halifax. Those captured at Detroit were at Québec and, on October 1, 1812, with winter approaching, the Quebec Gazette advertised the Commissary General's Office request "for the American Prisoners" to have made "comfortable warm clothing consisting of the following articles, viz. JACKETS, SHIRTS, TROUSERS, MOCKESSONS or SHOES and ‘2000 pounds of SOAP".
POW conditions varied a great deal and one of the major flaws was that the wounded were left helpless on a battlefield to die or be abused and robbed if they survived. During the Crimean War (1854-1856), Florence Nightingale made the British nation aware of the importance to care properly for the battlefield wounded and POWs. The actions of a Swiss businessman, Henri Dunant, who established an international code of humanitarian behaviour towards wounded and POWs, resulted in the first Geneva Convention signed in 1864 by the major European nations. Canada has been party to the convention from the time it was a British colony.
During the First and Second World Wars, thousands of POWs, especially Germans, were shipped over from Britain to be interned in Canada. Canada followed the Geneva Conventions, and the POWs, by their own accounts, were well treated. Many of the German POWs liked the country and, once repatriated to Europe, thousands came back to settle here after the war. Unfortunately, Canadian POWs were not as lucky in the Axis detention camps. The worst off were the Canadians troops in Hong Kong that surrendered to the Japanese. Many died in captivity due to appalling conditions and cruel treatment. POW camps in Germany were somewhat better but far from equaled those in Canada. According to testimony of soldiers, such as Robert Waddy of the Royal Canadian Artillery, Canadians captured at Dieppe in August 1942 were subject to death threats. Some were tied "with strings from our Red Cross parcels" for up to 96 hours and, with other Allied POWs were subjected to many humiliations, lacked proper hygiene facilities and food. All this, and much more, was in contravention of the Geneva Conventions but the Canadians noted that the treatment of Russian POWs was far worse.
See also: Geneva Convention, Red Cross
Naval force deployed on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain from 1755 to the later part of 1813 when the Royal Navy took over command of naval operations and resources on the Great Lakes. Initially an Anglo-American force to oppose French vessels on Lake Ontario, it became a Canadian naval organization. It manned a number of small, lightly-armed vessels that patrolled and carried supplies and personnel to and from the various forts on the Great Lakes, especially Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron. Provincial Marine vessels were involved in several engagements as well as providing logistic support to the British and Canadian troops during the War of 1812. Its officers and sailors had naval uniforms and arms.
See also: Royal Navy
Title given to units raised in a province (or colony) under the authority and often at the expense of the province. Usually raised in wartime, they served as full time, regular troops and were disbanded when hostilities ceased. Most provincial troops organized in Canada served during the American War of Independence, the wars of the French Revolution (1793-1802) and the War of 1812. The service area of these local regular units was limited to North America. As these units were approved and paid for by local authority, they did not appear in the Army List and they were not included in the regular British Army as approved by Parliament in London. The commissions issued to provincial officers were signed by local governors and not by the king or queen.