Chinese Canadian Military Museum
This photograph is from the Chinese Canadian Military Museum collection, courtesy of the museum’s curator, Larry Wong.
Approximately six hundred Chinese Canadians served in the Second World War, while many more contributed to the war effort on the Canadian homefront. At the start of the war, national conscription excluded Chinese Canadians, but in 1944, Chinese Canadians were permitted to enlist under The National Resources Mobilization Act, 1940 to meet the British War Office’s demand for troops for the Special Operations Executive in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Chinese Canadians served in almost every command in the armed forces. They also contributed to the war effort by working in the shipyards, factories, and by helping to boost food production for troops.
Chinese Canadian women served in the armed forces mainly in non-combat roles, relieving male soldiers so that they could serve at the front. Of the women appearing in these photos, Private Edna Silaine Lowe, Corporal Lila Wong, Private Marion Laura Mah, Private Mary Ko Bong and Private Helen Hoe joined the Women’s Army Corps, while Aircraft Woman 1 Jean Suey Zee Lee joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Several more Chinese Canadian women took part in the Women’s Ambulance Corps, a civil defence unit of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.
Private Mary Ko Bong is seen here working on a pair of binoculars during the Second World War. She was trained as an instrument mechanic in the Canadian Women’s Army corps and specialized in binoculars and compasses. Mary trained at Hamilton and Barrie Field, Ontario. Out of a class of thirty women, she was one of only seven to successfully complete her course. After the war, she went on to become a watchmaker in England and in Canada.