Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Jonathan Vance


This dissertation is the first full-length study to explore how the Canadian government and military disposed of surplus munitions and supplies after the Second World War. By investigating how the state planned and implemented its disposal program from 1943 to 1948, this thesis places objects at the centre of attention and demonstrates their profound political, social, and economic significance. By examining the extended social lives of munitions and supplies in relationship to their postwar impact on civilian life, this study offers a new and innovative perspective that links material culture with postwar reconstruction, rehabilitation, and demobilization. What follows is a history of how Canadians turned swords into plowshares that contributes to the fields of military history, Canadian history, material culture, and disarmament studies.

Disposal was an important element of Canada’s exit strategy for the Second World War because the objects accumulated to fight survived long after hostilities ended and required diligent procedures to demobilize or destroy. In November 1943, the Canadian government established the Crown Assets Allocation Committee (CAAC) and the War Assets Corporation (WAC) to plan, control, and implement its disposal program. This study elaborates on four critical themes: 1) the continuous and evolving nature of public pressure for government action on disposal; 2) the role of the CAAC and WAC in controlling disposal operations; 3) the way the objects of war require stewardship from one use to the next; and 4) the process through which munitions and supplies were reduced, reused, recycled, and upcycled into new forms, functions, and intentions. This thesis argues that through the CAAC and WAC surplus assets were disposed of to support, and not hinder, postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation. Although disposal was not perfect and left behind some dangerous environmental legacies, the conversion of surplus assets into peacetime purposes ensured that objects gained new uses and meanings thereby mitigating their threatening nature to economic stability, political authority, and public safety.

Keywords: Canadian history; military history; munitions disposal; material culture; demobilization; disarmament; reconstruction; rehabilitation; peace.