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Directing the War from Trafalgar Square? Vincent Massey and the Canadian High Commission, 1939-42

Fedorowich, Kent


Kent Fedorowich
Associate Professor in British Imperial & Comnwealth History


This article explores a number of key facets of Vincent Massey's tenure as Canada's wartime high commissioner in London between 1939 and 1942. Using the personal tensions and mutual suspicions which existed between Massey and the mercurial Canadian prime minister, W. L. Mackenzie King, this essay analyses how Massey and his dedicated staff coped with the increasing and punishing workload during the first three years of the Second World War. Wheat, wartime finance and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan dominated Anglo-Canadian relations during the early stages of the war when the British Empire/Commonwealth stood almost alone against the European dictators. What emerges is that, despite King's attempts to restrict Massey's authority in wartime London, the pressure of prime ministerial work in Ottawa allowed Massey, for the first time since his appointment in 1935, to exert the authority and responsibility he so desperately craved prior to the war. However, this essay is not just about high policy and the tensions between Trafalgar Square and Ottawa or within the Commonwealth alliance. Massey and his wife Alice also responded magnificently to the needs of off-duty Canadian service personnel while on leave in London. At the centre of this analysis is the changing and at times frustrating part played by the Canadian high commissioner in London and Massey's role in modernising the office of high commissioner. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Fedorowich, K. (2012). Directing the War from Trafalgar Square? Vincent Massey and the Canadian High Commission, 1939-42. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 40(1), 87-117.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2012
Journal Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Print ISSN 0308-6534
Electronic ISSN 1743-9329
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 1
Pages 87-117
Keywords war, Trafalgar Square, Vincent Massey, Canadian high commission
Public URL
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