November 11 is our opportunity to join remembrance services around the Commonwealth to honour those who serve and those who have died in the line of duty since the First World War, protecting our freedom and way of life.
Imperial and our employees are forever grateful for the peace and comfort that we know because of their courage and sacrifice for the Canada we know today.
Remembrance Day is especially relevant to Imperial because of the company's significant war-time history:
Fuel and other supplies
- Much of Imperial's refining network was built in response to a growing demand for petroleum products associated with the mechanization of armies in World War I. Our former Dartmouth refinery, for example, was mostly built during the war. When an empty freighter collided with a loaded ammunition ship in the Halifax Harbour in 1917, Imperial's construction camps were used to house refugees left homeless from what was considered the greatest manmade explosion until the beginning of the nuclear age.
- World War II absorbed most of the world's petroleum products. The Allied air forces used 14 times as much gasoline in one day as did all the Allied forces throughout the entire First World War. Almost half of Imperial's production was directly or indirectly part of the war effort.
- In the two years prior to U.S. involvement in WWII, Imperial was part of "Operation Shuttle," a secret operation that helped transport American oil to Great Britain. Imperial held the oil in storage tanks on land adjacent to its Dartmouth refinery. To ensure North America's fuel supply, Imperial helped build the almost 1,000-kilometre pipeline from Norman Wells, NWT, to a temporary refinery in Whitehorse, YT, that was completed in 1944. Dartmouth refinery lab technicians also tested the fuel oil used by merchant ships and warships to ensure that it had not been contaminated by saboteurs.
- World War II also encouraged expansion of the company's operations. The original Edmonton refinery (before Strathcona) was built in Whitehorse, Yukon, together with a pipeline as part of a strategic project to supply fuels to US forces fighting the Japanese in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. As events unfolded, the refinery was never used for this purpose. After the war, it was dismantled, trucked to Edmonton and reassembled.
- Imperial urged civilians to conserve fuel. A series of highway billboards featured gasoline-saving tips. Drivers were asked to cut out "non-essential driving," not to idle their cars and to watch their tire pressure.
- The Polymer Corporation Limited plant at Sarnia, Ontario produced synthetic rubber for Canada during the Second World War. Later it was involved in the petrochemicals industry primarily in the production of polyurethane.
- In honour of the Imperial employees in Sarnia who joined WWII, the 414 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was named "The Sarnia Imperials." The local air cadet squadron retains that name to this day.
- Nanticoke refinery occupies the site of the RCAF's #1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, ON -- one part of a huge chain of training facilities that made up the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. It was considered one of Canada's greatest contributions to the allied war effort.
- Royalite, launched December 15, 1915, for Imperial, was the first tanker to be built in Canada. She worked the Great Lakes trade routes but made Atlantic crossings in support of both World Wars. Royalite was renamed the Imperial Welland in 1947.
- Today, the bell from the Royalite/Imperial Welland is proudly displayed and rings out from the lobby of Imperial’s campus headquarters.
- The British and Canadian merchant marine suffered terrible losses during the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII. At that time, Imperial had a marine division with a considerable fleet of company-owned and leased oil tankers. Six were sunk and one was captured by a German surface raider off the coast of Africa. The crew spent the rest of the war in a P.O.W. camp.
- Flight Lieutenant Eldon Eastham Kearl of 408 Squadron was a 24-year-old Second World War Canadian air force pilot when he and his crew crashed near Berlin aboard a Lancaster bomber in 1944. In 1950, Muskeg Lake north of Fort McMurray was renamed Kearl Lake in honour of the Distinguished Flying Cross recipient. Today, our largest oil sands project proudly bears his name.
- All access roads within our Kearl oil sands operation are named after Flight Lt. Kearl and his crew members, and our gate stands as a memorial to their service.
- Harold Kearl, younger brother of Eldon Kearl, also served as a pilot in World War II, flying 17 missions and remaining for a year after the end of the war with Transport Command, flying passengers and freight across northwest Europe and searching for his brother Eldon’s resting place. The Kearl pilots grew up on the family farm near Cardston in southern Alberta. Read the full article.
Some of our brave employees who served
- Hjalmar Nelson Hamar was born in Norway in 1894 and came to Canada in 1914 at age 20. He served in the Canadian Army during the First World War, after which he returned to Canada to prospect for gold in British Columbia and around the Yellowknife area. From the western shore of Hudson's Bay, he trekked overland to Fort Norman on the Mackenzie River. He worked as a battery operator for Imperial from 1947 until 1959, and remained in the Norman Wells area until his death in 1967. In 1970, Mount Hamar was named after him.
- In Simcoe, ON, Imperial service station attendants, with the help of local Boy Scouts, collected license plates during the Red Cross drive of 1940-1941. Over 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg) of metal was collected in a single day for the war effort.
- Imperial had one of the most generous policies of any Canadian company to support employees who joined the armed services during war time. Leaves of absence were granted with full accrual of service credits and "top-up" pay was provided to cover the difference between military pay and what the employee had received from the company. There was also a guarantee of re-employment at the end of hostilities.