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World War II Polar Bear Training Exercise Photograph Collection

  • 2019.11
  • Collection
  • 1945
These photographs were taken by an unknown photographer from Department of National Deference Public Relations (Pacific Command) during the 1945 Polar Bear Exercise. This exercise was held in northern British Columbia in February and March 1945, using some 1,150 soldiers of the 6th Division. The intent of the exercise was to test the effects of "wet cold" conditions on military men and material. The scenario for the Polar Bear Exercise was that: "Action will be based on reports of a Japanese force having been landed at Bella Coola from submarines, having rendered useless RCAF installations at Bella Bella, and giving positive indication that this force is composed in great part of construction personnel with a comparatively small protective element; the assumption being that it will try to construct a useable road from Bella Coola to permit movement inland of a larger fighting force to follow at some later date". The exercise itself was conducted in three overlapping phases. Between 12 February and 5 March the force moved from Prince George to Anahim Lake, chiefly using an array of motor transport but with some pack horses. The second phase ran from 4 March to early April. This was a series of marches from Anahim Lake to Bella Coola and return; a secondary force of 19 men split off from the main body and, travelling by snowmobile and snowshoe, traversed the Rainbow Mountains to Bella Coola; on the return march this detachment was increased to 120 men and dubbed "Y" Force. The third phase was removal of all troops by vehicle from Anahim Lake to Williams Lake. These photographs are believed to document the return from Bella Coola.