Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

The Walls Have Ears

During World War II, signage constantly reminded Canadians to beware of inadvertently giving away intelligence to spies. Sometimes the authorities employed scare tactics, such as the dramatic poster you see here. Other times, cartoonish figures and humorous prose sent the same message. One notice featuring a vigilant-looking owl stated: “A wise old owl sat in an oak / The more he saw the less he spoke. / No matter what he saw or heard / He didn’t repeat a single word. / Let’s try to imitate this bird!!” Local newspapers would slip quick reminders into unsold ad spaces, such as the following warning: “The sharp ears of the enemy agents are always listening for scraps of information. Don’t let your careless talk help the enemy. Don’t discuss ship movements, defense plans, munition factories, troop movements, harbour facilities, aircraft production, supply stores. Be on your guard.”

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This dramatic poster reminded citizens and workers that information about ship activities during the war had to be kept confidential; if discussed, the results could be disastrous.

Posters like this one were hung in public buildings such as schools, railway stations, factories and government offices.

Printing and distribution of the posters began in the summer of 1940, when the air assaults in the Battle of Britain were felt in England.

The Wartime Information Board in Ottawa published the posters, which were designed by the Walls Have Ears Organization.

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