NEW! Canadian Military History Trivia Challenge

Month: January 2000

O Canada

Century Of Duty

Canadians have often been called an unmilitary people but wars not only shaped the map of Canada, they also determined its political history and social development. And although Canadians never went to war for gain, Canadian resources and–more importantly–the lives of Canada’s servicemen bought this nation its autonomywithin the British Empire, then its complete independence and finally a respected place in the important councils of the world. Canadian military history did not begin with Canada’s first overseas battle at Sunnyside Kopje in South Africa on New Year’s Eve 1899. The stage for major military achievement in the 20th century was set by political and military developments that unfolded a half-century before. The creation of the non-permanent active ...

A Handclasp In Coriano

by Dan Black It is early afternoon and there is a moment of profound silence at Coriano Ridge War Cemetery in northern Italy. Here–among the weeping willows and rows of white headstones–time seems to have come to a full stop as several Canadian war veterans bow their heads in front of the grave of a man they never knew. This very moment is about remembrance and how it transforms people of all ages. It is also about Canada’s involvement in the Italian Campaign of WW II and how that bloody experience between July 1943 and early spring 1945 produced an exceptional kind of compassion between comrades. The veterans–all 53 of them, including Victoria Cross recipient Smokey Smith of Vancouver–are nearing the end of an incredible 13-day journey led by Bob Wood, parliamentary secreta...
O Canada

Century Of Achievement

According to assorted popular histories and textbooks, Sir Wilfrid Laurier once proclaimed that "The 20th century would belong to Canada." Well, not quite. What our seventh prime minister really said, when he wound up a speech to a couple of hundred festive members of the Ottawa Canadian Club on the night of Jan. 18, 1904, was that while "the 19th century was the century of the United States, I think we can claim that it is Canada that shall fill the 20th century." Still, it was rather a bold claim–almost unCanadian in its ambition. To be fair, Sir Wilfrid deserves a little context. His audience of lumber barons, grocery merchants and top civil servants would have known that the U.S. had made a booming success of the 19th century, especially by comparison with its humble northern ne...
War Art

Frederick Horsman Varley

Frederick Horsman Varley produced a number of painitings that depict simple, disturbing truths about war. From top to bottom: The Sunken Road, For What? and Gas Chamber at Seaford. The war art of F.H. Varley is economical. It pulls no punches; neither does it glamorize. The thick oil sculpts bodies and land into one compelling image of colour and texture; we can’t really see where the land begins or the death ends. He presents simple, disturbing truths. Frederick Horsman Varley was born in Sheffield, England, in 1881. He studied art in Sheffield, then in Antwerp, Belgium, at the Académie royale des beaux arts, and immigrated to Toronto in 1912. In January 1918, he was appointed an official war artist, given an honorary commission and sent to France to paint. He was present duri...

Our Polish Comrades: Army, Part 29

Canadians have a particularly close relationship with the Polish Armoured Division that fought as part of the 1st Canadian Army throughout much of WW II. Many Polish veterans, unwilling to return to their country while it was under Soviet control, settled in Canada and this strengthened the connection. The Polish Armd. Div. was formed out of elements of the army that escaped from Poland and reassembled in France during the winter of 1939-40. Polish troops, serving under French command, fought in Norway and in the Battle of France. When Paris was declared an open city and rumours of an imminent surrender reached the Polish commander, General Wladyslaw Sikorski, all units were ordered to try to escape to Britain. Gen. Stanislaw Maczek’s 10th Mechanical Cavalry Brigade, which became t...

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An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.