Month: January 2005

O Canada

Hand Me My Pistol, Please

PHOTO: NEW BRUNSWICK MUSEUM, SAINT JOHN, N.B.--29942 A set of duelling pistols comes with powder. Between 1646 and 1948, some 300 duelling incidents were recorded in what is now Canadian territory. These ranged from challenges delivered (but not accepted) through to formal combats, many bloodless but approximately 30 with fatal outcomes. The two professions most frequently represented among duellists were military officers and lawyers. Duels should not be confused with medieval “trial by combat” which was part of a crude legal system and conducted in the presence of judges—even kings. Duels, by contrast, were illegal and hence conducted furtively. Sheriffs were obliged to suppress them and those who killed an opponent were...
Army

Fateful Decisions On The Somme: Army, Part 56

PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA--PA000909 Wounded soldiers receive treatment during the Battle of Courcelette, Sept. 15, 1916. By February 1916 the situation confronting the British Empire and France was incredibly bleak. The failure of the 1915 offensives on the Western Front and the crushing defeat of the Russian armies in the east were paralleled by German victories in the Balkans, the failure of the Gallipoli expedition, the defeat of British forces in Iraq and the bloody stalemate in the war between Italy and Austria-Hungary. Then on Feb. 21, the German 5th Army, with 40 full-strength infantry divisions, each of 16,000 men, began the assault on Verdun, France. The German commander, General Erich von Falkenhayn, had deci...
Navy

Menace Below The Surface: Navy, Part 7

PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA--PA171102 Workers add the finishing touches to two drifters being built for the navy at Lauzon, Que., in 1917. The attack on Allied merchant shipping off New England in October 1916 by U-53 changed Canada’s naval requirements overnight, and laid the groundwork for the development of the navy for the balance of the 20th century. Suddenly Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Kingsmill’s motley little fleet, the St. Lawrence Patrol, looked like the work of a genius. Within days, the Admiralty reversed its opposition to the development of local Canadian forces and urged the “rapid expansion of (the) Royal Canadian Navy coastal anti-submarine patrol.” The Canadian government responded by ordering 12 sma...
Air Force

Canadian Content In The RAF: Air Force, Part 7

photo: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA--C-086058 Percival S. Turner in 1941. At the outbreak of World War II, the Royal Canadian Air Force had 4,061 personnel, including 512 pilots. Overseas, Royal Air Force ranks included roughly 900 Canadians who had previously joined that force; approximately 700 of them were pilots or pilot/navigators. The Canadians who enrolled directly in the RAF became known as CAN/RAF personnel, and they have a curious and complex history. Defining them is difficult because until 1947 there was no distinct Canadian citizenship. Squadron Leader Percival S. Turner is generally accepted to have been CAN/RAF because, while he was born in England, he was raised and educated in Canada. A handful of Cana...
Memoirs

This Coming Spring

PhotoS: Tom MacGregor Clockwise from top: Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, near Nijmegen in the Netherlands, has 2,338 Canadian graves; Hundreds of Dutch military personnel drop from the sky in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Operation Market Garden; The Keep Them Rolling Association displays vintage military vehicles. Hundreds of people lined the narrow streets of the Dutch village of Ede-Veenendaal near Arnhem last fall as a parade of World War II-era military vehicles made its way to the village market for an afternoon exhibit. “Isn’t it great to know people will line up just to see a bunch of old jeeps,” said jeep owner Kuuk Criep. Criep is the former chairman of the Keep Them Rolling Association, a group of military vehicle enthusiasts who...
Memoirs

In Belgium They Remember

Photo: Tom MacGregor David Clark (third from left) steps forward to place flowers on his brother's grave in Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Belgian children sit nervously waiting for the end of the three-hour ceremony at Adegem Canadian War Cemetery. Their part in the placing of flowers has already been performed. But as the ceremony ends, a plane flies overhead and suddenly the air is filled with hundreds of poppies fluttering to the ground and the children are let go to run all over the cemetery trying to catch the little red emblems. It is a joyous end to what has been a solemn few weeks as Canadian veterans returned to Belgium to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation in 1944 from the hands of German occupation. At every instance, child...

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