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Month: March 2005

O Canada

Flying On Water

PHOTO: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY/BELL FAMILY COLLECTION The HD-4 prepares for tests with the new Liberty engines; (inset) Inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Everybody knows Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and many are aware he was responsible for the first manned aircraft flight in Canada when the Silver Dart lifted into the bone-chilling February air over the ice-covered Bras d’Or Lakes in 1909. But few realize he was also the force behind the world’s fastest boat, a futuristic-looking “winged watercraft” that set a speed record in 1919 that stood for more than a decade. * * * On a warm summer’s day in 1861, on the Surrey Canal in southeast England, Thomas Moy was experimenting with the aerodynamics of wings by...

From The Somme To Vimy: Army, Part 57

PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA--PA001035 German prisoners help members of the Canadian Red Cross load wounded soldiers onto light rail cars near Vimy Ridge, April 1917. When General Sir Douglas Haig finally called an end to the Somme offensive in December 1916, he claimed that the main objectives had been achieved. He had concluded that the pressure on the French army at Verdun had been “relieved,” the German army was held on the Western Front—allowing Russia time to recover—and the enemy’s forces in France had been “worn down” in a series of attritional battles. Most of this was pure rationalization. Haig had planned for a breakthrough on a wide front and kept his cavalry divisions in place, waiting to exploit opportuni...
Air Force

Fathering Civil Aviation: Air Force, Part 8

photo: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA--PA139754 John Wilson accepts the Trans-Canada Trophy in Ottawa in 1944. Canada owes an enormous debt to John Armistead Wilson. Indeed, there should be an airport named after him, for in many ways he invented the Royal Canadian Air Force and laid the foundation for the nation’s civil aviation administration. Prior to World War I, the Canadian government had studiously ignored aviation. Even during the war, Canada had left such matters to the British, permitting establishment of a training program here, but not forming any distinctive Canadian air forces until it was too late to see action. The Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, (RCNAS), to be based in Canada, existed only four months and was...

The U-boat Summer of 1918: Navy, Part 8

PHOTO: THE MARINERS' MUSEUM, NEWPORT NEWS, VA. Although nearly destroyed in 1918, the Dornfontein was resurrected as the Netherton in 1919. On July 31, 1918, the new four-masted schooner Dornfontein cleared Saint John harbour bound for South Africa with a load of lumber. Three days later, 10 kilometres south of Grand Manan Island, N.B., U-156 suddenly rose from the sea and brought the Dornfontein to a halt with two shots across her bow. While the schooner’s crew was hustled aboard the submarine, the Germans looted the vessel and then set it ablaze. As the ship burned to the waterline, her crew were fed a dinner of bully beef and rice. Then, five hours after the ordeal began, the schooner’s crew was put into ...
Defence Today

Eye On Defence: War And Knowledge

PHOTO: CPL. RONALD DUCHESNE During exercises at Wainwright, Alta., Bombardier Marcy Maddison listens to the network as Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Cotten from the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery works on his fire plan. When the first clash of warriors occurred back in human history, the problem of the inherent chaos of battle first reared its head. Carl von Clausewitz gave the phenomenon its most-oft used name in his classic work Vom Kriege (On War) written in the 1820s and ‘30s. He called it “the fog of war.” He explained it as the difficulty of knowing exactly what is happening during the clash of arms, at the various levels of command that are supposed to control the battle and even on the battlefield itself. The fog of war...
Defence Today

Going Through The Hoops To Be In The Forces

PHOTO: ADAM DAY Capt. Francis Arsenault, head of the Montreal digital services lab, supervises the production of a recruiting poster. When Canada was gearing up for war in the early 1940s, joining the military was pretty easy—jog on the spot for two minutes, a quick dental exam, then grab your new kit and head for the training unit—waking up one morning as a farmer in Brandon, Man., or Belleville, Ont., and waking up the next morning as a soldier wasn’t uncommon. These days, joining the forces is not so quick or so easy. Now, only about 30 per cent of applicants endure the volumes of paperwork, background checks, aptitude tests and an average wait of more than two months, if they’re lucky. Some wait years to finally become enrolled...

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