Month: November 2018

Reginald Wise: Saviour of Easter Sunday, 1945
Front Lines

Reginald Wise: Saviour of Easter Sunday, 1945

It was Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day, 1945—the day that Corporal Reginald Wise, who was no fool and no martyr either, would cheat death. More than once. Wise and the rest of his Royal Marine commandos were advancing on a German position in Northern Italy when a landmine took out a track on their lead tank and everything ground to a halt. Almost immediately, a German MG-42 or MG-08 machine gun, firing up to 20 rounds a second, had pinned down the British troops. Wise, a sniper who grew up in London and would eventually settle in British Columbia, was 100 yards back down the line doing his best to suppress the German fire when a messenger arrived, summoning him forward. His skills were sorely needed up front. But, first, he had to get there. The Royal Marine...
Sir Arthur Currie, a national hero
Military Milestones

Sir Arthur Currie, a national hero

Sir Arthur Currie, the first Canadian soldier to command the Canadian Corps during the First World War, died a national hero on Nov. 30, 1933, aged 58. Respected for his military acumen, he perfected battle strategies and honed his men into elite assault troops whose string of victories during Canada’s Hundred Days played no small part in winning the war. But he made political enemies who assaulted and tarnished his reputation. A militia officer before the war, Currie began his military career as commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, which fought in the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, Canada’s first major engagement. His talent noted, he rose to commander of the 1st Canadian Division in 1915. He helped plan the Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge, where the British and French armies h...
Scattering Canada’s  armed forces
Eye On Defence

Scattering Canada’s armed forces

The Canadian military seems to be spread all over these days. During its deployment in Afghanistan, most of Canada’s non-North American military effort, especially that of the army, was focused almost exclusively on that mission. That was in keeping with the views of then Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier—and apparently shared by Prime Minister Paul Martin and Defence Minister Bill Graham—that Canada should no longer send small deployments to different trouble spots in the world. Instead, Canada would concentrate a large force (for Canada) in one place to gain the most political influence possible.  That place, of course, was the province of Kandahar. It will be up to the historians and political scientists to show, over time, whether there was any merit to that approach. The cur...
Dutch appeal for help in building online memorial
News

Dutch appeal for help in building online memorial

Through the winter and early spring of 1944-45, up to 450,000 Canadian and other Allied troops under the command of General Harry Crerar of Hamilton poured into the Netherlands and liberated the Dutch from five years of Nazi occupation. More than 7,600 of the 175,000 Canadians who joined the fight died during the nine-month campaign; their names are inscribed on gravestones and memorials, mainly in Canadian war cemeteries at Bergen op Zoom, Groesbeek and Holten. To this day, the Dutch commemorate the liberation each year. Schoolchildren tend to immaculate Canadian graves and locals welcome veterans with open arms. Representatives of the Netherlands’ only Royal Canadian Legion branch, the 100-member Liberation of the Netherlands Branch based in Lochem, attend more than 40 related cerem...
On the beach
Remembrance

On the beach

A tour of the Normandy coastline honours those who crossed an ocean to fight tyranny   The sky is cloudy, but the rain holds off for this year’s commemorative ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre in Courseulles-sur-Mer, France, on June 6. The audience is filled with veterans and their families, currently serving military, officials and dignitaries, and a new, younger generation—all here to reflect and remember. The day marks the 74th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, when a fleet of more than 6,000 vessels landed an assault force of 156,000 men on five beaches codenamed, from west to east, Utah and Omaha (American), Gold (British), Juno (Canadian) and Sword (British). Some 14,500 Canadians landed on Juno Beach by the end of the day. It is also a significant...
Gerda Munsinger: spy or party girl?
Military Milestones

Gerda Munsinger: spy or party girl?

“If a woman wants to make a career for herself, she must learn to listen. When men want to talk, I let them talk,” said the woman behind the sex scandal that rocked the country in the 1960s. Listening is a good skill for a mistress—or a spy, as Gerda Munsinger was suspected of being when she had relationships with at least two Canadian cabinet ministers. The German beauty was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia), in 1929 and lost track of her family during the Second World War. After the war, she had an affair with an officer of the KGB, the Russian spy and security agency. She frequently crossed between East and West Germany, raising suspicions of espionage in American border police, who arrested her in 1949. She tried to emigrate to Canada in 1952 and t...
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