Month: December 2018

O Canada

The legacy of “Mr. Veteran”

Born in Fort William (today’s Thunder Bay, Ont.) in 1919, Cliff Chadderton enlisted with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles on Oct. 15, 1939, with the idea of playing hockey for them. He had been playing for the Winnipeg Rangers, farm team for the New York Rangers. “That’s really why I got into the Army,” he said.  “It wasn’t for military reasons at all.” But he was soon pressed into action and quickly rose through the ranks. In October 1944, he was in command of a company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. They were fighting at the Leopold Canal in northern Belgium when a German grenade exploded nearby. “That ended my war,” Chadderton said.  “My troops dug me out.” They put him in a small boat and ferried him across the canal using rifles as paddles. Stretcher-bearers then took him to a field hospi...
A prime minister of war and peace
Military Milestones

A prime minister of war and peace

The calm and soft-spoken Lester Pearson, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was ironically the prime minster with the longest war experience. Pearson enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps in April 1915, as soon as he turned 18, and served as a medical orderly in England, Egypt and Greece, including stints as a stretcher-bearer, rising from private to lieutenant. In 1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he was nicknamed Mike. His flying instructor thought ‘Lester’ was not threatening enough for a fighter pilot. Pearson’s fighter pilot ambitions were cut short by injuries from accidents, including a plane crash and being hit by a bus in 1918 during a blackout, after which he was invalided home. After the war, he had a brief academic career before beginni...
Douglas Gordon (Part 1): Bail out or glide for England
Front Lines

Douglas Gordon (Part 1): Bail out or glide for England

  Given a choice between parachuting into the frigid waters of the English Channel or nursing his dying aircraft for as far as he could take it, Flying Officer Douglas Gordon chose what he saw as the lesser evil—and it may well have saved his life. It was May 3, 1944. Gordon and 17 other Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers of 440 (City of Ottawa) Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force, had loaded up with two 500-pound bombs each, then set out to rain down “crap and corruption” on a German destroyer across the English Channel near Cherbourg, France. But the Kriegsmarine gave back as good as it got that day. “We were supposed to dive-bomb it from 9,000 feet,” recalled Gordon, then 21 years old; now 95. “Well, they didn’t tell us one thing: There were four gunboats around it t...
Christmas at war: Sent to Korea by mistake
Front Lines

Christmas at war: Sent to Korea by mistake

James Victor (Vic) Johnson was a 25-year-old second lieutenant still in training at the Royal Canadian School of Military Engineering in Chilliwack, B.C., when he was mistakenly tagged to go off to war just before Christmas 1951. The Eston, Sask., native had been in no rush to get to the front, but there were two Second Lieutenant Johnsons in training at the time and the other one, who had served several years and wanted a field assignment, had expressed his desire to go. “When an assignment came up for a lieutenant to go to Korea, the general told the adjutant to send for Lieut. Johnson,” he recalls. “The adjutant sent the runner to get Lieut. Johnson out of his class, and he brought back the wrong lieutenant. “While I was in Korea, I ran into the other Lieut. Johns...
The first Canadian in the RFC
Military Milestones

The first Canadian in the RFC

Malcolm McBean Bell-Irving, 22, of Vancouver, made his way to Britain in August 1914 and joined the Royal Flying Corps in September, reportedly the corps’ first Canadian-born pilot, the first Canadian pilot to make a kill in the war, and the first Canadian pilot to be decorated. He joined No. 1 Squadron at Netheravon, England, in December 1914 and flew his first reconnaissance mission in France in March 1915. Within a month, he was wounded for the first time, over Hill 60. He survived at least one accident and many dogfights. In early days before machine guns were mounted on planes, pilots used handguns and shotguns against the enemy. Once when Bell-Irving’s revolver misfired, he threw the gun at a German pilot, hitting him in the head. The London Gazette reported the 1916 awa...
Radar wars
Air Force

Radar wars

A daring mission by a Canadian-crewed Wellington bomber raised the stakes in the Allies’ battle for air supremacy They called it the Wizard War, a battle of scientists and technicians—American, British, Canadian—striving to stay ahead of their German counterparts waging the first electronic war in history. The weapons were radar, radio and countermeasures. The battlefields were laboratories, vast seas, and the sky itself. It was bloodless and bloody. Combat could involve naval fleets and air forces, but could also centre on a single bomber crew, as happened on the night of Dec. 3, 1942. In 1939, RAF Bomber Command had intended to raid German targets in daylight with unescorted bombers, but by the end of the year that plan had been shot down by Luftwaffe fighters who were directed by gr...

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