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Month: February 2019

Always the first one to know
Front Lines, Podcasts

Always the first one to know

“Sometimes it’s going to be a smell. Sometimes it’s going to be a sound,” says Hélène LeScelleur. “And then it reminds me of the horror that we’ve been through.” Story and photography by Stephen J. Thorne “Seeing people decapitated, it’s not that usual for anyone,” says former army medic Hélène LeScelleur. “I saw a lot.” It wasn’t an image she had contemplated when she signed up for the militia and fell in love with the military. LeScelleur had challenged authority her entire youth, so when military brass told the newly minted lieutenant and by then 12-year army veteran that she was “too junior” to carry out her duties in Afghanistan, she went on the offensive. A Bosnia veteran with aspirations for more, the former master corporal and administrative clerk had ret...
Fierce fighting at Reichswald Forest
Military Milestones

Fierce fighting at Reichswald Forest

On Feb. 19, 1945, midway through Operation Veritable, the Allied plan to surge into Germany, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) and Essex Scottish were in a tight spot. They were part of a pincer movement launched on Feb. 8 and wrapped up in March, in which the British XXX Corps and 3rd Canadian Division in the north and U.S. 9th Army in the south intended to destroy German forces west of the Rhine River. However, the Americans had been delayed by flooding, allowing the Germans to focus their efforts on the Canadian advance. The fighting to clear the Reichswald Forest became fierce. On the evening of Feb. 19, one company of the Canadian Scottish “beat off no less than six counter-attacks.” Along the Goch-Calcar road, one of the bloodiest battles began. The Essex Scottish...
Firestorm at Dresden remains controversial
Military Milestones

Firestorm at Dresden remains controversial

Operation Thunderclap was well named, both for its terrifying effect on the German city of Dresden during the Second World War and for reverberations heard through decades since. In raids on Feb. 14-15, 1945, about 1,200 Allied planes bombed the city of Dresden. In the first attack, about 1,350 tonnes of high-explosive bombs blew roofs off buildings, exposing timbers which were subsequently set aflame by 1,090 tonnes of incendiary bombs. More attacks followed. The result was a firestorm reaching more than 1,500°C. The superheated air rose so quickly it created a vacuum at ground level that sucked people into the conflagration. Others died of suffocation. More than 14,000 homes, 72 schools, 22 hospitals, 19 churches and scores of businesses and government buildings were destroyed....
Youth’s thousand-yard stare speaks volumes in WW I documentary
Front Lines

Youth’s thousand-yard stare speaks volumes in WW I documentary

For all the talk of the talking in director Peter Jackson’s First World War documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, it’s a scene in which those featured in the film don’t say anything that resonates perhaps more than any other. It comes at the storyline’s transition from the war’s outbreak in 1914 and the enthusiastic queues of volunteers and recruits-in-training, rendered entirely in restored black-and-white, to the battlefront trenches of France, where the old footage emerges in full-colour, its detail and currency jarring to those who’ve only seen the time through the filters of scratched and faded monochrome. There is a line of Tommies wending their way through a trench, at the middle of which shuffles a uniformed boy not more than 15 or 16 years old. He is staring straight into the...
King George VI dies
Military Milestones

King George VI dies

King George VI, his health eroded in part from the stresses of the Second World War, died on Feb. 6, 1952. He served in both world wars and was the first British sovereign to have seen action in battle since William IV, whose coat was pierced by a bullet while he was observing the bombardment of Antwerp in 1813 from a church steeple. George, then named Prince Albert, saw danger up close. He started as a naval cadet in 1909 and began service as a midshipman aboard HMS Collingwood in 1913; as sub-lieutenant, he was mentioned in dispatches for his action as a turret officer during the Battle of Jutland, May 31-June 1, 1916. “We opened fire at 5:37 p.m. on some German light cruisers,” reads his account of the battle. “The Collingwood’s second salvo hit one of them which set her on fir...
On this date: February 2019
On This Date

On this date: February 2019

1 February 1968 The Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force are unified into a single organization called the Canadian Forces. 2 February 1943 The last of the German 6th Army surrenders at Stalingrad. 3 February 1916 The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are destroyed by fire. 4 February 1945 I Canadian Corps departs Italy to support the Allied advance in Northwest Europe. 6 February 1919 The last Canadian troops withdraw from the Army of Occupation in Belgium. 8 February 1944 Near Littoria, Italy, Tommy Prince, disguised as a farmer, fixes a broken communication wire right under enemy noses. 9 February 2004 Canadian Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier assumes command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. 10 February 1...

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