Month: April 2019

Class of 1918
Military History

Class of 1918

Canada’s Great War is often viewed through the lens of the costly and traumatic experience of trench warfare. Soldiers were mired in the mud, shelled, bombed and gassed daily as they scrambled to don gas masks and take cover. With little chance of striking back at their tormentors, soldiers watched their comrades killed and maimed all around them, leaving the front lines on stretchers or carried out as corpses. And yet life at the front was far more complex. There was always more boredom than terror, although the latter was remembered as it seared the soldiers’ souls. Sentry duty, digging trenches and the seemingly never-ending task of filling sandbags to shore up crumbling trench parapets consumed much time and energy. There were nighttime raids and dawn stand-tos, both usually with a ...
Life on the line
Army

Life on the line

The Second World War put 750,000 Canadians into khaki uniforms. Men from all parts of the country suddenly found themselves living in barracks and learning how to be soldiers. The transition was not easy and everyone had to learn to march, shoot and fight. The tens of thousands who saw action had to adjust to violence and death. Here is a brief look at what our fighting men wore, ate and said: What they wore and carried First, they put away their civvy clothes. Just as in 1914, there were too few uniforms for the first units readying to go overseas. Boots were in short supply and some units had only Great War uniforms on hand. But beginning in late 1939, soldiers began to wear a Canadian-produced, higher quality version of the British-designed battledress uniform. Soon all so...
Why you shouldn’t steal the padre’s whisky
Humour Hunt

Why you shouldn’t steal the padre’s whisky

– Illustration by Malcolm Jones – Two of my uncles ended up in the Korean War, one in the Canadian Army, the other in the American Army (how that happened is a story in itself). Cy was a sergeant in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, assigned to the Canadian headquarters where, among other things, he was the padre’s assistant. Don was a sergeant in one of those numbered American outfits, leading patrols over hellish bits of Korean real estate. One day, as Cy was handling his paperwork, a concerned private entered his office to say there was a suspicious character at the front gate asking for him. Cy strode down to the entry and found two sentries flanking a bedraggled American sergeant. The man was fresh from some place known as Old Baldy. He was unshaven with his tatter...
Appreciating “Voice of Fire”
O Canada

Appreciating “Voice of Fire”

“My five-year-old could paint that.”  This was a familiar response from viewers staring at “Voice of Fire.” The huge painting—on a canvas measuring 5.4 metres by 2.4 metres—by American artist Barnett Newman occupied a central place in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The problem wasn’t that it consisted solely of a vertical red stripe against a blue background, it was that in 1990, $1.76 million of Canadian taxpayers’ money had been used to buy it. It didn’t help that the Canadian economy was sliding into recession at the time. And it didn’t help that the artist was an American. “Voice of Fire” did have a Canadian angle; it had been created for Expo 67, where it was displayed in Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome—the United States pavilion. But when news broke that the Nation...
Holding back the Chinese
Military Milestones

Holding back the Chinese

For two days in the spring of 1951, the 700 men of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry helped stop the advance of 5,000 Chinese forces during the Battle of Kapyong in Korea. The battle was a turning point in the Korean War. The Chinese had retreated past the 38th parallel, luring the South Korean and United Nations forces into a vulnerable position. On April 22, 1951, the South Koreans faced a major attack and were nearly overrun and forced to retreat. UN forces had to protect that withdrawal through the Kapyong River valley, in central Korea about 20 kilometres south of the 38th parallel. The Patricias and the Royal Australian Regiment were holding hilltop positions on either side of the valley when the Chinese began their attack on these vanta...
Diving into healing waters
Front Lines

Diving into healing waters

Retired Marine gunnery sergeant and combat diver Dan Griego spent two years combing the eastern seaboard from Florida northward searching for an area rich in shipwrecks so he could give his brothers-in-arms some meaningful, healing work. He ended up with Jeff MacKinnon, a third-generation treasure hunter, in Nova Scotia, home to more than 10,000 recorded shipwrecks dating back almost four centuries. Griego had found the Holy Grail of North American wreck diving, and for two years the highly decorated Marine veteran with nine deployments over two decades mined site after site with an eye to producing a reality television series. “If you’ve seen the shows that are on today, they’re on Season 8 and still haven’t found anything,” says Griego. “Most of it is just a bunch of BS and edit...

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