Month: February 2020

Century-old army helmet still offers the best blast protection
Front Lines

Century-old army helmet still offers the best blast protection

Scientists have found that the current United States Army helmet provides no better blast protection than its First World War predecessors and, indeed, the vintage French helmet was actually better than the modern American design. The biomedical engineers from Duke University in Durham, N.C., hope the results of their study will inform future helmet designs, making them more protective, particularly against shockwaves, known as primary blasts. “Major improvements made in helmet technology to increase ballistic protection do not provide the same increase in blast protection,” the study concludes. The four-member research team tested authentic First World War variants from Britain and the United States (whose headwear was known as the Brodie, also worn by Canadian troops), France (A...
Canadians’ baptism of fire
Military Milestones

Canadians’ baptism of fire

The Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry got its first taste of battle in the Boer War on the murderous Bloody Sunday in mid-February 1900 at Paardeberg Drift, which claimed 1,300 British casualties, including 18 dead and 60 wounded Canadians. Within 10 days the regiment was to receive much of the credit for the first significant British victory of the war. The Boer encampment was surrounded and under siege by the British, who kept tightening the noose. After a week, the British believed the Boers were running low on supplies, and the Canadians were ordered to attack by night. At 2 a.m. on Feb. 27, two lines of the regiment sneaked to within 100 metres of enemy trenches, when they were spotted. In seconds, they were under heavy fire, with six dead and 21 wounded. The leading lin...
Letters to Mom
Memoirs

Letters to Mom

During the Second World War, 21-year-old Allan Coburn was one of a million young men and women whose sense of duty and hankering for adventure drew them to serve in the Canadian Army. He was “the second son of a farmer, with no passion for farming,” said his son Douglas Coburn of Winnipeg. “So, what to do?” Join the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. Allan Coburn enlisted on Jan. 9, 1942, leaving his parents Dwight and Isabel, older brother Ted, younger brother Glen and little sister Kitty on the family farm near Carman, Man. After basic training, he joined the tank brigade signals, which was reorganized into the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade Signals on July 26, 1943, after he got to England. He served just shy of four years in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. His moth...
How to beat the bomber
Military Milestones

How to beat the bomber

Ten years ago on Feb. 19, an improvised explosive device was found under a major road in Afghanistan. The device was placed about 10 metres down a small culvert—out of reach of equipment, impossible to shield. A robot couldn’t finish the job. There was nothing for it but to send in someone—a volunteer—to defuse the nasty thing. Corporal Dale Kurdziel put up his hand. He had only been in the country a few months, on his first tour to Afghanistan, working with the counter-IED task force. The culvert was tight—too small for a man wearing protective equipment. Before going in, Kurziel had to take off his bomb suit. It was impossible to crawl inside. The opening was only wide as his shoulders, tall as his boots, he said later in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen. He had to propel...
Art exhibition reflects a changing environment and the military’s evolving role
Front Lines

Art exhibition reflects a changing environment and the military’s evolving role

A new exhibition of works by artists “commissioned” by the Defence Department reflects Canada’s changing environment and the evolving roles of the country’s military in the wake of an intense 13 years fighting a war in Afghanistan. Six civilian artists made up the eighth group to participate in the non-paying Canadian Forces Artists Program since 2001. A selection of their work—22 photographs, three videos, and a drawing—is on display in the Canadian War Museum’s Exhibition Hall until May 18. In what could be interpreted as a commentary on the current state of the forces’ overseas operations, for the first time in its 18-year history, none of the program participants left Canadian soil during their 2016-2018 tenure. (Canada pulled out of Afghanistan in 2014, its Iraq training mission...
The Phoney War
Military History

The Phoney War

Two days after Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Britain and France declared war on the Nazi regime. On the evening of Sept. 3, a German U-boat torpedoed the British passenger liner SS Athenia, a sign that Hitler intended to wage a ruthless war at sea. The sinking triggered ample public outrage, but little immediate Allied military action took place. Over the next eight months, the only military land operation on the Western Front was France’s Saar Offensive, a short-lived incursion across Germany’s western border. This ominously quiet period came to be called the “Phoney War”—a term believed to have been coined by American senator William Borah. The invasion of Poland happened a week after Germany and the Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact. By the middle of Septembe...

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