Day: March 4, 2020

Battling the enemy and the weather
Military Milestones

Battling the enemy and the weather

In March 1945, after cloudy weather foiled a February bombing raid, Allied air forces zealously attacked Chemnitz, a major German industrial centre, 260 kilometres south of Berlin, close to the Austrian border. It was a rail junction with one of the largest Nazi railway repair shops. After a three-day attack on the marshalling yards by U.S. bombers, British Bomber Command carried out four successive nights of raids. The first, on March 5, saw 600 bombers, including 98 Canadian Halifaxes and 84 Lancasters dispatched. It was so cloudy that sky markers, flares dropped with parachutes, were needed to guide the first bombers to their target. The glow of fires led the remainder. Losing navigational aids shortly after take-off, navigator H.R. Gordon skilfully guided one Halifax to its...
Games of war
Front Lines

Games of war

It’s snowing as I write this—heavily. They tell us to expect 40 centimetres in Ottawa. It’s one of those storms that I remember as a kid, before the responsibility of shoveling—or much responsibility at all—was foisted upon me. In those days, winter storms were somehow always big and what excited me most then, and what I remember with great fondness and no small amount of awe now, is that they meant a new round of war play—new forts, tunnels, trenches, bunkers, and epic snowball fights. I don’t know what it was that fascinated me about war when I was a kid, but I seemed to spend an awful lot of time immersed in its history, and myth, at a very young age. We all did. When not eating, sleeping or going to school, we baby-boomer kids spent most of the 1960s outdoors—riding bicycl...
Skripal & GRU
Heroes And Villains

Skripal & GRU

SERGEI SKRIPAL On March 4, 2018, 66-year-old former double agent Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found “in extremely serious condition” on a park bench in Salisbury, England. The daughter—just arrived from Moscow the previous day—was comatose. Skripal was conscious, but disoriented. Rushed to hospital, the two were diagnosed as having been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok. Investigators found the chemical had been sprayed on the doorknob of Skripal’s front door. Developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, Novichok is five to eight times more toxic than other chemical warfare nerve agents, such as sarin. British intelligence agencies determined the Skripals had been victims of an assassination attempt by the Main Directorate of the General Staff of ...
Face to Face
Face to Face

Face to Face

With hindsight, qualified by the modern moral temperament, the deliberate destruction by Canadian troops of much of Friesoythe on April 13-14, 1945, is indefensible. Ostensibly, Major-General Christopher Vokes’ exact orders were: “Burn the fucking town!” The order arose from his understanding that Argyll and Sutherland Highlander commander Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Wigle had been killed by a villager wearing civilian clothing. In fact, Wigle died after being struck in the chest by a burst from a Schmeisser machine gun during a pitched battle with German soldiers attempting to overrun the Argylls’ battle headquarters on Friesoythe’s outskirts. Most Argylls, however, unquestioningly accepted the civilian sniper rumour that immediately swirled through their ranks, then up the command...