Month: September 2020

Eyes in the sky
Military Milestones

Eyes in the sky

Squadron Leader William Isaac Clements is credited as the first Royal Canadian Air Force member to fly a wartime sortie over enemy territory during a reconnaissance trip into Germany at the end of September 1939. Clements was already in England when the Second World War broke out. He had joined the RCAF in 1930 and earned his wings the next year. In 1939, he was among many Canadian air force personnel seconded for duty or to study with the Royal Air Force prior to the war. He was promoted to squadron leader a week after he was attached to the Royal Air Force on March 24, 1939, and served as a flight commander in No. 53 Squadron, which was sent to France in September as the strategic reconnaissance unit of the Advanced Air Striking Force. On Sept. 29-30, he flew a reconnaissance so...
James Andrew Watson: WW II bomber pilot sacrifices life to save crew
Front Lines

James Andrew Watson: WW II bomber pilot sacrifices life to save crew

It was the night of April 27-28, 1944, and Lancaster R-ND 781/G of 622 Squadron, Royal Air Force, piloted by Flight Lieutenant James Andrew Watson of Hamilton, Ont., was on a bombing mission to Friedrichshafen, Germany. R-ND would never reach its target, but Watson’s heroic actions that black night over occupied territory would inspire an unsuccessful campaign to award him a posthumous Victoria Cross. The seven-member crew—three RAF, four RCAF—were at 17,000 feet as they approached the turning point, 30 minutes out, for their final run into the target. Suddenly, they were attacked from dead astern and below by three Junkers Ju-88 night fighters. It was about 1:30 a.m. and they were a little south of Strasbourg, France. “The attack was a complete surprise, there was no moon, just c...
Caterpillars at Courcelette
Army, Military History

Caterpillars at Courcelette

The tank, Britain’s new secret weapon, spread fear across the battlefield during Canada’s first major offensive operation In the minds of many, the First World War was characterized by a largely static front that stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss border and witnessed the unremitting use of machine guns, barbed wire, trenches and artillery barrages. Coupled with this was a dearth of new ideas. Yet, the war did bring several innovations in equipment and techniques. It saw the first use of airplanes, tanks, long-range artillery, “creeping” barrages, wireless communications and flamethrowers. During the infamous Battle of the Somme, a new technique and a new weapon were employed for the first time. And Canadian soldiers were among the troops who used them. The background to...
The mystery of the Thames Victoria Cross
Canada & the Victoria Cross, Front Lines

The mystery of the Thames Victoria Cross

In December 2015, a “mudlark” treasure-hunting along the bank of the Thames River in southern England found a corroded metal cross buried in the ooze exposed at low tide. His name was Tobias Neto, and the hunk of rusty metal was none other than a Victoria Cross. Or was it? “It was covered in mud,” Neto recalled. “I kept it and carried on detecting. Only when I got home did I realize I had a VC medal in my hands—I could read the writing ‘For Valour’ below the crown. “Eventually I noticed the date on the reverse: 5 NOV 1854.” The Thames foreshore—that 150-kilometre strand of slimy shoreline exposed when the tide goes out—is a treasure-trove of history, a veritable archive of London’s long and colourful past where clay pipes, pottery shards, ships’ timbers, medieval stoneworks, ru...
Armoured vehicle serves as a working memorial
Military Milestones

Armoured vehicle serves as a working memorial

A contingent of Canadian tanks and armoured vehicles set out before dawn on Sept. 24, 2007, to push insurgents from a trouble spot in the Panjwaii district in Afghanistan. The move was in aid of Operation Sadiq Sarbaaz (Honest Soldier), a joint operation with Afghan troops to build police stations throughout the area, in hopes a permanent police presence would provide some stability to one of the most dangerous districts in the country. There were multiple skirmishes throughout the day. At about 4:30 p.m., a track on a Leopard 2 tank came off in the rough terrain. Mechanic Corporal Nathan Hornburg, 24, got out to fix it. At that moment, the Taliban attacked. Hornburg was killed and another soldier was wounded. In the following firefight, three more soldiers were wounded by a rocke...
Green submarine
Humour Hunt

Green submarine

Corvettes, the tough little warships that made up much of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Second World War fleet, were notorious as lively sea boats. Although they could take the worst the North Atlantic could dish out, they were said to roll on wet grass. It took a strong stomach to handle the dizzying movements their little round hulls could develop. In May 1945, as the war came to an end, Germany’s surviving U-boats were ordered to surface, hoist black flags and signal their positions so they could be located by Allied warships. Some of them ended up surrendering to Canadian vessels. The corvette HMCS Thorlock and the frigate HMCS Victoriaville were detached from a convoy in mid-May to rendezvous with one of these surrendering subs, U-190. A boarding party from the corvette took charge o...

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