Month: January 2021

Pain centre
Health

Pain centre

In 2014, in physical agony and with tortured emotions, Major Mark Campbell left the Canadian Armed Forces. It had been four years since he was targeted in Afghanistan by Taliban insurgents, who triggered an explosion that claimed both his legs above the knee. From that moment, pain has been a constant companion.  Campbell felt like his feet were on fire, although they were no longer part of his body, and for a long time nothing seemed to help much. He became clinically depressed and “took to the bottle for a few years.” “It has been quite a struggle.” He is not alone. Many CAF veterans live with chronic pain. More than 40 per cent of veterans who left the military since 1998 have chronic pain—two to three times the rate of civilians, reported Life After Service Studies. In a mental ...
Victory by chocolate
Front Lines

Victory by chocolate

More than 25 years ago, Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian major-general commanding the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, came rolling up to a stick in the road marking a checkpoint manned by a cadre of heavily armed, hyped-up kids. Rwanda was embroiled in civil war; it was on the verge of a genocide. Yet it would be months before the contingent under Dallaire’s command would reach the 2,548 troops authorized by the UN and, even then, it wasn’t enough. The general stepped out of his vehicle to find one of the child soldiers running toward him, AK-47 in hand. The next thing he knew, the barrel of the Soviet-made assault rifle was up his nostril. The kid looked about 13. “His eyeballs were huge, he was sweating, all the kids all around screaming and yelling, and his hand’s on ...
Travels of a wounded soldier
Military Milestones

Travels of a wounded soldier

At noon on Jan. 17, 1917, a group of comrades were eating a lunch of bully beef and hardtack near Vimy, France, when their dugout was damaged by German shelling. Their work was cut out for them. They needed a new dugout “so we will have a place for the night,” Private Harry Morris wrote home in a letter to his family, published online by the Canadian Letters and Images Project (www.canadianletters.ca). Despite the bombardment, they started a new dugout and repaired the damaged walls of their trench and a destroyed gun pit. “[We] keep plugging along, very busy dodging shells.” At 1:30 p.m., the First World War ended for 36-year-old Morris when a shell exploded nearby. “I heard the explosion after I was hit. Shrapnel travels at a greater velocity than the sound.” His thigh ...
When the NAVY won the Grey Cup
Humour Hunt

When the NAVY won the Grey Cup

– Illustration by Malcolm Jones –   The Royal Canadian Navy racked up an admirable record in the Second World War, but one of its triumphs is little known. While the navy was battling U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean and aiding in the D-Day landings, it also managed to win the Grey Cup. Yes, that Grey Cup. In 1944, for reasons that are vague, navy brass decided to organize a football team from two Montreal establishments, the naval reserve division HMCS Donnacona and the communications training school HMCS St. Hyacinthe. John Crncich, who played for the team—known as the St. Hyacinthe-Donnacona Navy or the Navy Combines—said it was a Cinderella outfit. “They formed a team of football, got into a league that might and, eventually, did vie for the Grey Cup and as it turned out, to ...
The explosion that changed the Navy
Navy

The explosion that changed the Navy

An overheated gearbox on HMCS Kootenay set off a fire that took nine lives The worst peacetime disaster in Canadian naval history occurred on Oct. 23, 1969, when nine crew were killed and another 53 injured in an explosion and fire aboard HMCS Kootenay. The incident marked the last time Canadian service personnel were required to be buried overseas and it helped bring about sweeping changes to shipboard fire-prevention and firefighting systems. The Restigouche-class destroyer was part of a task group that included the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure and eight destroyer escorts sailing in European waters. The group was homeward bound, crossing the English Channel, when Kootenay and HMCS Saguenay broke off to conduct sea trials 320 kilometres off Plymouth, England. Kootenay was r...
Convoy duty aboard HMCS <em>Port Arthur</em>
Military Milestones

Convoy duty aboard HMCS Port Arthur

It’s fair to say Harvey Douglas Burns did not know what lay in store when he left the merchant marine and joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1942. Sailors in the merchant navy had cabins, shared with one shipmate. After joining the crew of HMCS Port Arthur, he asked a shipmate where he was going to sleep. “Do you see them bars up there? That’s where you hang your hammock.” Conditions on the corvette were crowded. “The ship was made for 85 crew, and there was 105 of us aboard. You didn’t have any privacy,” said Burns in a Memory Project interview. In the washrooms, called heads, the men shared three toilets and wash bowls, “so you had to wait your turn. And there was more mealtimes than meals. When the weather was bad in the North Atlantic, they just give you a can of strawberry jam an...

Sign up today for a FREE download of Canada’s War Stories

Free e-book

An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.