Month: April 2021

Empresses of the transpacific fleet
Military History, Military Milestones

Empresses of the transpacific fleet

On April 28, 1891, Canadian Pacific’s Royal Mail Ship Empress of India completed its maiden voyage. It had sailed from Liverpool, across the Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, across the Indian and Pacific oceans, and arrived in Vancouver. It had set a speed record for a Pacific crossing from Japan (11 days), and incidentally kicked off Vancouver’s cruise industry. Empress of India, Empress of China and Empress of Japan were all purpose-built to serve a transpacific route connecting Asia to Canada by sea, and not coincidentally, to the rest of North America by rail, since Vancouver had CP rail passenger service since 1887. In 1889, the British government signed a 10-year contract with CP for subsidized mail service between Britain and Hong Kong. Mail moved from Britain by ship...
Military selects new uniform camo
Defence Today, Front Lines

Military selects new uniform camo

It seems like yesterday when the Canadian military last unveiled a new camouflage pattern uniform. Their pixelated look, known as the Canadian Disruptive Pattern, or CADPAT, was computer-designed to reduce the likelihood of detection by night-vision equipment as well as the naked eye. It comes in a single Multi-Terrain pattern, designed for wherever operations might go. Coming in woodland green and desert sand patterns, it marked a dramatic, high-tech change in military fashion—and spawned a revolution in uniform design among Canada’s allies, starting south of the border. That was in 2001. CADPAT uniforms have been used by the army, navy and air force. Those fatigues got a lot of use, underwent a lot of refinements, and a lot of water’s gone under the bridge and a lot of Canadian bloo...
So long, Matthew Fisher, Canada’s most-travelled warco
Defence Today, Front Lines

So long, Matthew Fisher, Canada’s most-travelled warco

He could be blunt, bombastic and cringingly irreverent. He was also smart, generous, and always, always interesting. Like virtually all of the most talented, committed and absorbing people I’ve known, Matthew Fisher was a human full of quirks and contradictions. He died in Ottawa on April 10 after a short battle with liver disease. He was 66. He was without doubt Canada’s most travelled and seasoned foreign correspondent of the past half-century—he’d been to 170 countries (only 193 exist) and covered 20 wars in 35 years. Like my dear friend Garth Pritchard, who died a year earlier almost to the day, Matthew did not suffer fools gladly, and he wasn’t afraid to say so. Interestingly, he and Garthy, who’d seen more than his share of war zones, shared a grudging respect but, beyond th...
With the guns in the Second Battle of Ypres
Military History, Military Milestones

With the guns in the Second Battle of Ypres

In 1915, Canadian troops moved to the Ypres Salient in Belgium. The Germans wanted very much to get rid of the bulge into their territory, and used a new weapon hoping to dislodge British, Canadian and French troops. “We saw a thick cloud of green coming across the country towards us.” James Wells Ross, who was in charge of moving the horse-drawn artillery, wrote a letter describing battle preparations and the first gas attack. “On April 22nd, we were in action about 400 yards on the right of the much-coveted village. At about 5 p.m., they started shelling the village very heavily with gas shells and we saw a thick cloud of green coming across the country towards us. Then the rifle fire started and we opened up. “The next thing we knew, the French Zouaves were running back in hundr...
Canadian summer in Apeldoorn
Military History, Military Milestones

Canadian summer in Apeldoorn

In five weeks of bloody battles to boot the Germans out of the Scheldt Estuary in October and November of 1944, the Allies suffered about 13,000 casualties, including about 6,300 Canadians. And the fighting was expected to be just as stiff to liberate the rest of the Netherlands. The Germans had occupied the Netherlands for five years, and were well fortified and truly dug in. In April 1945, the 1st Canadian Army began clearing the enemy from northern and western Holland. The small city of Apeldoorn was one of the first objectives. The Germans flooded the land, tore up roads, blew up bridges. And fought like hell. “These were not the ‘old men and frightened boys’ thought to be all that was left of the Wehrmacht,” recalled Captain Ted Brock in a memoir reproduced on the Canadian Le...
Frank Hurley: Adventurer and war photographer
Defence Today, Front Lines

Frank Hurley: Adventurer and war photographer

You may not know the name Frank Hurley but you almost certainly know at least some of his pictures. Hurley was an Australian who left school at age 12, escaped the drudgery and hardship of a working-class life at the dawn of the 20th century, and turned his gift of gab and passion for photography into a lifetime of adventure and renown. He sailed to Antarctica with Douglas Mawson and Ernest Shackleton, survived stranding in the frozen wasteland, documented both world wars and travelled the world. He was, in his heyday, a household name among his countrymen. Hurley spent more than four years on Antarctic expeditions. Working as a postcard photographer in Sydney, Australia, Hurley mastered the art of superimposing images from two or more negatives into one composite photograph. ...

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