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The ducks of war
Blog, Humour Hunt

The ducks of war

Retired naval captain Stephen Oldale of Victoria, B.C., remembers the day back in 1972 when the Royal Canadian Navy abolished the daily rum issue. He says he presided over the very last call of “Up spirits. Hands to muster for grog” while serving as navigating officer on HMCS Chaudière. He tells the story: “Chaudière at the time was west of Hawaii in the second-to-last time zone of the Western Hemisphere before the international date line (and tomorrow). Our ceremony under the circumstances was somewhat elaborate as it marked the end of a long tradition in Commonwealth navies.” The issue was half a gill, or two and a half ounces. “The rules were that if one took the issue ‘neat’ it had to be consumed in front of the issuing officer, but if water, cola and the like were brought…the rum...
A monumental day
Blog, HISTORICPHOTOBLOG

A monumental day

The unveiling of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France on July 26, 1936, was witnessed by 3,000 veterans of the battle On July 26, 1936, 11 years and $1.5 million after construction began, 100,000 people gathered on the slopes of Vimy Ridge in France for the unveiling of one of the most striking war memorials in all of Europe. The Canadian National Vimy Memorial, designed by Toronto’s Walter Allward, stands at the crest of the ridge where some say the nation was born—an imposing memorial to more than 11,285 Canadians who died with no known grave in France during the Great War. A monument to peace, it is the centrepiece of a 91-hectare battlefield park at the site where all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together for the first time—and won where other...
Target practice
Blog, Humour Hunt

Target practice

Back in the 1960s, the Connaught Ranges just outside Ottawa used to hire high school students to pull targets during various rifle competitions, including a number of military meets. I worked there one summer.  Every morning, we would trudge down range and descend into one of two sets of trenches with targets, one at 600 yards and a second at 1,000. We would hoist the targets on a pulley system and watch for a bullet hole to appear. When it did, the drill was to pull the target down, stick a red cardboard square on a peg into the hole (showing the shooter where he hit) and patch any previous hole with a bit of paper and paste. It was hot work, down in a concrete trench in the summer sun, but not especially strenuous. But it could get exciting at times. Occasionally a round would hit t...
Victory March
HISTORICPHOTOBLOG, Military History

Victory March

London hosted a formal — and boisterous—celebration on  the first anniversary of the end of the Second World War A year after the Second World War ended, Britain threw a proper celebration, one that the whole country—civilians as well as the men and women who had served overseas—could enjoy together. And what a party it was. More than five million people crowded the sidewalks and streets of London and choked The Mall to take part in daylong celebrations on June 8, 1946. The crowd included visitors from all over the world. They started gathering before daylight to claim good positions along the parade route. At 10 a.m. an open carriage carrying the Royal Family slowly proceeded from Buckingham Palace to the reviewing stand on The Mall, where military commanders and heads of state ...
Bugs in barracks
Humour Hunt

Bugs in barracks

Many military barracks during the Second World War were primitive. Celia Brown, who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division, found herself living in barracks at a Winnipeg repair depot, where she was introduced to the ubiquitous cockroach. “I got a jar and I caught eight or 10 cockroaches.” “At night, when you went in the washrooms and turned the lights on, it seemed to us there was millions,” she said. “Probably not that many, but a lot of cockroaches went running. One day, I left my hat on top of my pillow, because you had to make your bed up first, and when I came back and picked up my hat, out popped a cockroach.” That was the last straw for Brown. “I got a jar and I caught eight or 10 cockroaches, took them into work the next day. Our CO was quite friendly;...
Playing doctor aboard ship
Humour Hunt

Playing doctor aboard ship

HMCS Cayuga was a Tribal-class destroyer that did three tours in Korean waters during the Korean War. On one tour, its surgeon was an affable chap named Joseph Cyr, an American, oddly enough, who quickly became a favourite of the entire crew. When the captain developed an inflamed molar, Cyr told him he didn’t know a lot of dentistry, but he’d give it a shot. He retired to his cabin for a little reading, emerged and pulled the skipper’s tooth with no fuss and no complications afterward. He took care of all the normal medical problems—cuts, sprains, breaks and minor infections—that occur among any crew at sea. One time, though, Cayuga was sent to provide gunfire support to a Korean commando raid. When the troops came off, a number of them were wounded, some seriously. “Our do...

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