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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...
Into the Fire
HISTORICPHOTOBLOG, Military History, Pictorial

Into the Fire

As the Korean winter gave way to an early spring and UN forces pushed slowly but steadily north, the PPCLI were sorely tested in mountain fighting, ambushes and Chinese hit-and-run attacks NORTH KOREA, supported by the Soviet Union and China, invaded South Korea in June 1950. Canada answered the United Nations’ call to support South Korea.  The 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, arrived in December 1950, joining the ground war after eight weeks of training in mountain warfare and small unit tactics. The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) and the Royal 22nd Regiment (Van Doos) followed later.  The war was one of continual patrols and a series of fierce battles to take or retain strategic hilltops. Ambush and fighting patrols were called ‘snatch’ and ‘jitter’ pat...
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 ...
Fighting Words
Humour Hunt

Fighting Words

The First World War has been over for more than a century, but it still echoes today, even in the language. The thousands of Canadian soldiers who went overseas in 1914-18 brought home words and phrases we still use. Soldiers in the trenches were plagued by lice, which were known as “chats.” The men would gather in quiet times to pick the lice out of their garments and pass the time of day with their buddies. They called it “chatting” and we still chat today, although without the pesky insects. The concept of three on a match being bad luck also came from the trenches. Soldiers believed that the lit match applied to one cigarette might draw the eye of a sniper. The second light would give him a chance to zero in and the third light, Bang! Very bad luck. The word strafe—to machine-gun...
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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An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.