O Canada

Battle of Britain Day
Air Force, Military History, O Canada

Battle of Britain Day

Hitler’s plan was to destroy the Royal Air Force then launch Operation Sea Lion, an invasion of England. Winston Churchill assumed as much. “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war,” he told the House of Commons in 1940. “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: “This was their finest hour.” The Battle of Britain was a proving ground for Britain’s aerial forces, and it also stirred Churchill to some of his most memorable speeches. On June 4, 1940, he addressed the House, emphasizing how critical the RAF would be in the months ahead. He ended with the famous words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing gro...
O CANADA: Overweight span
O Canada

O CANADA: Overweight span

Overweight span When they started building the Pont de Québec spanning the Saint Lawrence River in 1905, there was a sense of pride. Designed mainly for rail traffic, it was going to be the biggest cantilever bridge in the world, longer than the Forth Bridge in Scotland. But on Aug. 29, 1907, a riveter noticed that a rivet he’d put in only an hour earlier had broken in half. Minutes later the structure twisted and collapsed with such force that people in Quebec City, 10 kilometres away, thought it was an earthquake. The engineering challenges of the Quebec Bridge had been daunting. It spanned a shipping lane, so it had to have a 45-metre clearance for ocean-going ships. It was 850 metres long, but needed a single 550-metre span in the centre. Key to its structural integrity was the ...
Eyewitness to war
O Canada

Eyewitness to war

Now the rest of the assault troops are going in. I am going ashore with them.” This was the last line in Ross Munro’s dispatch on D-Day. As the lead correspondent in Europe for The Canadian Press during the Second World War, he covered D-Day on June 6, 1944, as well as the 1941 Canadian raid on Spitsbergen, Norway, the 1942 raid on Dieppe, the 1943 Allied landings in Sicily, the Italian campaign of 1943-45, and other battles. Munro was the first Allied journalist to report on the D-Day invasion. A British officer tipped him off that a destroyer was heading back from the Normandy beachhead to pick up General Bernard Montgomery. On board was Munro’s dispatch, the first from the coast of France. It wasn’t the first time Munro had been first. His accounts of Dieppe, Sicily and Italy wer...
The RCMP turns 100
O Canada

The RCMP turns 100

When Canada bought Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1870, it needed to police those millions of square kilometres, so in 1873, the North West Mounted Police was formed by an act of Parliament. Successful applicants had to be males between the ages of 18 and 40, of sound constitution and good character. The pay was one dollar a day and their first job was to clean up the whiskey trade on the southern Prairies. On July 8, 1874, 300 men set out from Dufferin, Man., on a two-month odyssey across the Prairies. They dealt with the whiskey traders, went on to put down the 1885 Métis resistance against the government, and policed the Klondike gold rush. Crowfoot, the inspirational leader of the Blackfoot, said, “The Mounted Police have protected us as the feathers of the bird pro...
A day off
O Canada

A day off

The 19th century wasn’t a golden era for workers. In Newfoundland, six-year-olds were given the job of splitting fish, while processing was done by 10-year-old girls. Eight-year-old boys worked in Cape Breton coal mines. At Toronto’s Gooderham and Worts distillery, child workers as young as 10 worked long days and were given rations of whisky to help ease the burden. Things weren’t any better for adults. Twelve-hour days were standard, along with six-day weeks. In company mining towns, most of the workers’ wages went to pay rent for the company-owned houses and to buy supplies at the company-owned store. If the workers threatened to strike, the store would close. Conditions were often unsafe, wages were low and workers could be fired on a whim. In response to these conditions, the “Ni...
O Canada: Moon legs
O Canada

O Canada: Moon legs

What was the first thing to touch the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969? Before Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface with the words, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” the Canadian-made legs of the lunar landing module settled into the dust of the moon. The legs were made of lightweight honeycomb compressible aluminum, manufactured by Quebec’s Heroux-DEVTEK. The module itself was primarily designed by Sarnia-born Owen Maynard, an engineer and former Second World War RCAF pilot. He had previously been one of the engineers on the supersonic Avro Arrow. When Prime Minister John Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow program in 1959, Robert Gilruth, who was with the American space program, flew to Toronto the next day and hired 25 men to join his team in Virgi...