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A tenacious wildflower
Canada Corner, Home Front

A tenacious wildflower

Each year, The Royal Canadian Legion distributes about 20 million poppy lapel pins across Canada. The poppies are given freely, with people encouraged to donate to the poppy fund in support of veterans in need. But this November, many Legionnaires will be wearing a different type of poppy pin—one that resembles one of the first poppies worn in remembrance 100 years ago. The poppy campaign in Canada has its roots in the First World War. The inspiration for the campaign was the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian artillery in Belgium in 1915. During the Second Battle of Ypres from April 22 to May 25, 1915, McCrae’s friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed by an artillery shell. McCrae conducted an impromptu funeral for his friend, reciting as mu...
Arctic Mosquitoes
Canada Corner, Home Front

Arctic Mosquitoes

How a squadron of war surplus aircraft conquered the tundra and mapped Canada’s Far North It was 1946: the war was over, surplus airplanes were going for a song and entrepreneurial spirits were high. Some ambitious veteran pilots and navigators, still adventurous and in their prime, figured the stars were aligned for some kind of flying business.  Over its years, Spartan flew 22 types of aircraft. Three ex-flight lieutenants—John Roberts, Russell Hall and Joseph Kohut—were accomplished aviators and eventual business partners. Roberts had flown P-51 Mustangs with the Royal Canadian Air Force on photo-reconnaissance out of the U.K. over enemy-held Europe. Hall navigated Wellington bombers based in Egypt and the Bahamas. Pathfinder navigator Kohut earned a Distinguished Flying Cros...
Afghanistan goes to the Taliban
Canada Corner, Home Front

Afghanistan goes to the Taliban

Is this the end of nation-building wars?  The 20-year war to eliminate the Taliban that had sheltered and assisted Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida terrorist organization he led has come to an end.  After the stunning attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, America’s call for vengeance was immediate and strong. The Taliban was quickly driven from power thanks to U.S. support for the Northern Alliance that had been fighting the Islamist regime. Badly battered, the Taliban was relatively quiet for three or four years.  But by 2006, it was mounting large-scale attacks in Helmand Province, where British troops had the lead, and in Kandahar Province, where Canadians led operations. The Taliban lost heavily.  Canadian troops won in combat but then lacked sufficient numbers to...
Sub vs Schooner
Canada Corner, Home Front

Sub vs Schooner

In a U-boat rampage off the East Coast in 1918, the schooner Dornfontein was captured and burned On Aug. 3, 1918, a small boat carrying nine sailors arrived at Gannet Rock in the Bay of Fundy. They had a tale to tell.  The previous day, a submarine had stopped their schooner—looted it, and took the crew as prisoners. Then the raiders set the schooner on fire and turned its crew loose in their small boat. It had taken more than 12 hours to row to shore. It was not supposed to happen.  When the First World War started in 1914, submarines were a novelty weapon. Their range was short and everyone expected them to operate inshore, fully submerged and, in accordance with international law, to sink only warships. After all, submarines did not have enough crew to take ships as prizes, or spac...
Enough ships?
Canada Corner, Home Front

Enough ships?

What kind of navy should Canada have? With just 8,300 regulars, the Royal Canadian Navy is the smallest branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. This has been reflected in the RCN’s inability to produce officers to fill the highest post in the Canadian Armed Forces: chief of the defence staff.  Since the brief appointment of Admiral John R. Anderson in 1993, the RCN has had only two such officers—Vice-Admiral Larry Murray, who was interim CDS in 1996-97 during the turmoil of the Somalia Affair, and Admiral Art McDonald, who was appointed in January 2021. McDonald stepped down after 41 days in the post and is the subject of an ongoing investigation after allegations of misconduct were raised against him.    The apparent lack of highly qualified naval officers to fill the top position...
Super Heroes
Home Front

Super Heroes

Wartime restrictions accidentally created a golden age for Canadian comic book heroes with patriotic messages Torontonian Leo Bachle was just 16 in 1941 when he created Canadian wartime comic book superhero Johnny Canuck.  “I didn’t see it as propaganda at the time,” he said in a CBC interview in 1995. “I created Johnny to give Canada a hero. I really believed in the war effort. I felt very nationalistic.”  With typical Canadian reserve, these heroes didn’t always possess Superman-like powers. Bachle was in the right place at the right time with the right talent. Canada’s War Exchange Conservation Act of December 1940 banning non-essential imports had an unintended benefit to the war effort. Among paper products it barred were pulp magazines and comic books. In blocking popular A...

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