Military History

Operation Drumbeat
Military History, Navy, Uncategorized

Operation Drumbeat

U-boats targeted East Coast shipping in the first half of 1942 In the early hours of Jan. 12, 1942, wireless stations around the North Atlantic picked up a distress call from the British passenger freighter, SS Cyclops. The 9,076-ton vessel with 181 people aboard was 230 kilometres southeast of Cape Sable, N.S., and had just been struck by two torpedoes from U-123. The Royal Canadian Navy dispatched the minesweepers Red Deer and Burlington to the scene, while the Royal Canadian Air Force sent off a Catalina. Red Deer eventually rescued 93 survivors. No trace of U-123 was found. The sinking of Cyclops marked the start of U-boat attacks on Allied shipping in the Western Hemisphere. Attacks in Canadian and Newfoundland waters were deflected by rapid expansion of the system of esc...
Ottawa’s exiled princess
Military History, Military Milestones

Ottawa’s exiled princess

The Nazis invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, intent on capturing the royal family and stamping out resistance. Queen Wilhelmina, her daughter Juliana, son-in-law Bernhard and two granddaughters fled to England. Wilhelmina headed her government-in-exile in England. Her weekly radio broadcasts kept hope alive among the Dutch people suffering under the Nazi jackboot. The Dutch planted orange flowers everywhere as a symbol of resistance and to show their allegiance to the Crown, even under occupation. But Britain itself was under dire threat of invasion. To ensure continuity of the Dutch royal family should their queen be captured or killed, her heirs were sent to Canada. Crown Princess Juliana and her children arrived in Canada in June 1940 and settled in Ottawa, where Bernhard...
Trench Raid
Military History, Military Milestones

Trench Raid

The attack on German dugouts at Calonne in 1917 was one of Canada’s most successful raids of the war The war diary of the 21st Battalion (Eastern Ontario) on Jan. 7, 1917, was brief and to the point: “The battalion was relieved by the 19th Battalion in the right subsector this morning…and three companies proceeded to Bully forspecial training. The remainder of the battalion together with a company of the 20th Battalion formed Brigade Support. Casualties nil.” The battalion’s operation order detailed the personnel of the three companies: two majors, two captains, nine lieutenants, four signallers, 12 stretcher-bearers, 400 selected other ranks, with seven Lewis guns.The next day, the diary indicated the purpose of the special training: a raid on German trenches northeast of Calonne, Fra...
“I felt it was my duty”
Military History, Military Milestones

“I felt it was my duty”

At 110 years old, Reuben Sinclair is believed to be Canada’s oldest living veteran of the Second World War. The son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants, Sinclair was born on his family’s farm just 100 kilometres shy of Regina in 1911. Sinclair signed up with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 over objections of his brothers, taking leave from his accounting job with Saskatchewan's treasury department. “I didn’t have to [serve] but I felt it was my duty” he said in media interviews during the 2021 remembrance period. He had heard of a “big slaughtering going on in Europe” and couldn’t stand by and do nothing. Sinclair served as a wireless operator-mechanic, teaching pilots how to take off and land from airfields during the blackout. After the development of radar, Sinclair equippe...
Our man in Angola
Military History, Military Milestones

Our man in Angola

Angola, a country of some 32 million people along the southwest coast of Africa, endured centuries as a colony of Portugal followed by long years of war to gain independence, then long years of civil war. At the end of the 1980s, the country was politically divided; the government was supported by the Soviet Union, assisted by Cuban forces, but UNITA (the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) controlled large swaths of the country, with aid from South Africa and the United States. In this late phase of the Cold War, the international community wanted to defuse flashpoints that could heat up the situation, such as former African colonies where superpowers supported opposite sides in civil strife. The United Nations brokered an Angola peace agreement in 1988, culminat...
Pilots and partisans
Military History, Military Milestones

Pilots and partisans

The beginning of January 1945 marked a run of luck—or rather, display of expertise—for Canadian Flying Officer Norman Pearce, serving with No. 73 Squadron, Royal Air Force, in Yugoslavia. The squadron spent much time searching for enemy aircraft aloft, but it was also charged with supporting partisans fighting against their German occupiers on the ground. Pearce was credited with destroying six vehicles on Jan. 5 and a 75mm gun and two more vehicles on Jan. 9. But why was a Canadian pilot helping partisan ground forces? Like everything to do with the Balkans before and since, it’s complicated. Germany invaded Yugoslavia in the spring of 1941, smoothing the way for the invasion of the Soviet Union in early summer. The kingdom was divided up among Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgari...

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