Military Milestones

Weekly Military Milestones

Surrender at Calais
Military History, Military Milestones

Surrender at Calais

After D-Day, the First Canadian Army began the job of clearing the French coast along the English Channel. It was a hard slog. The beaches were crowded with obstacles and mines. The shore bristled with barbed wire and the whole coastline was studded with concrete bunkers and machine-gun nests. Towns and cities were fortified and equipped with heavy guns. It was known as the Atlantic Wall. The Germans had installed 42 heavy guns around Calais that constantly threatened Allied ships and five batteries capable of firing across the Channel to the Port of Dover. The Germans had flooded the land, and “prepared for a siege in order to deny the Allies the use of these valuable prizes as long as possible,” wrote Major W.H.V. Matthews, commanding officer of the Canadian Scottish Regiment. ...
Prisoners of Hong Kong
Military History, Military Milestones

Prisoners of Hong Kong

George MacDonell, of Stratford, Ont., was following in his parents’ footsteps when he enlisted in the Second World War. He was the only son of an army major and nursing sister who met while serving overseas and married after the First World War. He joined the doomed Royal Rifles of Canada which fought alongside the Winnipeg Grenadiers when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong in December 1941. Two hundred and ninety Canadians were killed and 493 wounded in three weeks of fierce fighting. “The most vital war effort of the Japanese, destroyed by young Canadians.” MacDonell was among the nearly 1,200 captured. He spent close to four years in brutal Japanese prisoner of war camps, first in Hong Kong, then in Japan, where prisoners were forced to work in atrocious conditions. Hong Kong prison...
<em>Kosmos-1383</em>
Military History, Military Milestones

Kosmos-1383

The mountainous terrain of British Columbia has been described as a graveyard of small planes. Many light aircraft downed by equipment failure, turbulence or unexpected foul weather have disappeared, crashing among the peaks and dense forests of the mountainsides and valleys. Some have never been found. On July 19, 1982, a small craft piloted by Jim Heemskerk disappeared on a flight from Dawson Creek to Dease Lake in northeastern British Columbia. After seven fruitless weeks and nearly 1,800 flying hours costing about $2 million, the Department of National Defence called off the search. The plane stalled and crashed in a heavily wooded area. But George Heemskerk, the father of the missing pilot, did not give up. On Sept. 9, he and a friend went searching aboard a Cessna 172 with...
At the liberation of Dieppe
Military History, Military Milestones

At the liberation of Dieppe

On Sept. 1, 1944, the 2nd Canadian Division returned to Dieppe, France, to a very different reception from that of just two years before. Canadians made up the bulk of the attack force of about more than 6,000 in the disastrous Dieppe Raid in August 1942—907 of them were killed, about 2,460 wounded and nearly 2,000 captured. It was only fitting that the 2nd Canadian Division should be chosen to liberate the town as the Allies swept through northern France following D-Day. Aircraft were deployed to soften up enemy defenders when a reconnaissance unit reported the Germans had already evacuated. The air attack was called off with 20 minutes to spare. Instead of the expected greeting of gunfire, the Canadians were welcomed by cheering French citizens celebrating their liberation an...
Almost Calgary
Military History, Military Milestones

Almost Calgary

But for a cold winter and a cold heart, the city we know as Calgary could well have a different name, one that traces back three centuries to Canada’s original French settlers. As a teenager, Éphrem-Albert Brisebois, who was born in Canada East (Quebec), served with the Union Army during the Civil War in the United States and went on to serve as a volunteer soldier in the Papal Zouaves, the army defending territories of the Pope during the unification of Italy. Brisebois had become an experienced soldier by the time he returned to Canada in his early 20s, and Prime Minister John A. Macdonald himself appointed him as one of the nine original officers of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP). In 1874, inspector Brisebois led one of the six NWMP divisions on the gruelling 1,400-kilome...
Prisoners of Dieppe
Military History, Military Milestones

Prisoners of Dieppe

In June 1942, Canadian troops arrived for six weeks of combined operations training on the Isle of Wight in England in preparation for the raid on Dieppe, France. Among them were a dozen men from the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, who were to deliver ammunition, help with the wounded, and transport German prisoners to ships waiting offshore. “In early June the division moved to the Isle of Wight for training, especially for sea-borne landings,” Staff Sergeant R.E. Crumb wrote in his diary, extracts of which were printed in Canada’s Craftsmen at 50! The Story of Electrical & Mechanical Engineering in the Canadian Forces by Colonel Murray C. Johnston. They could hear the fighting before they arrived. “About a dozen of us from the Ordnance workshop practiced landing with jeeps, lo...

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