Military Milestones

Weekly Military Milestones

A gruelling rescue effort
Military Milestones

A gruelling rescue effort

On Oct. 30, 1991, the Canadian Forces transport aircraft CC-130H Hercules 322 left Greenland on a routine airlift of supplies to the isolated Canadian Forces Station Alert, an electronic listening post on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island in Canada’s High Arctic. Everything—personnel, food, supplies, fuel—had to be airlifted into the station, situated 817 kilometres from the North Pole, far north of any settlement. Flight Boxtop 22 was scheduled to arrive at the Alert airfield in the dark at 4:30 p.m. On board were a crew of five, 13 passengers and 3,400 litres of diesel fuel. When the airport lights came into view, Captain John Couch started his descent for the runway. He was less than 10 minutes from the airfield when he radioed that the aircraft was in trouble. The ai...
Rescue tugs to the rescue
Military Milestones

Rescue tugs to the rescue

German submariners referred to the period from July to October 1940 as Die Glückliche Zeit, or the Happy Time, when their wolf packs sank more than 280 Allied ships. It was not too happy for Convoy HX-77. Between Oct. 11 and 13, a wolf pack targeted its 42 cargo ships, picking off six vessels carrying 35,000 tonnes of supplies and war materiel to the United Kingdom. At just after 10 p.m. in a gale on Oct. 11, the cargo ship Port Gisborne was hit by a torpedo from U-48 in the North Atlantic, about 180 kilometres off Ireland. The crew abandoned ship in three lifeboats, but survivors in one boat drowned after it capsized in the storm, bringing the total of dead to 26. The other two lifeboats, carrying 36 crew and one gunner, drifted apart in the storm. On Oct. 14, survivors in...
“A splendid boy”—Thomas Ricketts, VC
Military Milestones

“A splendid boy”—Thomas Ricketts, VC

A sturdy lad who had worked from an early age beside his fisherman father, Thomas (Tommy) Ricketts was not asked for proof of his birthdate when he followed in the footsteps of his brother George and joined the Newfoundland Regiment in September 1916, at the age of 15. He was destined to become a hero before his 18th birthday. Private Ricketts was a seasoned soldier by the time the Hundred Days Offensive began in 1918. Sent to the front in July 1917, he went over the top at the Battle of Langemarck in August, fought at the Battle of Poelcappelle in October. In November, he was wounded early on in the First Battle of Cambrai, which claimed his brother in December. After recuperating, Ricketts returned to the front in the spring of 1918, rejoining comrades in what was now the Royal New...
The bombing of Dortmund
Military Milestones

The bombing of Dortmund

In the fall of 1944, a new Allied bombing directive called for heavy attacks on Germany’s industrial heartland, with oil, transportation and communication the chief targets, and the added benefit of eroding civilian morale. The directive said the aim was virtual destruction of areas attacked, demonstrating the overwhelming superiority of Allied air forces. “Bomber Harris [Royal Air Force Marshal Sir Arthur Harris] sent us on thousand-bomber raids…intending to flatten Germany,” said air gunner Murray Heselton in a Memory Project interview. “Which we pretty well did.” Dortmund, the largest city in the Ruhr Valley, was in the sights of Bomber Command on Oct. 6-7, 1944. It was “the largest single enterprise ever attempted by Canada’s bomber force,” said Brereton Greenhous et al in The...
Eyes in the sky
Military Milestones

Eyes in the sky

Squadron Leader William Isaac Clements is credited as the first Royal Canadian Air Force member to fly a wartime sortie over enemy territory during a reconnaissance trip into Germany at the end of September 1939. Clements was already in England when the Second World War broke out. He had joined the RCAF in 1930 and earned his wings the next year. In 1939, he was among many Canadian air force personnel seconded for duty or to study with the Royal Air Force prior to the war. He was promoted to squadron leader a week after he was attached to the Royal Air Force on March 24, 1939, and served as a flight commander in No. 53 Squadron, which was sent to France in September as the strategic reconnaissance unit of the Advanced Air Striking Force. On Sept. 29-30, he flew a reconnaissance so...
Armoured vehicle serves as a working memorial
Military Milestones

Armoured vehicle serves as a working memorial

A contingent of Canadian tanks and armoured vehicles set out before dawn on Sept. 24, 2007, to push insurgents from a trouble spot in the Panjwaii district in Afghanistan. The move was in aid of Operation Sadiq Sarbaaz (Honest Soldier), a joint operation with Afghan troops to build police stations throughout the area, in hopes a permanent police presence would provide some stability to one of the most dangerous districts in the country. There were multiple skirmishes throughout the day. At about 4:30 p.m., a track on a Leopard 2 tank came off in the rough terrain. Mechanic Corporal Nathan Hornburg, 24, got out to fix it. At that moment, the Taliban attacked. Hornburg was killed and another soldier was wounded. In the following firefight, three more soldiers were wounded by a rocke...

CANADA AND THE
VICTORIA CROSS

SPECIAL ISSUE | $14.95

PRE-ORDER NOW | DELIVERED IN NOVEMBER
The next issue in the award-winning series Canada’s Ultimate Story is Canada and the Victoria Cross. No one ever set out to earn a Victoria Cross, which is awarded for “valour in the face of the enemy.” For dozens of action-packed accounts of valour and sacrifice on the battlefield, order Canada and the Victoria Cross as your next issue!
close-link