Military Milestones

Weekly Military Milestones

Medical Advances Behind the Line, Part 1
Military Health Matters, Military History, Military Milestones

Medical Advances Behind the Line, Part 1

The First World War spurred medical innovations that have since saved countless lives. In a war of attrition, where huge armies met in battles that could go on for months, keeping the men fit to fight required as much thought and effort as battle preparations.  While the military war was waged in intermittent battles against the enemy across no man’s land, the medical war was an endless fight against mites and microbes and horrific bodily damage wrought by the mass killing machines of the First World War. Victory on both fronts required medical breakthroughs. Men, mites and microbes “Well! I don’t know which is the worst. The war or the lice.… When we are in the trenches, what little time we get to sleep, the lice won’t let us.” —Samuel Warren Ball, April 1917 (from the Canadi...
One of the original 62 officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force
Military History, Military Milestones

One of the original 62 officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force

Wounded in the leg during his service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1917, Sergeant Arthur Lawrence Morfee transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He trained as an observer, took an aerial photography course and advanced from cadet to second lieutenant before his Royal Air Force service ended in February 1919. That photography course was to ensure him a long and productive aviation career, starting with mapping Canada. Morfee joined the fledgling Canadian Air Force as a pilot officer in 1921 and was among the original 62 officers of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1924. Mount Morfee, Morfee Lake and Morfee Creek bear his name. His career nearly ended a year later, as reported in a Canadian Press dispatch on Feb. 24, 1925. Flight Lieutenant J.L.M. White and Flying Officer R...
Operation Moshtarak
Military History, Military Milestones

Operation Moshtarak

In mid-February 2010, Canadian troops and helicopters were involved in launching the largest NATO attack to that date on the Taliban. It was called Operation Moshtarak, which means ‘together’ in the Dari language. More than 15,000 coalition soldiers and 50 helicopters converged on the small city of Marjah and surrounding farmland, a hub for the Taliban and the opium poppy production that supports them. The idea was to oust the Taliban and drug lords, win over the local population, reintegrate local government and persuade farmers to replace poppies with farm crops and give them the stability to do so. “This is the ultimate kind of goal for us,” helicopter wing commander Col. Jeff Smyth said in an interview with CTV. The air attack was the biggest mission for the Canadian Armed For...
Homesick, seasick and lovesick
Military History, Military Milestones

Homesick, seasick and lovesick

The ocean liner SS Mauritania docked at Pier 21 in Halifax on Feb. 10, 1946, filled with women described in the media as homesick, seasick and lovesick. War brides. There were brides from every country where Canadians were deployed. The vessel was the first of the bride ships, which by 1947 had carried more than 44,000 women and about 21,000 children to new lives in Canada. During the war, brides could accompany husbands returning to Canada, but at the end of the war, all ships were needed to transport troops home, so the brides had to follow later. The women were mostly British, but there were brides from every country where Canadians were deployed, including the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy and even Germany. The Canadian Wives’ Bureau in London helped brides make...
All for one: how unification shook up the military
Military History, Military Milestones

All for one: how unification shook up the military

In the 1960s, federal politicians were concerned that spending by some departments was out of control. Cost-cutting began, and the gaze of the bean counters fell on the sector accounting for about a quarter of the federal budget: national defence. The army, navy and air force each had their own administrative and support structures, and the politicians believed they could cut costs and inefficiency of triplification by integrating the services. And in the run-up to Canada’s centennial year, with growing desire for a distinct national identity, some believed going the extra step—unifying the services—would serve another goal: Canadianization. The development of uniquely Canadian traditions, supporters argued, was being hampered by the trappings of colonialism, particularly in the ...
Travels of a wounded soldier
Military Milestones

Travels of a wounded soldier

At noon on Jan. 17, 1917, a group of comrades were eating a lunch of bully beef and hardtack near Vimy, France, when their dugout was damaged by German shelling. Their work was cut out for them. They needed a new dugout “so we will have a place for the night,” Private Harry Morris wrote home in a letter to his family, published online by the Canadian Letters and Images Project (www.canadianletters.ca). Despite the bombardment, they started a new dugout and repaired the damaged walls of their trench and a destroyed gun pit. “[We] keep plugging along, very busy dodging shells.” At 1:30 p.m., the First World War ended for 36-year-old Morris when a shell exploded nearby. “I heard the explosion after I was hit. Shrapnel travels at a greater velocity than the sound.” His thigh ...

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