Military Milestones

Weekly Military Milestones

Remembering Indigenous war heroes
Military History, Military Milestones

Remembering Indigenous war heroes

Their ancestors fought beside the British in the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812. In 1885, they navigated Africa’s Nile River on a British military rescue mission and volunteered for Canada’s first international expeditionary force at the dawn of the 20th century, fighting with the British in the Second Boer War in South Africa. But when Great Britain called for aid during the First World War, the support of Indigenous Peoples—First Nations, Inuit and Métis—initially caught the Canadian government off guard. Thousands of Indigenous people answered the call after the Second World War was declared. Status Indians were “wards of the government and did not have the rights or responsibilities of citizenship,” historian L. James Dempsey, who is of Kainai (Blood...
The hunt for Convoy HX-133
Military History, Military Milestones

The hunt for Convoy HX-133

It was a taste of what was to come. Convoy HX-133—49 merchant ships and an escort of five warships—left Halifax on June 16, 1941, bound for Liverpool, England. Not all of them would arrive. The merchant ships were arranged in nine short columns, with the escorts—HMC ships Chambly, Orillia and Collingwood, all of them corvettes, and two destroyers, HMCS Ottawa and HMS Wolfe—dispersed among and around them. They sailed into heavy fog. “During this time there were several collisions resulting in five ships having to return to port,” wrote Commodore R.R. Gill of the cargo ship Glenpark. “Gales were experienced which slowed convoy down considerably.” As well, convoys “could only go as fast as the slowest ship,” recalled Ottawa veteran Georges Joseph Charrier in a Memory Project inte...
The British invasion of Iceland
Military History, Military Milestones

The British invasion of Iceland

During the Second World War, Iceland—a small island country with a population of about 120,000—was determined to remain neutral, as it had been since the First World War. But it was strategically located in the North Atlantic between Greenland and the Faroe Islands, just south of the Arctic Circle, which piqued the interest of Germany and Britain. According to an unidentified German naval officer, “whoever has Iceland controls the entrances into and exits from the Atlantic.” Britain decided to do it, before the Nazis could. Winston Churchill tried—and failed—to persuade the country to join the Allied cause. It had no army, and only a few antiquated cannons to defend itself. It was ripe for invasion. Britain decided to do it, before the Nazis could. On May 10, 1940, as the...
Canadians in the Huaylas
Military History, Military Milestones

Canadians in the Huaylas

On the last day of May 1970, a massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake devastated the Santa Valley (Callejón de Huaylas) in Peru, releasing a deadly mudslide that thundered through villages at 160 kilometres per hour. Boulders as big as houses smashed adobe homes as a 20-metre wave of mud, debris and glacier ice swept away trees and buildings and all life before it. The towns of Yungay and Ranrahirca were flattened and 18,000 people were killed. Nearly 67,000 people died and 800,000 were left homeless throughout the region. On June 6, Canada dispatched six aircraft to help in the relief effort. It took them two days to make the 6,000-kilometre journey to Peru. When they arrived there was only one airfield open, and it was located so precariously that in the first week four helicopters and o...
The Battle of Ridgeway
Military History, Military Milestones

The Battle of Ridgeway

“We are the Fenian Brotherhood, skilled in the arts of war, and we’re going to fight for Ireland, the land which we adore, many battles we have won, along with the boys in blue, and we’ll go and capture Canada, for we’ve nothing else to do.” —Fenian drinking song On June 1, 1866, more than 1,000 Irish Americans crossed the Niagara River from Buffalo, N.Y., and occupied the town of Fort Erie in Canada West (now Ontario). They were members of the Fenian Brotherhood, whose invasion was part of a master plan to secure the independence of Ireland. After the first Fenian raid of Campobello Island, N.B., in April 1866 failed in the face of a British show of force, a new invasion plan was drawn up. First, multiple raids would draw out British forces while a large Fenian force invaded ...
Killed holding a white flag
Military History, Military Milestones

Killed holding a white flag

After the Second World War, the United Nations voted to divide Palestine, in southern Lebanon, into Jewish and Arab sovereign states, setting the stage for the Arab-Israeli War. Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, and Arab armies invaded on May 15 in a futile attempt to prevent establishment of the State of Israel. An Israeli university and hospital were located on Mount Scopus in northeast Jerusalem, in an Israeli enclave within territory administered by Jordan. The 2.5-kilometre road to Mount Scopus was regularly mined and targeted by snipers. Convoys to the hospital and university were routinely held up. In April 1948 one was attacked and 78 people, mostly doctors and nurses, were killed. An armistice established Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus demilitarized zone. But the conflict ...

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