Military Milestones

Weekly Military Milestones

A Dane with the CEF
Military Milestones

A Dane with the CEF

In 1918, a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was awarded the Victoria Cross—but he wasn’t Canadian at all. In fact, Lieutenant Thomas Dinesen was from a wealthy and influential Danish family. He had graduated as a civil engineer in 1916 and wanted to enlist. Although he had served in his country’s army reserve, Denmark was neutral in the First World War. His military ambitions were also frustrated by Britain, France and the United States: all turned him away when he attempted to enlist. While in the U.S., he came across a Canadian recruiting poster (as many as 40,000 Americans joined the CEF). Although unfamiliar with Scottish-Canadian culture and knowing only a few words of English, he was welcomed into the Canadian army and transferred to the Royal Highlanders of Canada...
The Canadian Corps reunites for a big bash
Military Milestones

The Canadian Corps reunites for a big bash

On the weekend of Aug. 4, 1934, more than 90,000 veterans—from every corner of Canada and some from Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States—converged on Toronto for a massive Canadian Corps reunion. The event coincided with the 20th anniversary of the start of the First World War and against the backdrop of summer celebrations of the city’s centenary. In the middle of the Great Depression, not everyone could afford to travel. A fundraising campaign helped some out. Others hitchhiked, snuck rides in railway cars or walked great distances to attend. Some 75 veterans from Vancouver arrived on a train they operated. One major attraction was a replica French village featuring a handful of licensed estaminets. “The estaminet had been the focal point of a soldier’s life o...
Treachery on Anticosti Island
Military Milestones

Treachery on Anticosti Island

The submarine attacks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence during the Second World War were the stuff of nightmares. How much worse would it have been if Germany had established a toehold off the coast of Quebec? That may be just what they tried to do in 1937 in an attempt to buy Anticosti Island, a stretch of real estate 200 kilometres long and 50 wide, situated in the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River about 70 kilometres north of the Gaspé Peninsula. The island, which had been privately owned since 1680, was sold in the mid-1920s to a pulp and paper company. During the Great Depression, the Consolidated Paper Corporation put the island up for sale. In 1937, an option to purchase the land was obtained by Alois Miedl, an art dealer and banker who moved to Amsterdam from Germany in 1932...
The fighting after Hill 70
Military History, Military Milestones

The fighting after Hill 70

The Battle for Hill 70 was an important victory for the Canadian Corps in August 1917, though it did not achieve its ultimate objective. The Canadians had been ordered to capture the German stronghold at Lens, a French coal-mining centre. But first, Hill 70 had to be taken. Taking the high ground, noted Brigadier-General Percy Radcliffe, would make “the enemy’s position in [Lens] untenable, and [force] him to evacuate it.” It also would take out guns that would otherwise target Canadians from above as they attacked the city. The battle was originally planned to begin July 30, following a 15-day pre-battle bombardment meant to destroy German trenches and cut through protective barbed wire. But things did not go as originally planned. By July 16, the Canadians were encampe...
Sherman tanks storm through Sicily
Military Milestones

Sherman tanks storm through Sicily

Jack Wallace, a 23-year-old Sherman tank commander with the Three Rivers Regiment, arrived in Sicily in the heat of summer 77 years ago, he recalled in Shermans in Sicily: The Diary of a Young Soldier, Summer 1943. Aboard ship for Reveille before 6 a.m. July 10, by 5 p.m. his regiment was ordered to join the attack on Burgio, says the diary, reproduced in Canadian Military History in 1998. In the next two days, they rolled through three towns that were taken or surrendered. Things were about to heat up. July 13-15, 1943 “Monty [Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery] came to inspect our regiment… Recalling that the Edmonton Regiment had been stationed in an old brewery in England, he asked the men if they would like a beer. They answered with a deafening "Yes!" but Monty resp...
HMCS <em> Labrador </em>explores the Arctic
Military Milestones

HMCS Labrador explores the Arctic

Commissioned on July 8, 1954, HMCS Labrador was the first warship to sail across the Northwest Passage, returning to home port in Halifax via the Panama Canal, the first to circumnavigate North America in a single voyage. But the Wind-class icebreaker’s biggest contributions were mapping the waterways and establishing Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. At the time, it was feared U.S. icebreakers would move into the Arctic, jeopardizing Canada’s claims. The ship carried two helicopters and was designed for the worst. Powered by six mighty diesel engines, it could ram through pack ice and if it got stuck, it was equipped with heeling tanks into which water could be pumped at very high speed to rock the ship back and forth and out of trouble. The waters were uncharted and the ship’s...
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