Military History

This series by historian Terry Copp examines many aspects of our military history. Guaranteed to fascinate.

War Art

Harold Beament

Harold Beament's paintings depict wartime on the Atlantic. The above image is titled Passing? Harold Beament's paintings of the Atlantic vary from soft grey blue coloured pencil, to navy pastels to verdant green oils. And like the sea, Beament had more than one face because he was both a commander and an artist. "During my actual service as a war artist it was kind of difficult to separate the naval officer from the war artist.... I'd be very pleased with the canvas when I went to bed, but I'd wake up in the morning and of course the canvas was right in front of me and I'd think, good God, I wouldn't put to sea in that vessel if it was the last thing I did. It's not seaworthy and I'd start making it seaworthy from the na...

Taking Walcheren Island: Army, Part 38

The words Luctor et Emergo, which translate into I struggle and I emerge, were emblazoned on the crest of Zeeland long before World War II began. Much of Zeeland, the southernmost province of the Netherlands, is below sea level and the land must be protected by dikes and elaborate drainage schemes. The phrase "God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland" may not be true of the whole country, but it certainly applies in Zeeland. When the Germans occupied Holland and began construction of the Atlantic Wall they concentrated their efforts in Zeeland and particularly on Walcheren Island. By 1943, 11 ...
War Art

Franz Johnston

During World War I, Franz Johnston painted endless skyscapes. Miniature airplanes lift and circle through watercolour clouds and the artist manages to defy gravity with every stroke. He is a master of perspective and if you could step into his canvas surely you would drop for miles. Johnston was born in Toronto in 1888 and studied art in the U.S. He was one of the original members of the Group of Seven and sustained a demanding career, exhibiting constantly in galleries and exhibitions all over the world. Prolific in every endeavour, Johnston was a firecracker. He returned to Canada just before WW I and was invited to accept a commission to paint the life of the men of the Royal Flying Corps at their training camps in Ontario. Although he was working full time, he sketched dozens ...

The Battle North Of Antwerp: Army, Part 37

  Pipers play a lament at the burial of 55 members of the Black Watch following the fighting in October. On Oct. 2, 1944, General Guy Simonds, who had temporarily replaced an ailing Gen. Harry Crerar, issued his first directive as the acting commander of First Canadian Army. The task of clearing the approaches to the already liberated city of Antwerp in Belgium, the banks of the Scheldt Estuary, was assigned to 2nd and 3rd Cdn. infantry divisions. Third Division was to attack Scheldt Fortress South which the Canadians called the Breskens Pocket. Second Div. was to "clear the area north of Antwerp and close the eastern end of the Zuid-Beveland Isthmus. Once these tasks were complete, b...
War Art

Charles Comfort

Piazza Plebiscito, Ortona, Italy. War artist Charles Comfort was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1900, and moved with his family to Winnipeg when he was 12. He studied art in Winnipeg, New York and the Netherlands, and as a young artist often painted with members of the Group of Seven. When World War II broke out, Comfort was teaching at the University of Toronto. His sister and her young child were on board the British-registered passenger liner Athenia when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat west of Ireland in September 1939. The attack killed more than 100 people, but fortunately Comfort's sister and her child were among those rescued. The ship's sinking prompted Comfort to enlist in the army in 1939, and he soon became an infantry weapons training officer. ...

2nd Division In September 1944: Army, Part 36

An 8th Reconnaissance Regiment anti-tank crew helps guard the road near Dunkirk on Sept. 16, 1944. During September 1944, 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was involved in a series of very tough battles in northern France. On the morning of the 7th, the 8th Cdn. Reconnaissance Regiment, also known as the 14th Cdn. Hussars, was moving well in front of the infantry when it ran up against strong German positions in the villages of Bourbourgville and Gravelines near Dunkirk. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who had not yet made up his mind about future strategy, wanted the Canadians to secure all of the Channel ports and so operations to clear the outer ring of Dunkirk's defences got under way...