Military History

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

War Art

Florence Wyle

Florence Wyle's bronze sculptures depict women and men at work on the home front. From top to bottom: Woman With Adapter; Furnace Man. For sculptor Florence Wyle, WW I brought welcome relief from chronic poverty. It came in the form of a commission from the Canadian War Memorials Fund, a private project run by Lord Beaverbrook that employed artists to depict the war. Between 1918 and 1919, Wyle produced a number of bronze sculptures and most of them depict women at work on the home front. The Canadian War Museum holds nine of these and they range in height from 21 to 36 inches. Each sculpture depicts a single figure and all nine are sensuous and precise works of art. Wyle sculpted on her lap and paid careful attention to the detail and accuracy of each figure. The brass figures ...

Allied Bombing In Normandy: Army, Part 23

The ongoing debate over the role of Bomber Command in WW II generally ignores the contribution made to the direct defeat of the German army. If the role of heavy bombers in Normandy is discussed the emphasis is on the bombing of Caen or the casualties inflicted on our own troops by short bombing. The reality is that Bomber Command and the United States 8th Air Force played a major role in the Allied victory in Normandy, a role long overdue for recognition.The idea of using heavy bombers in close support of the land battle developed in mid-June 1944 when the stalemate in front of Caen and the shortage of artillery ammunition led Chief Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory to propose an "air bombardment behind which the army might advance." Genuine differences of opinion as well as the pers...
War Art

Richard Jack

Richard Jack concentrated on the collective triumph rather than the individual agony of war. From top to bottom: Major Ronald I. Jack; The Taking of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday, 1917; an untitled painting. Richard Jack was Canada’s first official war artist. Born in Sunderland, England, in 1866, the British subject studied at the Académie Julien in Paris, France, before he was hired by Canada to become our first official war artist in 1916. He held strong opinions on the modern school of art and in 1933 was quoted in the Toronto Telegram as saying: "A glib tongue, rather than a clever brush and an eye for pigment was the main asset of the proponent of the extremist schools." Jack was a master draftsman and there was no question that he understood color and form. His grand and roma...

The Normandy Battle Of Attrition: Army, Part 22

The American military historian Stephen Ambrose has a new bestseller in the bookstores. It’s called Citizen Soldiers and in it he describes the United States Army from the Normandy landings to the surrender of Germany. Ambrose is one of a small, but growing group of American historians who argue that the Allied armies fought with skill and determination in defeating their enemies on the battlefield. He believes that "free men fight better than slaves" and that "the sons of democracy proved to be better soldiers than the sons of Nazi Germany."I think Ambrose overstates his case, but a re-examination of the conventional wisdom on the campaigns of WW II is badly needed. Such a re-examination began in Canada in the early 1980s with the publication of the five-volume Maple Leaf Route series....
War Art

Aba Bayefsky

The recurring theme of skeletons characterizes the work of Aba Bayefsky. From top to bottom: Belsen Concentration Camp—The Pit; All Quiet on the Western Front; Remembering The Holocaust. Many war artists had a bitter time recording the images of war, but few more so than Aba Bayefsky. "I believe that art and politics—by politics I mean human interaction—go hand in hand. I’m a people painter. I’m not out on a mission, but I would like to think that what I have done will leave a record of what transpired. I am very sensitive to anti-Semitism, and would have thought that after those camps it would disappear…to me it is central to what I think and what I do." Bayefsky was born in Toronto on April 7, 1923. He was the second son of a Russian-born father and a Scottish-bo...

The Airborne On D-Day: Army, Part 21

When historians really immerse themselves in the world inhabited by the men who planned the invasion of France in 1944, two things quickly become evident. Everyone expressed confidence that the operation would succeed and everyone feared it might fail. It was this nightmare of "the Channel running red with blood" and the possibility of another Dunkirk-like evacuation that led the generals to decide to use three of their highly trained airborne divisions, not to exploit success, but to guard against failure.The decision to create an Allied airborne army of five divisions and commit enormous resources to gliders, special equipment and a fleet of transport aircraft was always controversial. Ever since the conquest of Crete in May 1941, when German airborne forces lost 30 per cent of their str...