Military History

Was it right to commute Kurt Meyer’s death sentence for killing Canadian PoWs?
Face to Face

Was it right to commute Kurt Meyer’s death sentence for killing Canadian PoWs?

Mark Zuehlke says YES On June 7, 1944, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division started its advance inland from Juno Beach and fought against German Panzer units.  Kurt Meyer, the Standarten-führer (standard leader) of the 25th Regiment, 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjügend (Hitler Youth) Division, had a headquarters at the Abbaye d’Ardenne—about three kilometres west of Caen, France—to direct Germany’s counterattacks.  In the ensuing five-day battle, several Canadian battalions were overrun and an estimated 156 prisoners were murdered by 12th SS troops. Eighteen were killed at the Abbaye on the night of June 7 and on the following day. After a year-long investigation, Meyer was tried on five related charges before the Canadian War Crimes Commission in December 1945. First: that he ...
Recounting CEF’s first battle
Military History, Military Milestones

Recounting CEF’s first battle

  The Canadian Expeditionary Force’s first battle experience, aside from a trench raid, came in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in mid-March 1915. The Canadians were tasked with preventing the Germans from reinforcing their position while the British pushed through enemy lines to advance the front. A new front was established, but the Allies were unable to exploit their advantage and press on due to difficulty transmitting orders and a lack of reserves. “The guns are dropped and the teams go out, form up and move away.” James Wells Ross talked about battle preparations in a letter home on April 13, 1915, one of several quoted here from the Canadian Letters & Images Project. “Imagine a column of horses and vehicles moving along a road. They turn into a field over a rough di...
Sighted sub, sank same
Military History, Military Milestones

Sighted sub, sank same

The battlefields of Europe were thousands of kilometres away, but Newfoundland and Labrador were definitely in a war zone during the Second World War. The Allies knew the strategic significance of Canada's East Coast and the waters around Newfoundland, through which hundreds of convoys sailed to Britain and Russia carrying troops and millions of tonnes of food, war materiel and raw material. The British colony provided a home for some of the warships and aircraft that defended the convoys. By the end of the war, Newfoundland counted among its defences two naval bases, five airfields, a couple of seaplane bases and five army bases. Even before the war, the Germans had attempted to get a foothold at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River by buying Anticosti Island (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...
Gulf War aftermath
Military History

Gulf War aftermath

As soon as the bloodbath in the Kuwaiti desert ended, Canadian oil-well firefighters and BOMB disposal experts stepped up Mike Miller figures there are three main reasons why his Calgary-based company, Safety Boss, put out more oil well fires than any other crew working in postwar Kuwait in 1991: the Canadians were mobile; they used chemicals instead of explosives to quell the fires; and they were colour-blind. Safety Boss put out 180 of somewhere between 605 and 732 oil-well fires lit by Saddam Hussein’s troops as they evacuated occupied Kuwait and ran from coalition forces during the 43-day war to liberate the petroleum-rich country. When the fighting was over, the firefighting began. Safety Boss was one of the original four firms dispatched to battle one of the century’s worst ...
Broken Arrow
Canada Corner, Military History

Broken Arrow

Brilliant and blazingly fast, the CF-105 was ahead of its time—and short-lived During the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, there was a growing concern that Soviet bombers would attack North America via the shortest route, over the Canadian Arctic. NATO intelligence suggested that such an attack could occur as early as 1954. So, in 1953, the Royal Canadian Air Force commissioned the A.V. Roe Canada Ltd. aircraft manufacturing company in Malton, Ont., to design and build a fighter plane that could operate in any weather, fly at twice the speed of sound, execute a 2G turn at 50,000 feet without losing speed or altitude, and fire a missile at oncoming bombers. It was, at the time, the most demanding specification in the world, and many international manufacturers believed it couldn’t...

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An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.