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News and discussion on Canadian military history and how we remember the service and the sacrifice.

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War of 1812 commemorations continue

The commemoration period for the War of 1812 is not over, despite uninformed media reports to the contrary. An offshoot of the Napoleonic wars, The War of 1812 started  with the United States declaring war on Great Britain, and ended with signing of the Treaty of Ghent in December 1814.  But news travelled slowly 200 years ago, so the last battle of the war, the Battle of  New Orleans, was fought in January 1815. Many seminal events are still to be commemorated--the Americans gaining a foothold in Canada with the taking of Fort George in May 1813, then abandoning it in December. In 1814 there's the Battle of Lundy's Lane, the siege of Fort Erie, the British burning of Washington, D.C. and the siege of Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, which inspired writing of the U.S. nationa...
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Canada and the Holocaust

Many young Canadians may be unaware Canada has any connection to the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination program that claimed six million Jewish people and millions of others during the Second World War. That is about to change as Canada assumes chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance . In his speech at the hand-over ceremony in Berlin, new Chairman Dr. Mario Silva said that in addition to international work, Canada plans a number of national initiatives to increase understanding at home of the Holocaust. Canadians liberated Kamp Westerbork in Holland in April, 1945. This is where a few weeks before the end of the war young diarist Anne Frank boarded a train for Bergen-Belsen and her death. Canadian units  integrated into the British Army helped liberate Bergen...
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New home planned for HMCS Sackville

The federal government  has given $240,000 to the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust,  which plans a new $90 million memorial project  for Halifax Harbour where HMCS Sackville, a Second World War convoy escort, has served as Canada’s Naval Memorial since 1985. The  Trust plans to raise donations for construction of a  new 1.8-hectare building housing an interpretive centre and interactive displays on the Battle of the Atlantic. The 71-year-old vessel will be the centrepiece of the memorial. HMCS Sackville is the last of Canada’s 123 Second World War escort corvettes (Scrappy Little Corvettes, Jan/Feb. 2010). The ship was retired in 1982 after a 40-year career during  wartime and in peace. Volunteers have returned it to wartime condition, and it  is open to the public from June to Septe...
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Soldiers’ hockey

Recent re-creations in Ottawa and Korea of a championship hockey game held during the Korean War got me thinking about the importance of hockey in wartime. When young, healthy lads take to frozen ponds to play their national game near foreign battlefields, it’s not just a relief from the tension of war, but an expression of irrepressible Canadian values. It’s an egalitarian game—anybody who wants to can play (and if they can't play, root for a team). What matters is skill, hard work and will to win, not lineage, wealth or connection to power. And it's a great leveller, with fans representing every facet of society. During the First World War the pro hockey teams were decimated as players signed up—but this meant there was a source of entertainment for soldiers in Europe, as soldier t...
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A penny for your thoughts

It may only have been a penny, but it made me feel rich, that 'copper' as Granddad called it, clutched in my pudgy little fist.  Would I get five jelly babies? A few hot cinnamon candies? Gum?  Or could I use my gap-tooth smile (feminine wiles of the first grader) to persuade the shopkeeper to give me one of each? It's hard  not to tear up with nostalgia at the news the Canadian penny has begun passing into history. The Royal Canadian Mint  has stopped distributing pennies, their cost to produce having overtaken their worth. The mint is now collecting the coins, and expects eventually to recover 82 million kilograms of metals for recycling. Since 1908 some 35 billion had been produced. The penny is a perfect example of the discrepancy between value and worth.  Pennies may no longer b...
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Celebrating Champlain

On an expedition to find the northern sea more than 400 years ago, explorer Samuel de Champlain reaches the site of the modern city of Ottawa on the Ottawa River.  More than 100 events have been planned so far to mark the occasion, including an 11-day canoe trip in July and August to retrace part of his route. Many of the events are planned to excite young people about Canada’s early history. Champlain was the first European to explore—and more importantly, map—the Great Lakes. He established relations with local tribes, wrote one of the earliest accounts of Native American life and was wounded in a battle between the Hurons and Iroquois. Champlain first came to Canada on two voyages to Canada in 1603-05 during which he saw the St. Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers, the Gaspe peninsula and t...

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