Defence Today

Stuff of legend: ingredients that make the Victoria Cross
Canada & the Victoria Cross, Front Lines

Stuff of legend: ingredients that make the Victoria Cross

Everyone knows what a Victoria Cross recipient is made of. But what about the Victoria Cross itself? Instituted by Queen Victoria at the end of the Crimean War, it has long been believed that the British Empire’s highest award for valour was originally made from bronze taken from Russian cannons captured at Sevastopol in 1855. Now a British researcher and retired lieutenant-colonel has concluded that it is “highly implausible” the medals, awarded for exceptional gallantry in the presence of the enemy, ever came from Russian guns. Andrew Marriott served 30 years in the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and is now a visiting researcher at Newcastle University in England. He said the origin story likely grew out of a highly suspect newspaper report of the day bolstered by a letter to the L...
Disaster aboard HMCS <em>Kootenay</em>
Front Lines

Disaster aboard HMCS Kootenay

The worst peacetime disaster in Canadian naval history occurred 51 years ago this week when nine crew were killed and another 53 injured in an explosion and fire aboard HMCS Kootenay. The engine-room accident on Oct. 23, 1969, marked the last time Canadian service personnel were buried overseas and it helped bring about sweeping changes to shipboard fire-prevention and firefighting systems. The Restigouche-class destroyer was part of a task group that included the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure and eight destroyer escorts sailing in European waters. The group was homeward bound, crossing the English Channel, when Kootenay and HMCS Saguenay broke off to conduct sea trials 320 kilometres off Plymouth, England. Kootenay was running at maximum speed shortly after 8:10 a.m. when cre...
Unmanned spy vessel washes up on Scottish island; nobody claims it
Front Lines

Unmanned spy vessel washes up on Scottish island; nobody claims it

A mysterious, low-profile craft, identified as a robotic spy vessel, has washed up on Scotland’s Isle of Tiree not far from Britain’s nuclear submarine base. But after more than a week of public appeals by coast guard authorities, no one has claimed ownership. A little more than three metres long, the craft looks like a surfboard with solar panels. It was identified as the surface element of a Wave Glider, an “unmanned surface vessel” made by California-based Liquid Robotics, part of Boeing Corp.’s defence, space and security division. The new-generation vessels are described as autonomous boats which can stay at sea for up to a year and carry out missions 24/7, providing “seabed to space monitoring.” “The team were called today to reports of an object in the water. Once on scene ...
Climate anomaly caused <br> WW I mud, flu pandemic: study
COVID-19, Front Lines

Climate anomaly caused
WW I mud, flu pandemic: study

The First World War is synonymous with torrential rain, deathly deep mud and bitter cold. It seems no stalemate or major battle was without these added miseries that brought with them disproportionate infection, disease and death. Now a new scientific study says a once-in-a-lifetime climate anomaly is to blame for the horrendous weather that contributed to hundreds of thousands of battlefield deaths and the 1918 Spanish flu (H1N1) pandemic that cost tens of millions of lives worldwide. The eight scientists from universities at Cambridge, Mass.; Nottingham, England; and Orono, Maine, found their evidence in core samples of glacial ice taken from the Swiss and Italian Alps. Traces of sea salt found in the samples indicate the highest influx of cold marine air from the North Atlantic in...
James Andrew Watson: WW II bomber pilot sacrifices life to save crew
Front Lines

James Andrew Watson: WW II bomber pilot sacrifices life to save crew

It was the night of April 27-28, 1944, and Lancaster R-ND 781/G of 622 Squadron, Royal Air Force, piloted by Flight Lieutenant James Andrew Watson of Hamilton, Ont., was on a bombing mission to Friedrichshafen, Germany. R-ND would never reach its target, but Watson’s heroic actions that black night over occupied territory would inspire an unsuccessful campaign to award him a posthumous Victoria Cross. The seven-member crew—three RAF, four RCAF—were at 17,000 feet as they approached the turning point, 30 minutes out, for their final run into the target. Suddenly, they were attacked from dead astern and below by three Junkers Ju-88 night fighters. It was about 1:30 a.m. and they were a little south of Strasbourg, France. “The attack was a complete surprise, there was no moon, just c...
The mystery of the Thames Victoria Cross
Canada & the Victoria Cross, Front Lines

The mystery of the Thames Victoria Cross

In December 2015, a “mudlark” treasure-hunting along the bank of the Thames River in southern England found a corroded metal cross buried in the ooze exposed at low tide. His name was Tobias Neto, and the hunk of rusty metal was none other than a Victoria Cross. Or was it? “It was covered in mud,” Neto recalled. “I kept it and carried on detecting. Only when I got home did I realize I had a VC medal in my hands—I could read the writing ‘For Valour’ below the crown. “Eventually I noticed the date on the reverse: 5 NOV 1854.” The Thames foreshore—that 150-kilometre strand of slimy shoreline exposed when the tide goes out—is a treasure-trove of history, a veritable archive of London’s long and colourful past where clay pipes, pottery shards, ships’ timbers, medieval stoneworks, ru...

CANADA AND THE
VICTORIA CROSS

SPECIAL ISSUE | $14.95

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The next issue in the award-winning series Canada’s Ultimate Story is Canada and the Victoria Cross. No one ever set out to earn a Victoria Cross, which is awarded for “valour in the face of the enemy.” For dozens of action-packed accounts of valour and sacrifice on the battlefield, order Canada and the Victoria Cross as your next issue!
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