Defence Today

That thing that happened after the Battle of Bladensburg
Front Lines

That thing that happened after the Battle of Bladensburg

The War of 1812 was at its peak and the Battle of Bladensburg, Maryland, was ending in a British victory just northeast of Washington, D.C. It was August 1814. In a few months, the war would be over. But now the American capital was in a frenzy. British troops were gathering on the horizon and the Battle of Washington was about to begin. Before leaving to monitor military operations, America’s fourth president, James Madison, had asked his wife Dolley if she had the “courage or firmness” to stay put at what was then called the Presidential Mansion until he returned. He asked her to gather important papers and be prepared to abandon their stately home at any moment. Dolley Madison crossed the Potomac River and found sanctuary in northern Virginia. And so Dolley Madison began securin...
Rising social media censorship hampers war-crimes investigations
Front Lines

Rising social media censorship hampers war-crimes investigations

An accelerating trend among social media platforms to take down online content they deem too violent or graphic is hampering war-crimes investigations and other important probes, says a top human-rights organization. Human Rights Watch says the material, often removed at the behest of governments, is not being archived in ways that are accessible to investigators and researchers looking to hold criminals to account. “Social media content, particularly photographs and videos, posted by perpetrators, victims, and witnesses to abuses, as well as others has become increasingly central to some prosecutions of war crimes and other international crimes,” the group said in a report entitled “Video Unavailable”—Social Media Platforms Remove Evidence of War Crimes. It says such content ...
Procuring pistols and airplanes
Eye On Defence

Procuring pistols and airplanes

With the pandemic dominating headlines for most of 2020, Canada’s never-ending military procurement problems have received little media attention. That doesn’t mean that finally, after decades of bumbles and stumbles, a Canadian government has finally straightened out the procurement mess. Far from it. But two recent acquisitions, or attempts at acquisition, are good signs. The Department of National Defence has relaunched a program to replace the basic sidearm of Canadian soldiers, as reported by the Ottawa Citizen in September. Canada’s infantry and other combat arms are still equipped with a Second World War-era pistol. The Browning Hi-Power 9-millimetre pistol they use was originally designed by American firearms inventor John Browning and introduced in 1935. His pistol derived ...
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fight
Front Lines

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fight

Many young volunteers had little idea what they were in for when they enlisted for early service in the First World War. They anticipated a grand adventure, “a jolly good show” and done. The conventional wisdom was that it would all be over by Christmas 1914. Of course, it wasn’t, and as the months turned into years, the longing and suffering deepened. The mud got deeper, the rats more populous, the cynicism sharper, the casualty lists longer. Soldiers’ lifelines were the letters and packages to and from home. Correspondence was the next best thing to being back there: a newsfeed and an outlet (measured, mind you, due to censorship, both officially and self-imposed); reassurance that, whatever madness enveloped you, there was still that familiar place where love and normalcy a...
Propaganda for Christmas
Front Lines

Propaganda for Christmas

Lou Bailey pulls the leaflet from his stash of Korean War memorabilia—a box filled with photographs and mementoes of the seven eventful months the Iroquois, Ont., native spent driving supply trucks in the disputed territories of the Korean Peninsula almost 70 years ago. “That’s what we got at Christmastime,” said Bailey, 92, handing over the one-page document. On one half of the remarkably preserved paper is a now-famous David Douglas Duncan photograph of a dirty, miserable U.S. Marine huddled with his meagre rations against the cold of a winter near Chosin. On the other is a Rockwellian-style image of a happy family assembling around a table laden with Christmas turkey. “Frozen rations eaten on the run,” it says below the frontline photograph, which originally appeared in the wee...
Museum exhibition tells personal stories of war
Front Lines

Museum exhibition tells personal stories of war

A new exhibition at the Canadian War Museum relates the personal stories of dozens of Canadians who had roles in the Second World War, but it is the story of Regina’s Campbell brothers that struck a particular chord with historian Tim Cook. The twins, Pilot Officer Alexander (Grant) Campbell and Flying Officer Robert (Roy) Campbell, both navigators aboard Lancaster bombers, were killed a month apart—Grant on April 11, 1944; Roy on May 13. They were 21 years old. “I can’t imagine the grief and the sorrow of their parents,” said Cook, the exhibition curator and author of 13 books on Canada’s military history. Their parents, Rev. Harvey Campbell and novelist Grace Campbell, travelled to Europe from their home in Montreal in July 1947 to visit their sons’ graves—Roy’s in Adegem Canadi...