Front Lines

Estate auction chronicles the colourful life of war correspondent Bill Boss
Front Lines

Estate auction chronicles the colourful life of war correspondent Bill Boss

Bill Boss was the epitome of foreign correspondents. Pierre Berton called him one of the toughest war correspondents he ever knew, a trusted and familiar newsman who “ate censors for breakfast.” Recently, an Ontario firm auctioned off the estate of Gerard William Ramaut (Bill) Boss, 13 years after he died of pneumonia in an Ottawa hospital, age 90. The collection of art, books, photographs, newspaper tearsheets, letters, telegrams, mementoes and press credentials showed the man known affectionately by his wire-service initials “bb” to generations of Canadian Press reporters and editors for what he was—a Renaissance man of the highest order. He was an eclectic, highly cultured, much-travelled and multi-talented writer and raconteur. Born May 3, 1917, in Kingston, Ont., Bill Boss...
The Fence: Documentary exposes Japan’s wartime abuses
Front Lines

The Fence: Documentary exposes Japan’s wartime abuses

There is a scene an hour into Viveka Melki’s documentary The Fence in which George Peterson, the last surviving soldier of the Winnipeg Grenadiers imprisoned by the Japanese during the Second World War, cannot go on. It is, perhaps, one of the most poignant living testaments to Second World War suffering that exists anywhere, a Canadian’s first-person account of the abuses their Japanese captors inflicted on them after the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941. “I wasn’t injured during the war at all,” says the 96-year-old veteran. “But mentally, I think everybody was.” Speaking publicly about his four-year ordeal for the first time, he then starts to relate what happened on his first night as a PoW and the “one thing” that happened that he says he will never divulge. “That’s betw...
The fighting Robertson brothers of Campbellton, N.B.
Front Lines

The fighting Robertson brothers of Campbellton, N.B.

“The whole city was so proud of these six boys.” There were six of them, Robertsons all, who joined the Canadian forces, left their hometown of Campbellton, N.B., and sailed overseas to serve in the Second World War. Every one of the brothers survived the fighting, yet each died before his time, victims of more insidious killers than Axis bullets and bombs—namely, cancer and cardiopulmonary disease. None saw the age of 80. Born in 1910, Gerald was the oldest. He joined the army and served as a gunner during the Italian Campaign. Born 12 years after his oldest brother, Earl was still a teenager when he followed in his footsteps, joined the army and served as a gunner in Italy and the Netherlands. The others filled a variety of roles, although none joined the navy despite Campbel...
Space, deep-sea tourism coming in 2021—if you’ve got the bucks
Defence Today, Front Lines

Space, deep-sea tourism coming in 2021—if you’ve got the bucks

With a pandemic raging, governments urged wishful travellers to stay close to home in 2020. In 2021, new travel options are on the menu that promise to take a privileged few vacationers away from home and far beyond the surging COVID crowds. Two companies—Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Canadian Elon Musk’s SpaceX—plan to fly paying passengers into space next year, while OceanGate Expeditions of Everett, Wa., will sail out of St. John’s, N.L., on six trips to the Titanic. The space options vary. Promoting it as an “out-of-home luxury experience,” Virgin Galactic is offering suborbital trips (about 100 kilometres up) that last a few minutes in space. SpaceX plans orbital tours (more than 400 kilometres up) that will last more than a week. The Titanic tours will take their adv...
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...