Defence Today

How Churchill’s wartime speeches empowered the very people he appeared to loathe
Front Lines

How Churchill’s wartime speeches empowered the very people he appeared to loathe

It is now a matter of public record that Winston Churchill was racist and worse. But what is less widely known is how his wartime speeches championing resolve, resistance to tyranny and the steadfast defence of freedom and democracy empowered the very people he appeared to loathe. Churchill served two stints as prime minister: 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. But it was during those first five years, as France fell to Nazi Germany and Britain faced a daunting onslaught, that he rose to power, prominence and ultimate victory—largely on the blustery winds of some of the greatest speeches ever written. “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope,” he said in summarizing what Adolf Hitler had set out to destroy. But...
Nelson expert exposes pro-slavery letter as fake
Front Lines

Nelson expert exposes pro-slavery letter as fake

An 1805 letter purportedly exposing Britain’s most celebrated naval hero as a racist slavery advocate appears to have been proven a fake by a celebrated expert. Martyn Downer says he has incontrovertible evidence the original letter written by Admiral Horatio Nelson aboard HMS Victory four months before he died at the pivotal Battle of Trafalgar was doctored by supporters of the slave trade to counter moves in the British Parliament to outlaw the practice. “The letter is a forgery,” wrote Downer, a former director at Sotheby’s and leading specialist in the identification of Nelson- and Royal Navy-related artifacts. “It lays bare the lengths that opponents to the abolition of the slave trade were prepared to go to further their cause by hijacking the reputation of the man who defea...
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...