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Betty Metcalfe: “I lost my brother to a Nazi executioner”

The last words Betty Metcalfe’s brother Jack ever spoke to her still haunt her almost 80 years later. It was 1940 and the Metcalfe family of Glace Bay, N.S.—mother, father, their two girls and two boys—had just spent their last Christmas together. Betty and her younger sister Yvonne would join the Women’s Army Corps....
  • The mighty word on D-Day

    May 23, 2019 by Stephen J. Thorne
    The American employed soaring oratory in calling D-Day troops to “the Great Crusade.” The Brit summoned the words of a 17th-century soldier-poet as he urged the “team” on in their “great and righteous cause.” The Canadian, on the other hand, reminded his troops of the...
  • For whom the ship’s bell tolls

    May 15, 2019 by Stephen J. Thorne
    Ships’ bells mark the watch, sound alarms, send signals, declare a ship’s presence in foggy weather and even serve as baptismal fonts. Usually engraved, the ship’s bell is often the primary identifying element of an historic wreck, as was the bronze bell from HMS Erebus,...
  • ‘And all who sail in her. . . .’

    May 8, 2019 by Stephen J. Thorne
    There was a bit of a row across the pond recently after the Scottish Maritime Museum decided to adopt gender-neutral signage for its vessels. Museum director David Mann told The Guardian newspaper the decision to drop “she” for “it” when referencing ships was made after...
  • A feather in your cap

    May 1, 2019 by Stephen J. Thorne
    Celebrated officers wore the feathered crowns of egrets. British infantrymen wear “hackles.” Italian shock troops, known as Bersaglieri, rather flamboyantly sport the feathers of a particular wood grouse known as a capercaillie. Military tradition has spawned a bizarre menagerie of headgear, both for dress occasions...
  • Diving into healing waters

    April 24, 2019 by Stephen J. Thorne
    Retired Marine gunnery sergeant and combat diver Dan Griego spent two years combing the eastern seaboard from Florida northward searching for an area rich in shipwrecks so he could give his brothers-in-arms some meaningful, healing work. He ended up with Jeff MacKinnon, a third-generation treasure...
  • Trooper Elmer Cole spent nine hours driving a Churchill tank at Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942, trying to hold off German forces and find a way past the obstacles inland. The stone beach was already littered with dead Canadians and disabled tanks from the King’s...
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