Audio versions of selected articles from Legion Magazine are available here for streaming or download. Follow along by clicking the “Read” link.
Canada’s gift of liberty
As a three-year-old, I had no real comprehension of the horrific circumstances in which I lived. The hand grenade, carelessly discarded by a Nazi soldier, attracted my attention. I was playing outside my home in the Netherlands in 1944 when I saw it lying on the patio. I picked it up and studied it for a moment. With its long wooden handle and round metal top, it resembled a potato masher.
The Caribbean Commitment: The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League Meets In Barbados
Watts is one of many Caribbean veterans from the South Caribbean Forces who answered the call when Britain was in need during the First and Second World Wars. As their nations gained independence, many of these veterans received little or no help from their governments and since they were no longer British citizens they were left to fend for themselves. The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL), created in 1921, has a clear goal—to provide a meal a day for every veteran in need—and a face-to-face visit whenever possible.
Pips off the port beam
I have spent many an evening in Grandpa’s home in Windsor, Ont., with him sitting in his recliner and me on the couch. Before too long a conversation would start up, with me asking about the war. What emerged were remarkable stories of a young sailor at sea far from home, back in the days of daily rum tots, torpedoed merchant ships and depth charge attacks. Thomas Joseph Simpson—Grandpa to me—served in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) during the Battle of the Atlantic, and his story, like that of thousands of others, is one of service, sacrifice and survival. Grandpa’s role, and his burden, more than 70 years later, has been to see that those who did not return are remembered as true heroes. “I’m no hero,” he says. “All the real heroes call the ocean their grave.”
The Poet and the Poppy
A century ago, Canadian medical officer John McCrae saw “every horror that war had,” including the death of a close friend, and penned a poem that inspired countless acts of remembrance.
In the dying hours of war: The fate of two brothers
In mid-October 1918, my grandfather, Donald Mainland, was near Maurois, France, with the Fort Garry Horse. A welterweight—150 pounds, five feet six inches, with sandy hair and grey eyes, Donald was older than some of the men in the trenches. His 25th birthday had just passed without notice.
The Brewing Battle
When the fighting was done, a charming young British lieutenant approached Halton and offered him a drink. But Halton knew it was an unforgivable sin in the desert to accept water or other drinks from people, and as a result he replied “no thanks.” The lieutenant, however, insisted. “Save your protest and drink the beer,” he commanded. “It’s Canadian.” [Other options: Read | Download MP3 19.1 MB]
The World Goes Over The Edge
August 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of a terrible conflict whose effects remain with us today. It is ironic that the century preceding the outbreak of war in 1914 was one of most peaceful in world history and in that year many people—particularly Canadians—believed that the 20th century would be a time of peace, plenty and progress.
A Test of Patriotism
Having grown up on romantic tales of an unseen Scotland, Bill jumped at a chance to transfer from the Canadian Expeditionary Force to Britain’s Black Watch as a second lieutenant. But the envy of the boys back home disappeared near the end of 1917, when word came that Bill was missing in action… [Download MP3 6.2 MB]
Collateral Damage: Families In The Wake Of War
It’s the first time retired Sergeant Ted Peacock has smiled all weekend, and it’s a phoney smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. His family is gathered for a portrait, and feels obliged to put on happy faces. Son Callum wears his dad’s expression, too old for a 10-year-old. Mom Angelle’s smile is wan. Only eight-year-old Dominic lights up, not from joy, but perhaps in the hope that smiles might lead to it. The Peacock family is a testament to enduring love, but you don’t have to know them long to understand that joy is fleeting, hope a necessity. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 56.4 MB]
D-DAY +70: Return Of The Liberators
More than once Bud Hannam is mobbed by children during celebrations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. At ceremonies, mothers nudge their shy sons and daughters forward to speak with the Canadian war veteran, and he takes them into his arms—and his heart. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 23.4 MB]
The Brotherhood Of Underground Mushroomers. Deep Inside A Cold War Nerve Centre
There is a select group within the Canadian Armed Forces who have received a certificate at the end of their tour of operations in North Bay, Ont., inducting them into the Brotherhood of Underground Mushroomers. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 17.7 MB]
Lest We Forget: The Shocking Crisis Facing Our Wounded Veterans
Andrew is hiding inside his jacket. He’s hunched over, clutching his gut, clearly in distress. He keeps his head down, his face obscured by a ball cap with an overly large bill. An early arrival, he’s snagged the chair in the corner across from the door, the safest chair in the room. It’s a small room, and at the moment it’s hot with anger. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 63.6 MB]
Byron Greff’s Wedding Ring
Almost three years ago the last Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan was killed by a suicide bomber. In the long shadow of that sacrifice is a young mother trying to learn how to live with a lost husband and a broken heart. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 18.7 MB]
The Long Shock Of War
The reverberations of war continue long after the last shell or bullet is fired. They roll outward—like waves from a blast— through one generation to the next. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 69.5 MB]
Adrift With Death
I was one of 42 crew members swarming around one Carley float designed to carry 12. By the time we were rescued the next afternoon–19 hours later–six of us from that float were alive. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 40.8 MB]
My Sergeant Pilot
As I approach my eighth decade, I think of him as my Sergeant Pilot. I know he neither is nor was any more mine than the moon or stars, yet there is something so profoundly personal in the fact that he wished the best for me. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 24.9 MB]
The Wedding Cake
Unfortunately we had not known about the three-month waiting period, and, by much begging and scraping around of ration “points”, my family had managed to get together the ingredients for a real wedding cake. “No wedding cakes with icing,” said the law, but somehow we were going to have it. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 14.9 MB]
We are having supper in the mess. I jab at a piece of burnt toast covered with blobs of melted cheese, the whole surmounted by a piece of raw bacon. Only in the air force have they the ability to burn the bottom of something and leave the top raw. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 12.5 MB]
It was January, 1945, and bitterly cold. We were prisoners of war struggling along a snow-covered road in Czechoslovakia. Some had been in prison camps since the fall of France, others like myself since the Dieppe raid. Now the Germans had us on the move to keep us from being liberated by the fast-moving Russian army. Already we had crossed the Oder and Elbe rivers and the Sudeten mountains. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 11.8 MB]
Faces Of War
But the cabbies of wartime London are kind to the Canadian girls who drive here. They give us endless patient directions when we get lost in the maze of the city, sometimes holding up long streams of traffic to do so. I suppose that after years of blitz and blackout our remarkable driving habits are a source of amusement. The war is nearly over, soon we and our tacky cars will disappear. Perhaps they will even miss us. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 10.3 MB]
The Long and the Short and the Tall
Rather late, my adolescent revolt overtook me during World War II and went under the convenient guise of patriotism. Abandoning home and mother for my country, I enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in Halifax and cheerfully lied about my age, claiming to be a vastly more worldly twenty-one. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 13.9 MB]
A Bloody Miracle
The men of 3 Platoon of the Calgary Highlanders had been away from their unit for several weeks competing with mortar platoons of the Black Watch and Maisonneuve Regt. Battle schools, schemes and exercises were so much a part of the Canadian infantryman’s life in England that nobody thought it particularly significant when the Calgarians chalked up the best score. Everyone’s mind was on the scarcity of leave. [Other options: Read | Download MP3 33.2 MB]