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Ridgeway battle helped launch nation

Post by Guest on Fri 23 Jun 2017, 06:53

Ridgeway battle helped launch nation

By Allan Benner, The Standard
Thursday, June 22, 2017 8:27:52 EDT PM

A painting by Toronto artist Alexander von Erichsen of the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866, currently featured in an exhibit at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa called The Fenians � Unintended Fathers of Confederation. Courtesy of Fort Erie Historical Museum

They didn’t stand a chance.

The young soldiers who died in the sweltering heat of battle June, 2, 1866, had no idea their sacrifice would create the impetus needed to forge a nation.

There were 841 untried volunteer members of The Queen’s Own Rifles and the 13th Battalion, armed with muskets.

“They were young university students, pulled out of school,” said Jane Davies, curator at the Fort Erie Museum.

They were up against more than 1,000 battle-hardened veterans of the U.S. Civil War, armed with Gatling guns.

The U.S. veterans, called Fenians, had “really solid plans” as they crossed the border into the British colonies that would become Canada a year later.

The Fenians were a revolutionary group dedicated to the overthrow of British rule in Ireland. It was known as The Fenian Movement, in honour of the Fianna, the ancient Irish warriors.

“This wasn’t a bunch of drunken Irishmen,” said Davies.

The origin of the term Fenian comes from Irish folklore. It described an ancient group of Knights who were self-reliant and had a passion for Irish land.

Times were hard for the Irish, and had been since England took control of the land. In the middle of the 1840s, however, things got much worse. The potato famine of 1845-1848 was a great disaster to the Irish population. In the space of three short years, the inhabitants of the country declined by over two million souls. Some of these two million people immigrated to America while most starved to death or died of disease.

When they made the decision to move onto what would soon become Canadian soil their resolve was clear. Fort Erie historian Earl Plato said the Fenian invasion was intended as a strike against the British.

“There were two million Irish Americans who fought in the American Civil War, most of them in the north,” he said. “The war’s over, they come back home. What the hell do they do?”

He said their hatred of the British led to the attack on the closest British stronghold.

“British North America, that’s us – Upper Canada. Let’s do some damage. They’d hit the Welland Canal if they could, but they never got that far,” said Plato, who used the Battle of Ridgeway as the setting for his 1991 novel Terror at Snake Hill.

“They had lots of plans.”

He said the Fenian leaders thought Irish Canadians would join their ranks against the British, but it didn’t happen.

“They were more Canadian than so-called something else.”

Outmatched and outnumbered, nine British soldiers died that day on a ridge overlooking farm fields of the quiet countryside, in June 1866.

They’re known today as “the Ridgeway Nine,” Davies said. “They died either on the battlefield or within a day because of wounds suffered.”

Dozens more were wounded in the battle, before fleeing the conflict.

And about 26 more died as a result of illness, “mostly because they had to drink water from ditches.”

“They were so parched on that hot, hot day. They marched from Port Colborne here, and then fought in wool uniforms. And they didn’t have provisions,” she said. “They were drinking from the ditches in desperation, which were farm ditches. They got cholera and died.”

Considering the army they were up against, Davies said it could have been much worse.

“It could have been a blood bath.”

But if the defenders had beaten the Fenian raiders during the Battle of Ridgeway, Canadians might not be celebrating the country’s 150th anniversary this year.

The loss of that battle as well as other skirmishes along the U.S border, along with the fear and uncertainty it created, was the catalyst political leaders of the time needed to work together to form a new nation.

Newspaper headlines of the day illustrated the terror the attacks created.

“The headlines hour by hour, each edition would come out with breaking news! You think we’ve got breaking news. This was war!” Davies said.

A few years earlier, political leaders of the day had met to discuss the potential of seceding from British rule. But those discussions didn’t get far.

“They stalled. Of course, to start a new country you’re trying to get every country to agree how this is going to take place,” Davies said.

“But what motivates politicians? Public opinion. Losing the Battle of Ridgeway put the fear in citizens: ‘Hey, you’d better start moving. We need our own defence system. We need our own army. We have to prepare ourselves. We should be a country.’”

The public outcry motivated political leaders to resume discussions about confederation, and little more than a year later, it happened.

Davies has long understood the significance of that battle. Not long after taking the helm of the Fort Erie Museum, she organized a re-enactment of the Battle of Ridgeway to mark its 125th anniversary.

But now, the historic significance of that battle is finally getting the national recognition it deserves.

As the Fenian Raids were taking place in the summer of 1866, Toronto artist Alexander von Erichsen captured the battle and fear that gripped the communities in a series of 23 water colour paintings he created as the Fenian raids were taking place.

For more than a century, those paintings were hidden away in the homes of von Erichsen’s descendants.

Davies said the owners of the paintings were stymied, trying to determine the history of the battle depicted in the paintings.

“There are Civil War uniforms in here, and they were trying to identify it as a Civil War battle,” she said. “They were trying for years, but couldn’t pin it to a Civil War battle.”

They finally discovered the origin of the paintings while reading about the Battle of Ridgeway.

“It was just like light bulbs. As they were reading, they realized these are the paintings.”

In about 1995 – four years after the Davies-organized reenactment of the battle – the owners of the paintings snapped photographs of them and drove to Ridgeway to see if they could identify landmarks captured in the images.

They stopped at the Ontario Travel information centre near the Peace Bridge to ask for directions to the Battle of Ridgeway site. David Owen, a “huge historian,” was working at the information centre that day.

As the painting owners laid these photographs down on the counter, Owen immediately recognized their significance.

“He said, ‘I’m clocking out today. I’m gone,’” Davies said.

Owen accompanied the owners of the paintings to the battlefield site, where they met Davies.

The paintings soon became a cherished part of the Fort Erie Museum’s collection.

While the artist likely relied on his imagination to create some of the images depicting news stories at the time, such as a painting of British soldiers hiding in a barn as a Fenian soldier searches for them, Davies said many of the paintings are too accurate to be created by someone who was not present at the time.

“He had to have walked this ground.”

Gesturing to one of the paintings, Davies pointed out Ridge and Bertie roads, “and that house is still standing,” she said, pointing to a farm house at the intersection.

As precious as those paintings are to the local museum, the originals are no longer on display there.

For the time being, she said those paintings are in their rightful place inspiring people from coast-to-coast.

This summer, as Canadian celebrate the sesquicentennial, the paintings described by Davies as “a visual image of the genesis of our country” are being featured in an exhibit at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa called The Fenians – Unintended Fathers of Confederation.

“They’ll be there until the end of August,” Davies said.

Following that exhibit, the paintings will be returned to Fort Erie – replacing the prints that are currently on display.

“Fort Erie is on the map up there, and that’s in Ottawa,” Plato added.

While Plato, a retired elementary school principal, admits he’s biased about the Battle of Ridgeway, he said he has no doubt that it was the impetus for the birth of Canada.

“I agree with that, but not everyone does. They say, ‘It was just a skirmish.’ Come on,” he said.

“But the point was, we stood up. We arrived. It was a matter of, ‘Hey, this is our land and it’s being invaded.’

“So from Toronto, they came by the hundreds by rail into Port Colborne, and then marched down here to Ridgeway to meet the Fenians,” Plato said.



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Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum honours WW II vet

Post by Guest on Sun 25 Jun 2017, 15:35

Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum honours WW II vet

One of Cam Eaton's dying wishes realized with medals donated to museum

By Jeremy Eaton, CBC News Posted: Jun 25, 2017 3:00 PM NT Last Updated: Jun 25, 2017 3:00 PM NT

Cam Eaton walks with then-Princess Elizabeth in downtown St. John's, date unknown. (Eaton Family Archives)

I knew that my great-uncle Cam fought in the Second World War. My grandfather, Doug, talked about it a bit. My dad, Bill, mentioned it a few times, adding more and more details as I got older.

When I was 15, war wasn't something I could fully wrap my mind around. To me, Uncle Cam was a kind fellow who my grandfather looked up to a lot, so I knew he had to have done something incredible to get that admiration.

This week I learned a lot more about the man.

At the tender age of 20, Cam Eaton enlisted to fight for Britain in the Second World War. He was given the service number 970001, making him the second name on the list of the "First Four Hundred" men in the regiment.

First World War vet William John Eaton with daughter Helen Smith, date unknown. (Eaton Family Archives)

After signing up Eaton went home to tell his parents. The news didn't go over well with his father, William John Eaton. The elder Eaton held the regimental number 137 of the First Five Hundred who left Newfoundland for Europe during the First World War. The senior Eaton was in Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916, and was one of the few lucky ones who made it home.

"Dad's oldest sister, Helen, told me one time about when Dad signed up and came home to tell everyone," Cam's daughter Janet O'Dea said.

"I'm sure my grandfather would have been proud of him, but all at the same time devastated. Helen remembers the bathroom door was a little ajar and she saw our grandfather crying on our grandmother's shoulder."

Janet O'Dea, Cam Eaton's older child, talks about her father's wartime experiences. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Soon after he joined, Eaton's group was renamed the 166 Field Artillery in 1941. He served as a forward observation officer, which meant he went ahead of the regiment to see what the Germans were up to.

His son Fraser says his father never talked about much about the war, but he was able to get a few stories out of him.

"I heard more from Dad about the war when his voice was lubricated a little bit with scotch. The time that I heard a couple of stories from him when I was down on the Gander River fishing with him. One story that I recall happened at Monte Cassino," said Fraser Eaton.

"He was up forward of the lines observing the artillery bombarding them. A shell landed in front of him, bounced and landed right on his backside. He told me he laid there for two hours before he had enough nerve to reach around and see if he still had a backside.".

Cam Eaton's son Fraser says his father never talked about the war much to him. (Gary Locke/CBC)

In 1943, while fending off the Germans in Furci, Italy, Eaton had another close encounter.

"He and Harold Lake were right up on the front lines spotting for the artillery and the Germans counterattacked," Fraser Eaton said.

"Dad stayed there, calling in fire closer and closer to himself. Eventually it was only 50 yards away from where he was. He sent Harold Lake back and stayed there and they managed to stop the counterattack. It's my understanding that's why they awarded him the Military Cross."

According to Frank Gogos, chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum, only two Newfoundlanders earned Military Crosses during the Second World War.

"In the two artillery units that served in the Second World War there were only two," Gogos said.

"Cam Eaton is one and the other is [Alan] Goodridge. They are extremely rare in that they weren't given out so much in the second war as they were in the first."

Frank Gogos, chair of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum, says few soldiers received the Military Cross. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Eaton earned the rank of captain during the war and then remained active with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment after he returned. Eaton help negotiated benefits for Newfoundland veterans in Canada post-Confederation. He became a successful businessman and a dedicated volunteer, and an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978.

He also stayed in contact with his fellow members of the 166 and he didn't hold back his devotion to his men.

"When I got engaged we chose a date in late September for our wedding," Cam's daughter Janet O'Dea told me.

"When I called home to tell Mom and Dad it happened to be the same weekend as the 30th reunion of the 166. There was no doubt that my dad, Cam, was not available to walk me down the aisle on that particular weekend. So my date got changed."

Brothers Bill, left, and Cam Eaton pose for a post-war photo in St. John's. (Eaton Family Archives)

Last summer, to honour the dying wish of his grandfather Ron Blake — a fellow member of the 166 and friend of Eaton — Calum Blake flew from Australia to attend the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel.

Blake said that after the war had ended his grandfather made the trek from Australia to Newfoundland a few times and he wanted someone from his family to take part in the event.

"On his deathbed he asked me if I could do the honour and represent him," Callum Blake told me July 1, 2016.

Wearing his late grandfather's medal, he laid a wreath honouring the men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Calum Blake travelled from Australia to take part in the commemorative ceremonies in St. John's on behalf of his grandfather, who fought with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

Gordon (Cam) Campbell Eaton died in 1994. A few weeks before he passed away he sat down with Fraser, and gave him some special instructions.

"He wanted all of his memorabilia to be available for a military museum if one ever existed," Fraser told me.

He reached out to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum and offered them up. Back then the museum was located in the old Canadian Forces building and there was no security. Not willing to risk losing his father's hard-earned medals, Eaton had replicas made to sit in the place of the originals until last week.

The museum happily accepted the medals at the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum in the William Anthony Paddon building in St. John's.

"Lt.-Col. Campbell Eaton is one of the stalwarts of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment as well as the 166," said Frank Gogos, museum chair.

"He was the first commanding officer of the newly formed 166 field regiment in 1949, and in 1968 he was made the honorary lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and by 1976 he was made the honorary colonel."

In a special ceremony on Wednesday, surrounded by Eaton's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the medals were officially turned over to the museum, fulfilling one of his final wishes.

Cam Eaton's family gathered at the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum in St. John's for a special ceremony to hand over the medals. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"He was so attached to that regiment and so proud of the work that they did during the war," O'Dea said.

"The contact after the war remained so strong so the fact that the medals will be there for many of the offspring to see as part of the history that regiment, I think it's really important."

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Museum has promised the Eaton family that the medals will have a safe and permanent home with them.

"He was immensely proud of what his father did in the First World War and I think very pleased with the way he performed," Fraser said.

"I would never say proud, because that wasn't him. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction that, finally, things will fall into place and that grandfather's medals and dad's medals will be there together. [It's] an Eaton family story which is really unique, and I hope we never see another generation there."



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Bomber on Sentimental Journey renews old memories

Post by Guest on Mon 26 Jun 2017, 06:22

Bomber on Sentimental Journey renews old memories

June 26, 2017

The B17 was used in every theatre of war from 1941 to 1945. Many Canadian airmen crewed aboard B17s and Canada employed six of the planes for transatlantic mail flights.

Troy Shantz

The vintage B17 bomber that visited Sarnia last week took some local veterans down memory lane and into the wild blue yonder.

“I’ve been flying for 55 years, just small planes, but that was different,” said Second World War vet John Percival, who went for a spin on June 19.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

Second World War veteran John Percival exits Sentimental Journey after a brief flight over the city on June 19. Percival has been flying planes since the 1950s, but had never flown in a B17 before. “That was something that I’ll always remember,” he said.

“Sentimental Journey,” built in 1944, is one of only ten B17 bombers still flying. Based in Arizona and part of the Commemorative Air Force, the aircraft offered visitors to Chris Hadfield Airport a glimpse into the tough conditions that its crews experienced.

Percival served in the Royal Canadian Regiment during the war and was part of the force that liberated The Netherlands. He had heard the deep rumbling engines of bombers before.

“We were crossing over … into France and we were laying along the ditch and the sky was black with bombers headed to Germany,” he recalled.

“We saw a lot of them.”

The arrival of Sentimental Journey in Sarnia also coincided with a key moment of the war. On June 24-25 of 1944, the Royal Air Force launched more than 1,000 planes against the Nazis in the conflict’s largest air campaign.

The plane was stationed at Chris Hadfield Airport for a week of flights, events and festivities, including a 1940s-style swing dance and dinner.

Proceeds of the event supported Pathways Health Centre for Children.

Some 13,000 of the planes were produced between 1936 and 1945. Sentimental Journey is one of fewer than 10 still flying.

Sentimental Journey crewmember David Oliver watches as one of its 1,200 horsepower engines roars to life. The vintage bomber can remain in the air for seven and a half hours while consuming 1,400 gallons of fuel.

An aerial view of Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport reveals the 104-foot winspan of the “Flying Fortress” bomber.



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Ivan Gunter was a little-known hero of Canada’s war effort

Post by Guest on Sat 01 Jul 2017, 16:33

Ivan Gunter was a little-known hero of Canada’s war effort

Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jun. 30, 2017 5:33PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Jun. 30, 2017 5:33PM EDT

When he was a young soldier, Ivan Gunter’s world-weary expression was captured in a portrait by a renowned war artist, and decades later, when he was a steely-eyed veteran with a chest full of ribbons, he appeared in a national-anthem film sequence that played in movie theatres. He went from military heroism during the Second World War to a low-profile life in rural Ontario, where he toiled at blue-collar jobs and raised a family. Thanks to Mr. Gunter and a million other Canadians like him, this country distinguished itself as a critical player on the world stage. Like the Unknown Soldier, whose tomb symbolizes the many who died, Mr. Gunter’s iconic face became a symbol of those who fought and survived.

Ivan John Gunter, oldest child of Richard and Laura Gunter, was born in the hamlet of Coe Hill, Ont., on Dec. 14, 1920. He was always good-natured: In a sixth-grade school photo, he is the only person smiling. Even in childhood he was not one to be deterred by fear – either in himself or others. When a younger brother refused to jump from a rooftop, Ivan pushed him off and broke his arm.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Canada incorporated the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, known informally as the Hasty P’s, made up of volunteers from two Ontario counties. There was much manpower to draw on: The area was rural and its youngsters had adapted to hardscrabble lives. Their sinewy resilience would make them some of the best soldiers in the world.

Private Gunter enlisted on Oct. 6, 1939, and shipped for England, where he and his unit – including a buddy named Farley Mowat – trained for three years. Pte. Gunter and his friend were in Intelligence Division, which ran reconnaissance and courier missions.

On July 10, 1943, the Hasty P’s landed in Sicily, Italy, to invade what Winston Churchill called “the soft underbelly of Europe.” It proved anything but soft. On the morning of July 18, Pte. Gunter’s regiment came up against roadblocks in Grammichele. Immobilized, they came under heavy fire from German and Italian artillery, including both mortars and the dreaded 88 mm cannon that some Allied soldiers swore could shoot around corners.

Pte. Gunter’s motorcycle was hit and destroyed, leaving him in the ditch but unscathed. Looking up at a nearby hill he saw slight puffs of smoke and sprinted back to regimental fire control to tell them the location of the enemy guns. “I could run in those days,” Pte. Gunter said. “I could also read a map.” He was intercepted by a British officer who upbraided him for bypassing reporting channels. Luckily, General Howard Graham – who had commanded the Hasty P’s until 1942 and was now Commander of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade – was nearby.

“Gunter’s right!” the general snapped. “These guys from the north country know what they’re doing.” Within minutes, Canadian artillery had found Pte. Gunter’s co-ordinates and pulverized the Axis guns. The next day, the spit-and-polish officer apologized to Pte. Gunter. Sixty days later, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery pinned the Military Medal on the young soldier’s chest. The medal puzzled him: “I was just doing what I was supposed to be doing,” he said. He was all of 22.

With Sicily pacified, the regiment crossed to Italy and cut north; but as the autumn of 1943 advanced, the weather got ugly. Canadians think of “sunny Italy,” but Naples is at Toronto’s latitude and winter in both countries can be brutal. In early December, 1943, Pte. Gunter’s regiment came to the steep-walled, heavily defended valley of the Moro River, beyond which lay the Adriatic port of Ortona. At the cost of hundreds dead and wounded, the Hasty P’s and their colleagues punched through the German salient and opened the way to the port.

Ortona has acquired near-mythic status. It is like a Second World War Vimy: a critical victory won wholly by Canucks. In December, 1943, Pte. Gunter’s regiment secured the flanks of the Toronto Seaforth Highlanders and the Loyal Edmonton Regiment as they booted the 9th German Paratroops out of a supposedly impregnable position. “We retire undefeated,” a German officer diarized in Ortona in January, 1944. No one told him that victorious troops do not retire.

At this time a Canadian captain strode down a line of infantry inspecting soldiers’ faces. “Him!” the captain said, indicating Pte. Gunter. The officer was the war artist Charles Comfort; his watercolour of Private I.J. Gunter is archived at the Canadian War Museum. In it, Ivan’s face shines like a blade.

By spring of 1944, the Allies had achieved their southern strategic objectives, forcing Italy’s capitulation and tying up more than a dozen German divisions. June 6 brought the Normandy invasion and Pte. Gunter was reassigned to the Netherlands. In the northern war, fought in fields as cold and desolate as those in Italy, the Hasty P’s again distinguished themselves.

On April 14, 1945, Pte. Gunter and his colleagues came under fire. After several couriers could not pass a crossroads onto which German defenders had zeroed their machine guns, Pte. Gunter volunteered to try. He wore a cloth cap with a metal badge because it was more dashing than a steel helmet. At the crossroads, a 10 mm slug struck the cap badge and ricocheted, cutting a groove in Pte. Gunter’s skull. There was no blood; the bullet had cauterized the wound. That ended Pte. Gunter’s war. In July of that year, he was decorated by King George VI for bravery in the field. “The Germans didn’t hurt him,” his wife said later. “They just shot him in the head.”

In 1946, Pte. Gunter brought his English war bride, Irene Crisp, back to Coe Hill. It was culture shock: from a world metropolis to a hamlet. He worked as a hard-rock miner; felled timber; was the Coe Hill postmaster; and coached kids’ sports. He and Irene had three children, six grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren. She died in 2011, at the age of 88. Mr. Gunter drove a car until his 94th year and at his 95th birthday party sat smiling as toddlers scaled him, hugged him and boiled around his feet. He contracted pneumonia in March of this year and died on May 28. His ashes were set beside those of his wife in the Coe Hill United Church Cemetery on June 2. It was their 72nd wedding anniversary.



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HMCS Kootenay – the unbearable hardness of memory

Post by Guest on Sat 08 Jul 2017, 06:12

HMCS Kootenay – the unbearable hardness of memory

By Jeff Mahoney Jul 08, 2017

Along the bow section of Haida, Kootenay veterans: from left, Tom Atkins, John Webster, Dave Stewart, Bill Martell, John Womak and Bill Jefferson. - Gary Yokoyama,The Hamilton Spectator

It was a little after 8 in the morning.

John Webster had just finished his 4 a.m. watch and was settling into toast and coffee in the cafeteria of HMCS Kootenay when, in a single instant, one that threw chaos over the next hours and shadows over lifetimes, he became chained to that day. Oct. 23.

They all did on that ship. Thursday, Oct. 23, 1969. The Kootenay was roaring through full-speed engine power trials in the English Channel. At 8:21 a.m., the starboard gearbox, grossly overheated (1,202 degrees F), exploded, and the explosion flung walls of raging fire and burning oil through the engine room and beyond.

Seven sailors died then and there, two later of injuries. Nine in all, and 53 seriously injured, many more again, less seriously in a crew of about 250. The worst peacetime disaster in the history of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Twenty crew members and several others with a connection to the ship visited Hamilton Thursday to tour HMCS Haida and reunite, as they do more regularly since 2009, when, after four decades, they finally started getting compensation.

They came for the Haida, yes, but as importantly, Doc Homer, retired Hamilton physician, whom many here know from the Parkdale Medical Centre.

"He was our saviour," says crew member Tom Atkins of Doc Homer. Tom, living near Sarnia now, walks with a cane, struggles with PTSD; many of them do. "There have been suicides too," says Tom, who remembers the explosion's immediate aftermath.

"The ship was doing giant circles in the water" at top speed, careening out of control and listing, heat so intense there was a bulge in the iron hull.

Tom was 21 then. John, in the cafeteria, was 19. "I heard a loud bang," John remembers. The sound has also been described as "a rising organ note." "Everything went black, from the smoke of burning oil, and I saw a huge fireball fly past the opening to the cafeteria." He was trapped, in pitch black.

Around 9 a.m., Dr. Joe "Doc" Homer got lowered onto the ship from a helicopter. He'd been flown over from the HMCS Saguenay, a sister ship on the task force fleet that the Kootenay was part of. The Saguenay saw the flare, Kootenay's radio transmission being lost.

Doc tells me, as we stand together in a stillness at the deck rail of the Haida, "I had no idea what I was going into. There was no steering on the ship and it was going full out. (The crew could neither slow down the ship nor in any way control its movement.) Smoke covered it, and we couldn't get to medical supplies or firefighting equipment."

He was the first medical person on the scene. "The first things I saw was this poor kid trying to resuscitate a man already dead."

One survivor from the engine room managed to make it through the passageway to the bridge. "His clothes were burned off him. He had third-degree burns to 50 per cent of his body. His skin was black. He reported, then passed out."

The fire was so hot it melted aluminum ladders. "A sailor sprayed water from a hose at the door to the main magazine (ammunition locker), to keep it cool enough that the high explosives wouldn't ignite." The ship, he says, was like the pictures of Grenfell Tower.

Every man I met at the reunion talked about Doc Homer. Every one, often with moistened eyes. What he did that day, the difference he made, the many he saved, this doctor from North End Hamilton who couldn't afford medical school if not for the navy.

And he would have none of it. "They are the story. I was a visitor on a ship of heroes," he says, not with false modesty, but utter conviction. He talks of sailors who improvised firefighting; others who put on scuba gear, going to the keel to try to get at the fire.

The crew was commended for their bravery, the way they addressed the crisis. Every man I talked to shifted credit onto another. The motto of the Kootenay? "We are as one." John got pulled out of the cafeteria that day, somehow. Doc looked him up and down. "'You're gonna be OK,' he told me," says John, a retired Toronto ... firefighter.

Hugh MacPhee, here from Sydney Mines, N.S., was also trapped. So relieved finally to get to upper deck. But once safely there? "There were dead people around you." His friends.

"Some memories dim," says crew member Art Schwartz, up from Florida for the Haida tour. "That day never gets any dimmer."

The group concluded their tour with a "navy pusser" (shot of rum) and dinner hosted by Friends of the Haida. These incredible men. I can't get them out of my head. The look in their eyes. Even now. Indescribable. They are owed every honour.



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New memorial in German town to honour doomed RCAF bomber crew

Post by Guest on Mon 10 Jul 2017, 06:06

'Somebody's thinking about these boys': New memorial in German town to honour doomed RCAF bomber crew

Memorial to Lancaster LL687 will mark the spot where bomber fell in 1944, killing 7 Canadian airmen

By Stephen Smith, CBC News Posted: Jul 09, 2017 6:00 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 09, 2017 1:27 PM ET

Audrey Somers has done her best over the last 73 years to put the death of her 23-year-old brother Harold behind her, but it's caught up with her yet again.

At 87, she vividly recalls the moment the telegram arrived at her family's Hamilton, Ont., home, informing her parents that the brother she describes as "loving but quiet" was missing in action over Germany.

"I was upstairs in my bedroom, and my mother came running up and told me," Somers said.

"She kneeled at the side of the bed and said the Lord's Prayer."

"The next day my father's hair turned grey."

Summoning that memory still brings tears today, as Somers talks about the memorial to be unveiled in Germany later this month near the spot where the wreckage of her brother's Royal Canadian Air Force bomber fell to earth after it was hit by anti-aircraft fire in the early hours of July 29, 1944.

Harold 'Hal' Truscott was the mid-upper gunner on Lancaster LL687. He was declared missing in action after the crash, and his body was never found. This photo is from the diary of the crew's only survivor, David Scott. (Craig Scott)

'They were nobodies to anybody else'

The memorial is the result of a 42-year effort by Somers's nephew, Lloyd Truscott, to learn the details of what happened to the crew of the Lancaster bomber nicknamed "Berlin Special" that night during a raid targeting Hamburg.

The Edmonton resident tracked down relatives of his uncle's 408 "Goose" Squadron crewmates in Canada and England, offering them the information he's pulled together on the fate of the plane and its crew.

He's met some, and others didn't care, but Truscott says what matters is he found them.

The crew of "Berlin Special" / Lancaster LL687 EQ-M

Donal Ryan, pilot (Montreal).
Bob Whitson, navigator (Edmonton).
Al Durnin, bomb aimer (Hamilton).
Gordon Croucher, wireless radio operator (Montreal).
David Scott, flight engineer (England).
Jack Imrie, tail gunner (Toronto).
Harold Truscott, mid-upper gunner (Hamilton).
André "Andy" Blais, mid-under gunner (Montreal).*

*Lancaster bombers normally carried a crew of seven, but Blais was added to the mission to make up flight hours he had lost while wounded. His regular crew survived the war.

"I was just trying to locate all these families and give them the information I had, so at least somebody's thinking about all these boys," he said.

"They were just nobodies to anybody else."

Lancaster LL687 was nicknamed 'Berlin Special' by its crew, who flew it on 11 successful missions before it was shot down on July 29, 1944. (Craig Scott)

The photo on the mantel

Truscott says his quest took root in the family silence that always shrouded the death of Harold, who was one of three boys, along with Lloyd's father, Art, and their eldest brother, Claire.

"It was never talked about in the house," he said. "They didn't do that back then, but there was always the picture of my uncle on my grandparents' mantel."

"Whenever I asked about him, it was always, 'He died during the war.'"

All three Truscott brothers served with the RCAF during the Second World War — Art and Harold were bomber crew and Claire flew Typhoons with Fighter Command.

Only Harold didn't make it back.

Lloyd Truscott's curiosity about his uncle's story got the best of him in 1975, when he was living in Ottawa.

The Truscott siblings photographed in 1942. From left to right: Harold, Audrey, Claire and Art. All three brothers joined the RCAF, but only Harold didn't make it back. (courtesy Lloyd Truscott)

Digging through the Department of National Defence archives, Truscott found a few details of the crash, including the tantalizing fact that one of the eight crew members onboard had survived.

His research came to a halt when he sought his Uncle Claire's permission to continue probing Harold's fate.

"My dad said go for it. My aunt said do it. But when I checked with my Uncle Claire, he said no, he didn't want anything done," Truscott said.

"He was the eldest and the first one to join the air force. Harold followed him, and my dad followed him, and he always blamed himself for Harold's death."

David Scott's diary

It wasn't until March 4, 2013, on the anniversary of his father's death, that Lloyd Truscott resumed his search in earnest.

That night, Truscott dug into his old research to see what, if anything, he could find online.

He started with the name of the bomber's Royal Air Force flight engineer David Scott, the only crew member to survive the crash.

The search results left him floored.

The crew of Lancaster LL687 pose for a photo one of 408 'Goose' Squadron's Lancaster bombers.

Among the first hits was the diary Scott had written as a prisoner of war in the months after he bailed out of the burning bomber into the swirling dark over Germany.

Posted online by his son Craig Scott in England in 2007, the diary included an account of the ill-fated mission and photos of his fellow crewmates, including Harold Truscott.

"I was in the basement, and I just screamed to my wife, told her she had to come and see this stuff," Truscott recalls. "It was phenomenal — how he survived all that, the pictures of the crew — that's what really struck me. These are pictures that nobody in my family had ever seen."

Truscott contacted his siblings and phoned his cousin, Audrey's son, to make sure his elderly aunt saw the diary.

"She just sat in front of the computer for hours with tears down her face," Truscott says. "She was only 13 when Harold went away."

Spreckens, Germany

The idea for a memorial grew out of conversations between Truscott, Craig Scott and Jean-Claude Charlebois, a relative of the doomed bomber's wireless operator Gordon Croucher, who Truscott tracked down outside Montreal.

They knew from a postwar forensic investigation conducted by the RAF that five of the crew were pulled from the wreckage and buried in a cemetery in Spreckens, a tiny hamlet 100 kilometres west of Hamburg.

Lloyd Truscott, left, met Jean-Claude Charlebois through his search for family of the crew of Lancaster LL687. Together, they've worked to make the memorial to the crew in Spreckens, Germany, a reality. (courtesy J.C. Charlebois)

Charlebois got in touch with a friendly, English-speaking newspaper publisher in the nearby town of Bremervörde who got reporter Rainer Klöfkorn on the story.

Klöfkorn tracked down Spreckens resident Margret Weiss, who was 11 at the time and remembered the "enormous noise" as the Lancaster hit the ground.

"At first we thought one of the pilots had dropped a bomb," Weiss told Klöfkorn. "Then the adults made their way to the crashed aircraft, and five dead were found in and near the huge crater."

The newspaper story helped forge a bond between the people of Spreckens and the crew members' families, who requested permission to erect a memorial plaque to the Lancaster crew at the same cemetery where five of the Canadians were first buried.

This memorial plaque to the crew of Lancaster LL687 EM-Q will be unveiled July 29 in the cemetery at Spreckens, Germany. (courtesy J.C. Charlebois)

The plaque will be unveiled at a ceremony on July 29, the 73rd anniversary of the crash. Truscott, Scott, Charlebois, and their partners and families will all be there, along with townsfolk from Spreckens.

"To do this memorial, I can't put it into words — it means so much to me," Truscott said. "I know my dad would be really pleased with all this. I'm doing it now for my aunt. She's the last survivor of those siblings."

The bodies of Harold Truscott and Gordon Croucher were never found. Their names are carved on the Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede, England — two of more than 20,000 Commonwealth aircrew from the Second World War who were reported missing and never found.

Audrey Somers said it took her about 20 years to surrender the hope that her brother had somehow survived the crash.

"When you're young, you just imagine that he stayed over there and he's living over there – until you finally realize that he's not coming back," she said.

A photo of Harold Truscott's sister, Audrey Somers, who is now 87. (courtesy Lloyd Truscott)

She's been to Runnymede to see her brother Harold's name. And despite the sad memories it's stirred, she's thankful that a new memorial will honour her brother, his crewmates, and the countless others they represent.

"It's brought back so many memories," Somers said. "But it's not just this boy, my brother, I think about. I think about the thousands and thousands and thousands of boys who lost their lives....They were so, so brave."

"Younger generations have no idea what war is."



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Second World War veteran returns to his former port of call

Post by Guest on Sun 16 Jul 2017, 17:36

Second World War veteran returns to his former port of call

Honourable William Winegard, who is believed to be the youngest member of Canada's navy, returns to Halifax.

CTV Atlantic
Published Sunday, July 16, 2017 2:39PM ADT

A veteran who is believed to have been the youngest member of Canada’s navy has returned to Halifax – his former port of call – to relive the city as it once was.

Honourable William Winegard served on corvettes and was part of a crew that took the surrender of a German submarine near the end of World War II when he was just 17 years old.

"Against all kinds of odds these little ships, these little corvettes carried the bulk of the Battle of the Atlantic issues," he says.

Now living in Guelph, Ont., Halifax has always been a home away from home for Winegard. He still remembers the city how it was in the early 90s, including the good and the bad.

Now 91 years old, Winegard has to be guided by his caregiver’s grandson, Emmerison Millbury, Wingard boards the HMCS Sackville along the Halifax waterfront. Eager to share his memories, he points to the bow of the ship.

“I'd be standing up there. But every time you'd go through a big wave it would come up over the gun and hit the bridge right up there."
While gazing at the skyline on the waterfront, he remembers the people he met in the city who made a lasting impression on him.

“The people of Halifax treated us very well,” he says. “Some of the merchants no they took advantage of us because we had nowhere else to go but no one deserved what happened here immediately after the war.”

At the time of his last convoy – before leaving the navy after the war – he toured the East Coast, including former ports of call.
"I don't relive the war but I relive the ship and the spirit of comradery that keeps that ship going,” he says.

After wearing a lot of hats as a professor, university president and federal cabinet minister, Wingard says his greatest passion remains teaching and offering life lessons that are often rooted in his service.

"Do your duty. No excuses. Do your duty.”



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My Canada... Memories of the Second World War

Post by Guest on Tue 18 Jul 2017, 14:25

My Canada... Memories of the Second World War

By Anna (Fiedorowicz) Babiarz, as told to Ewa Sulima
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 12:52:36 EDT PM

The Certificate of Identity issued for Anna Fiedorowicz, enabling her to travel to Canada without a passport, after World War II. Miriam King/Bradford Times/Postmedia Network

Anna Fiedorowicz was born in Wilno, Poland (now Lithuania) on November 4, 1919. When Anna was only 8, her mother died of cancer; her father remarried a few years later, and had two more children.

Life was hard. There was little work, and schooling was only up to Grade 4 for all but the wealthy.

When Poland was occupied by the Germans in 1939, German officers asked for people to work for German industries. Some volunteered, others were forced. Anna volunteered and ended up working on a farm in a small village near Frankfurt, Germany, owned by a German officer and his wife, Sabina.

Anna did domestic work around the house and gardens, and worked on the farm with other Polish workers and a few Russians. Most of the produce from the farm, such as potatoes, carrots, cabbage and wheat, was sent to feed the German army.

Although Anna never met the German officer, she got along well with his wife, Sabina. A sense of trust was built; Anna recalls feeling like family. She had her own room in the house, she was given a key to the food storage room and told to “help yourself.”

When the two went shopping in the village, Sabina would buy dresses for Anna. In public, Anna would have to remain silent, as Sabina was afraid of repercussions if others discovered Anna was not German.

In March 1945, when Frankfurt was captured by the Allies, Anna remembers the bombings that terrified everyone in the village. For several days, they were afraid to venture outside.

At the end of the war, Sabina went with other wives to wait for the return of their husbands, all German soldiers. She waited, but her husband never came back. They never learned his fate.

After the war, the German governments, East and West, were required to pay war reparations. Anna chose not to apply to receive any sort of monetary compensation, because her time spent on the farm with Sabina was a pleasant memory. At one time, while on the farm, Sabina told her, “After the war is over, stay with us.”

Anna was touched by the offer – but she had other plans. Afraid to return to Poland, now occupied by the Russians, Anna decided to come to Canada, to “have a better future.”

On January 9, 1948, Anna received her “Certificate of Identity in Lieu of Passport,” a document that could be used for entrance to Canada. She had to spend another year in a “displaced persons” camp set up by the Allies, before travelling by ship to Canada. Arriving in Montreal, Anna eventually made her way to Toronto, where she was employed in housekeeping at the King Edward Hotel. In 1954, she met Felix Babiarz at a Veteran's Club in Toronto. They married shortly thereafter.

By 1980, the couple chose to sell their home in Toronto and move to Bradford, to a house on Hurd St. When Felix passed away in 2003, after 49 years of marriage, Anna moved in with Ewa and Marek Sulima, and their children – now her extended family.

All these years later, Anna still has her “Certificate of Identity,” and her memories – both of an unexpected friendship on a farm outside Frankfurt, and of a life of opportunity in Canada.

Sadly, Anna passed away on July 8, and did not have the opportunity to see her story in print.



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Submarine mission aims to recover Avro Arrow jet models from Lake Ontario

Post by Guest on Wed 19 Jul 2017, 06:10

Submarine mission aims to recover Avro Arrow jet models from Lake Ontario

The Avro Arrow is rolled out of a hangar in Malton, Ont., in 1957. In 1959, the government abruptly cancelled the program.

July 18, 2017

Sitting at the bottom of Lake Ontario are believed to be nine scale prototypes of Canada's much-vaunted but cancelled Avro Arrow interceptor jet of the 1950s. Measuring three metres long by two metres wing to wing, the test planes are about one-eighth the size of the full CF-105 Arrow and have been submerged since they plunged into the lake between 1954 and 1957. Soon, if a search team is successful, the prototypes could be brought to the surface and put on display – artifacts of a project that still stirs both pride and bitterness among Canadian aviation enthusiasts.

With the help of a programmable submarine from Newfoundland and Labrador-based Kraken Sonar Inc., a team of scientists and archeologists is focusing on an area just off Point Petre in Ontario's Prince Edward County.

Starting July 24, the ThunderFish autonomous underwater vehicle – a small, pilotless sub equipped with the AquaPix interferometric synthetic aperture sonar – will begin searching the area thought to contain the missing test planes.

The expedition is being headed by John Burzynski of Canadian gold miners Osisko Mining Inc.

It is receiving funding from about a dozen banks and businesses and support from the Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Military Institute and the non-profit Canada Company, a support organization for military veterans.

"As professional explorers in the mining business, we initiated this program about a year ago with the idea of bringing back a piece of lost Canadian history to the Canadian public … during this anniversary year of our incredible country," Mr. Burzynski said in a statement.

While he helped get the project off the ground, it's the folks at Kraken who will bring their expertise to help with the underwater search effort.

"People ask, 'Well, do you think you are going to find them?'" said David Shea, Kraken's vice-president of engineering. "The problem isn't the technology. The problem is making sure you are looking in the right place."

Mr. Shea and the team believe the area just off Point Petre is the right location because the test planes were launched from a military base there six decades ago.

"I would guess that [they] went a few thousand feet in the air and I don't think they would be much more than a mile out," said Jack Hurst, who witnessed the launching of the planes.

"Canadian aviation enthusiasts always turn back to the Arrow as being a turning point in Canadian history, where potentially we could have gone on to greater and bigger things," said Major Scott Spurr of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

In the late 1950s, the Avro Arrow was touted as the world's most technologically advanced interceptor jet. From the data obtained testing the aerodynamics of the free-flight scale prototypes – which were attached to rocket boosters and launched over Lake Ontario – just six full-sized planes were produced in Canada. In February, 1959, the government of John Diefenbaker abruptly cancelled the program and ordered the aircraft and the designs destroyed.

The controversial decision meant as many as 30,000 people lost their jobs at Avro Canada and in the country's aerospace industry. Many of Canada's aerospace experts went on to work for Lockheed, Boeing and NASA.

Mr. Shea said the goal of the mission is to find all nine test planes. He said the first five to be launched were made of wood and stainless steel, while the other four were built of titanium and magnesium. He said the "holy grail" would be to find the ninth prototype launched from Point Petre because it would be the most similar to the actual Avro Arrow.

"There will be a lot of corrosion," he said. "The wood would have rotted a fair bit," although at least the test planes have been sitting in fresh water, not the more corrosive salt water of an ocean.

"And there is very little current there, there is no tidal action. … We hope to find them intact," he said, adding that the expedition will still have to deal with any stormy weather conditions, which could delay the mission. Other obstacles include "60 years of growth," which could obscure the artifacts.

Mr. Shea said past attempts to locate the prototypes were unsuccessful because search teams were looking in the wrong place.

Members of the search team say they hope to locate at least one, if not all, of the test planes by the first week of August. Plans will then be made to bring them to the surface, restore them and put them on display at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa and the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ont.

"These are the kinds of jobs that really stand out," Mr. Shea said. "Years later I'll look back and remember … looking for the Avro Arrow, which as a kid I remember reading books about and studying."



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Calgary veteran who survived Dunkirk causes a stir at movie premiere

Post by Guest on Sun 23 Jul 2017, 06:48

Calgary veteran who survived Dunkirk causes a stir at movie premiere

By Carolyn Kury de Castillo
Reporter Global News

The movie Dunkirk tells the story of allied soldiers who were evacuated during a fierce world war two battle. The movie is already getting critical acclaim. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, a 97-year-old Calgary man who was actually at the battle, had to see the movie for himself.

Theatre goers watching the premiere of “Dunkirk” at Calgary’s Westhills Cinemas on Friday night got a surprise encounter with a 97-year -old man who was at the battle in 1940.
The Battle of Dunkirk took place during the Second World War between the Allies and Nazi Germany in Dunkirk, France.

Calgarian Ken Sturdy, dressed in a jacket adorned with medals, viewed the movie and was impressed by what he saw.

“I never thought I would see that again. It was just like I was there again,” Sturdy said.

“It didn’t have a lot of dialogue. It didn’t need any of the dialogue because it told the story visually and it was so real.”

The movie Dunkirk tells the terrifying story of the evacuation of allied troops from the French city of Dunkirk. It’s thrilling entertainment for most viewers, but for just a handful of people in the world, it contains images that bring back memories of surviving Dunkirk.

“I was in those little boats picking them out of the water,” Sturdy said.

He was a 20-year-old signal man with the Royal Navy helping evacuated soldiers reach waiting boats from the chaos on the beach.

“I had the privilege of seeing that film tonight and I am saddened by it because of what happened on that beach,” Sturdy said.

More than 68,000 British soldiers were captured or killed during the battle and retreat and over 300,000 were rescued over nine days.

The harrowing scenes took Sturdy back to a time when he was on those small boats. Sturdy said the beach was filled with terrified soldiers.

“I was 20 when that happened, but watching the movie, I could see my old friends again and a lot of them died later in the war,” Sturdy said. “I went on convoys after that in the North Atlantic. I had lost so many of my buddies. One of my mates was taken prisoner. He wasn’t killed on the beach. They marched him up to Poland. And he spent five years in a German prisoner camp.”

Other people at the Calgary premiere were honoured to encounter such a decorated veteran at the theatre. Many gathered around Sturdy to shake his hand and offer their thanks.

“At the end of the movie I ran down the stairs and he was just wiping his tears away and I was able to shake his hand and give him a proper salute,” Kelly Kwamsoos said while fighting back tears.

“I really hope that the younger generations can understand what it was like and really count their blessings. We’re so lucky,” Kwamsoos said.

Sturdy hopes the movie sends a message to a new audience of the sad nature of war and our apparent inability to avoid it.

“Don’t just go to the movie for entertainment. Think about it. And when you become adults, keep thinking, “ Sturdy advised.

“Tonight I cried because it’s never the end. It won’t happen. We the human species are so intelligent and we do such astonishing things. We can fly to the moon but we still do stupid things,” Sturdy said. “So when I see the film tonight, I see it with a certain kind of sadness. Because what happened back then in 1940, it’s not the end.”



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Wartime houses built for workers, returning soldiers

Post by Guest on Wed 26 Jul 2017, 15:21

Wartime houses built for workers, returning soldiers

Queensway Park still features 'Strawberry Box' homes

By Denise Harris Jul 26, 2017

Examples of wartime houses in Queensway Park in 2017. - Denise Harris/Photo

Tucked away northwest of the intersection of The Queensway and Royal York Road is a pleasant family neighbourhood named Queensway Park, with interesting circular streets and cul-de-sacs, and about 200 homes surrounding a large park with the same name. Although many of the homes have been altered over the years, there is still an obvious connection among them for they were all originally small residences, many painted white, built in 1945-46 from federal government-provided floor plans.

Over all, 46,000 similar homes were built across Canada, during and after the Second World War, by the Wartime Housing Corporation (which became the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 1946.) Initially these homes were built to house people working in war-related industry. A small number of these houses were built in 1943 in the Alderwood area of Etobicoke (west of Brown’s Line and south of Woodbury Road) for workers at the Small Arms Company in Lakeview (now Mississauga).

However, as the Second World War was ending, larger neighbourhoods were built to fill a growing need to house returning veterans and their families. The homes in Queensway Park are typical of those built for returning soldiers: one-and-a-half storeys, steeply-pitched roofs, clapboard walls, small sash windows, and small metal chimney stacks. Inside, the main floor often had a living room, kitchen with dining area, bathroom and one bedroom, while the upstairs had two more bedrooms. This architectural style has been referred to as “Simplified Cape Cod” or “Strawberry Box.”

A similar neighbourhood was built in East York, northwest of Victoria Park Avenue and St. Clair Avenue East. Like the one in Etobicoke, it has curving streets, cul-de-sacs, and a large park named Topham Park after Victoria Cross winner Corporal Frederick Topham. Topham also has an Etobicoke connection as he is buried in Sanctuary Park cemetery on Royal York Road. One corner of Topham Park has been dubbed “Sunshine Valley” because when a local bus driver named Mac stopped there, he always called, “All out for Sunshine Valley,” a reference to an early lack of trees.

Wartime housing was also built in North York near Jane Street and Trethewey Drive. This development is known as “The Wishbone” after an unusually laid-out street of the same name.

In Scarborough, wartime housing consisted of dormitories constructed in 1941 for the many employees — primarily women — doing munitions work at the General Engineering Company (GECO) near Warden Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East.

Today, despite renovations over the years, most of the houses in Queensway Park still display their original cosy feel. These residences are well-maintained and much loved by the families which inhabit them. Some owners have planted Victory Rose Gardens in remembrance of the circumstances that created their neighbourhood. The importance these modest houses hold within the context of Canadian history was acknowledged by Canada Post in 1998 when they featured the humble “Veteran’s House” on a stamp.



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Battle forged Canadian identity

Post by Guest on Wed 26 Jul 2017, 15:44

Battle forged Canadian identity

By Kerry Rodgers
July 26, 2017

On April 9, 1917 a significant World War I battle involving the Canadian Expeditionary Force commenced on and around Vimy Ridge in northern France. When the guns fell silent on April 12 the CEF had driven the German forces back some 4,500 yards at a cost of 3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded.

From a military point of view the battle was not the greatest accomplishment of the CEF in WWI. It was however, the first instance in which all four Canadian divisions, made up of troops drawn from all parts of the country, fought as a single cohesive unit.

Post-war the country seized on the victory as a symbol of national unity, achievement and sacrifice: “Anglophone, Francophone, Black, First Nations, Métis and Asian soldiers: the victors of Vimy took the Ridge as Canadians.” Rightly or wrongly the battle and the later spectacular memorial built on Vimy Ridge have come to symbolize Canada’s coming of age.

The Coins

In recent years the national significance of the battle and its memorial has been recognized by a number of coins.

In 2002 a five cents proof was struck with a mintage of 22,646, KM-453. The reverse design has been echoed on later coins. It features the remarkable Vimy Ridge war memorial and its central figure of “Canada grieving for her lost sons.”

Mother Canada and her sorrows dominate the design of a 2007 90th anniversary $30 sterling silver proof, KM-741. She stands before names engraved on the Vimy monument of 11,285 Canadians who fell on French soil and have no known graves.

For this year’s centenary of the battle two .999 fine silver proofs have been released: a 76.25 mm, 311.54 g (10 oz) $100 and a selectively gold-plated 38 mm, 31.39 g (1 oz) $20. Mintages are 750 and 10,000.

The reverse of $100 shows a segment of a painting by WWI war artist Richard Jack: “The Taking of Vimy Ridge, Easter Monday, 1917.” The obverse carries Sir Edgar Bertram MacKennal’s crowned effigy of George V, monarch at the time.

On its website the RCM summarizes the $20 coin as: VIMY: OUR FINEST HOUR. The reverse by Canadian artist Pandora Young presents a close-up view of a single, anonymous Canadian soldier against the backdrop of the battlefield at Vimy. His brass buttons and the CEF maple leaf insignia on his standup collar are selectively gold plated as is the winged Victory below – based on that depicted on the bronze Victory Medal awarded to Allied soldiers in 1919.

A $2 circulation coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the battle is scheduled for release this fall.

Canada grieving also features on a 2017 40 mm, 31.83 g (1 oz) .9999 fine silver $20 proof entitled SACRIFICE. At the time of writing 93 percent of the mintage of 5,500 had been sold.

This coin’s central design is taken from the nation’s Sacrifice Medal approved by Queen Elizabeth II on April 17, 2008. The award is described as “a lasting form of recognition to members of the Canadian Armed Forces (and those who partner with them) who have been wounded in the line of duty ‘as a direct result of a hostile action or action intended for a hostile force’ or have died as a direct result of military service.”


The battle was the opening phase of a major WWI Allied offensive to capture the key railroad junction of Arras. The immediate objective of the Canadians was to seize control of the German-held ridge to the north that provided an unobstructed view – and line of fire – for miles in all directions.

The ridge had been captured by the Germans in 1914. Attempts by both the French in 1915 and the British in 1916 to dislodge the occupiers were unsuccessful. A spring offensive involving the Canadians was organized for 1917 reinforced by the British 5th Infantry plus supplementary units. All told 170,000 Allied men would be involved of who 97,184 were Canadian.

They were commanded by Lieutenant-general Julian Byng. His troops became known as Byng’s Boys.

The plan

The CEF was to advance on a 7,000 yard front. Each division was to progressively capture a series of objectives until the entire ridge summit lay in their hands. For two months prior to attack the Canadians undertook extensive rehearsals. In the likely event of casualties all soldiers learned the duties of those alongside and above them.

The defense of the ridge was vested in Bavarian Reserve Corps under the command of General Karl von Fasbender. He had a problem.

The Battles of Verdun and the Somme had taught the Germans of the need for elastic defense-at-depth of their positions on the Western Front. Each garrison must have room to maneuver. However at Vimy Ridge the topography did not allow for this and the Germans had reverted to their earlier Western Front strategy of heavily fortified static strong points flanked by trenches. The Allies had learned how to isolate and destroy these.

As elsewhere on the Western Front, extensive tunneling operations had been undertaken by both sides. Prior to the attack the Canadians extended their tunnels. The intent was to use them to advance a number of troops as far as possible underground to eventually emerge behind a curtain of fire being laid down by their own big guns.

Easter Monday & Beyond

At 0530 on Easter Monday morning, April 9, 1917, all units were in position. Over 980 guns and mortars launched a protracted bombardment of German front-line trenches. This saw the Canadian infantry advance through a morass of mud, blood, bodies, shattered defenses, shell holes, and cut and uncut barbed wire.

The Germans threw everything at the advancing troops but by the afternoon the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions had successfully captured all their objectives for Day 1 on schedule. No so the 4th Division. Its advance collapsed immediately upon leaving the trenches. Machine gun nests from undamaged sections of the German lines and the high point of the ridge, “The Pimple,” destroyed this Division’s right flank. In the evening German reinforcements moved in to plug gaps.

The following day fresh brigades arrived to support the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions. By 1300 hours both units reported achieving their final goals along the ridge top.

The 4th Division renewed their attack but achieved success only when the Germans found they were being outflanked by Canadian troops moving along the ridge. They promptly withdrew to leave the Canadians in charge of the entire ridge except The Pimple. This finally fell on April 12.


The Germans did not regard the loss of Vimy Ridge as of great consequence and made no attempt to recapture it. Despite their success the Canadians were unable to achieve a major breakthrough of German lines.

Nevertheless for the Allies the conquest of the ridge held great propaganda value. The victor, Lieutenant-General Byng was promoted to command Britain’s Third Army. Replacing him as commander of the CEF was his subordinate Major-General Arthur Currie, the first Canadian to command Canada’s army in the field.

In 1919 Byng was raised to the peerage as Baron Byng of Vimy. In 1921 he was appointed Governor General of Canada. Post-Canada he was elevated to become Viscount Byng of Vimy. Later he was promoted to Field Marshal.

Post-war 250 acres of Vimy Ridge were ceded by France to Canada for perpetual use as a battlefield park and memorial. It was here that sculptor Walter Allward built the vast Vimy Memorial at a cost of $1.5 million. Twin memorial towers rise proudly above a park that has persevered the original battlefield, complete with tunnels, trenches, craters, and unexploded munitions.

The commanding structure took 11 years to complete. It stands 140 feet high, 130 feet wide, and 150 feet deep. Some 8,000 tons of stone quarried in Yugoslavia went into its construction. The largest block weighs 26 tons. It is adorned by 20 allegorical figures with “Canada grieving for her fallen sons” at their center.

The completed memorial was unveiled on July 26, 1936, by King Edward VIII. A crowd of 100,000 attended. They included 6,000 Canadian veterans who came as pilgrims for the ceremony. Since World War II there have been a number of formal and countless informal Canadian pilgrimages to the site.

Pilgrimage Medals

For that first Vimy Pilgrimage each veteran was issued with a kit. It included a Vimy Pilgrimage Medal to be worn on the right breast. These had been struck in silvered metal by J.R. Gaunt and showed an image of the memorial.

A unique gilt version of this medal was presented to King Edward VIII at the memorial’s unveiling. It was sold in 1987 by Sotheby’s as part of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewelery. In 2010 they re-auctioned it. The successful purchaser was the Canadian War Museum whose payment £12,500 was generously supported by the Vimy Foundation.

Some 5,000 of the first pilgrims were presented with a special 50mm diameter bronze medallion that commemorated the unveiling of the memorial. It was the work of French medalist Albin de Possesse and struck by Monnaie de Paris. The presentation was made during a banquet held for these pilgrims at the Hôtel des Invalides on Aug. 2, 1936.

To mark the 90th anniversary in 2007 Canada’s Vimy Foundation issued a similar medal to that given to the 1936 pilgrims. Its sale raised money for the Foundation’s activities. Oddly no such medal has been produced for the centenary.

Citadel Coins in Halifax, however, has marked the centenary. The firm has stamped a 1 oz .999 fine silver round 100 YEARS VIMY RIDGE 2017 REMEMBER. The same words have been counterstamped on the reverse of a 1917 Canadian cent. The maximum mintage of each piece is 150.

Acknowledgements: Thanks are due to Kevin Day-Thorburn, Henry Nienhuis and “The Canadian Numismatic Journal” for information and images.



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Historian pays tribute to Borden-Carleton veterans

Post by Guest on Thu 27 Jul 2017, 06:42

'This needs to be done': Historian pays tribute to Borden-Carleton veterans

Pieter Valkenburg is researching and fundraising to honour the soldiers named on the Borden-Carleton cenotaph

By Cody MacKay, CBC News Posted: Jul 27, 2017 7:00 AM AT Last Updated: Jul 27, 2017 7:00 AM AT

Pieter Valkenburg intends to publish his findings and create more profiles for the 48 veterans named on the Borden-Carleton cenotaph.

A P.E.I. historian is working along with a local historical society to put together profiles and other tributes for the 48 veterans named on the Borden-Carleton cenotaph.

"I'm going to find out who these people are and give a face to every name," Pieter Valkenburg said. "For me it's a way to say thank you, Canada."

Valkenburg is a historian and member of the Tryon and Area Historical Society.

He's originally from the Netherlands and says he and his wife are taking on the project out of respect for the country he now calls home

"If it wasn't for the Canadians, I might not have been sitting here."

Learning the story

Valkenburg said so far, he's found information on all but one of the men.

Elmer Bagnall Muttart sacrificed his life to save a Dutch village, according to Pieter Valkenburg.

"My wife has written about five or six articles — that is mainly for trying to get more information. We are also going to do presentations on them."

Valkenburg is planning on publishing two books with all the information he's gathered, which will be available at the Borden-Carleton Legion for visitors to read.

Of all the research Valkenburg has done, one story has struck him the most: that of Elmer Bagnall Muttart.

'This should have been recognized a long time ago'

Muttart was a 23-year-old man from Cape Traverse, P.E.I., who Valkenburg says flew a bomber for the Canadians during World War II.

According to Valkenburg's research, Muttart flew 21 missions and was killed on his last flight during a bombing run over Bremen, Germany.

'I think he sacrificed his life to save the village'
— Pieter Valkenburg

Valkenburg said Muttart was intercepted by a German night fighter that shot the bomber to pieces, forcing the pilot to change course in his final moments away from a village down below.

"The main reason why he did that was he realized the plane was probably going to crash," Valkenburg suggested. "But he wanted to give his crew a chance to parachute out."

Seven British crew members were on board, according to Valkenburg, and all escaped safely while Muttart steered the burning plane away from a Dutch village, dying when the plane crashed into a field.

Valkenburg has binders full of research on the 48 soldiers named on the Borden-Carleton cenotaph.

"I think he sacrificed his life to save the village," he said. "He made sure his whole crew was saved."

"This should have been recognized a long time ago."

To recognize Muttart, Valkenburg is raising money for a memorial plaque near the location where he died. He said some funding is even being provided by the Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation in the Netherlands.

'I feel that this needs to be done'

Valkenburg plans to travel to Europe and visit the grave site of all the soldiers from the Borden cenotaph, along with Vimy Ridge and the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium.

"I feel that this needs to be done," he said. "It feels good for me to do it — I feel a lot of gratitude to what was done"



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Statement by the Prime Minister on Korean War Veterans Day

Post by Guest on Thu 27 Jul 2017, 17:19


Statement by the Prime Minister on Korean War Veterans Day

Ottawa, Ontario - July 27, 2017

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Korean War Veterans Day:

“Today, we remember the brave members of the army, navy and air forces who fought so valiantly, and sacrificed so greatly, during the Korean War.

“Sixty-four years ago today, a ceasefire put an end to active fighting in the Korean War. After the Communist North’s invasion of South Korea in 1950, the brutal war lasted more than three years and cost hundreds of thousands of military and civilian lives. More than 26,000 Canadians – some only teenagers, others veterans of the Second World War – crossed the Pacific Ocean to fight under the flag of the United Nations. Over 500 Canadian soldiers, sailors, and air personnel made the ultimate sacrifice, and the lives of countless others were forever changed.

“The soldiers fought in conditions reminiscent of the First World War – cold, wet trench duty punctuated by terrifying night patrols into no man’s land. They bravely battled both the harsh weather and enemy forces at places like Kapyong, the site of one of Canada’s most important victories.

“We take pride in Canada’s contributions, along with those of our United Nations allies, to defending the sovereignty of South Korea. The courage and sacrifice of our Korean War veterans helped South Korea to become the peaceful and prosperous country we know today.

“Today, I urge all Canadians to learn more about the Korean War, and to participate in activities being held to honour the veterans. As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, let us recognize all those in our military, and their families who support them. They help defend our most cherished values – openness, democracy, compassion, and respect for human rights – in Canada and around the world.”



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75th celebration a distinctly Dawson Creek affair

Post by Guest on Thu 27 Jul 2017, 17:28

75th celebration a distinctly Dawson Creek affair


JULY 27, 2017 11:53 AM

Mayor Dale Bumstead said the day was a great way to celebrate the 75th – and he was right.

Visitors and veterans from across North America made the pilgrimage to Mile Zero post last Thursday for a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Alaska Highway. Joyce Lee with Tourism Dawson Creek underlined the importance of the highway project in her emcee duties.

“If the highway (or Mile Zero post) itself could tell its own stories, like the time it was replaced by an outhouse.”

Other hijinks include the time it was stolen by university students.

“Each year 1000s of people start their Alaska highway journey right here. It is one of Canada most recognized and photographed spots,” said Lee. It was noted thousands of US and Canadian soldiers and civilians who came to town to build the highway, forging new ground.

“This was an agriculture town. People of the time said soldiers and then it was mud and men everywhere.”

Veterans from across North America, many who served in Okinawa and Vietnam, were on hand in DC to catch the ceremony, or were part of the Western Command Convoy travelling up the Alaska Highway as part of the 75th recognition efforts.

MLA for the area Mike Bernier said it was a beautiful day to celebrate the note the 75th.

“Today is an example - a celebration. When we take 75 years back we were 600 people then this built the country people stayed here and built the foundation of Dawson Creek. It is an amazing icon connecting the US and Canada.”

Bumstead agreed.

“It is a special day to remember. We look north from here, past Mile Zero and beyond, the train station. Pearl Harbor is the reason the the US government decided they needed and overland route to Alaska. The only way was to build this highway,” he said noting the timeline of construction was less than one year.

“It took nine months for the highway. Now it would take nine months for the paperwork only.”

Steve Dowling, District Operations Manager with Transportation and Infrastructure was on hand to bring greetings from the government. John Hart of the First Special Service Force Association presented Bumstead and the City of Dawson Creek with the Congressional Gold Medal on Thursday, July 20 in front of the Alaska Highway House. Hart talked about the area more than 50 years ago.

“For people growing up with war – it was an exciting time and the veteran presence was very strong in the area,” he said, noting only a handful of Canadians have received the Congressional Gold medal.

The Congressional Gold Medal was awarded in 2013 to the First Special Service Force, an elite Canadian-American commando unit that recruited men with extensive outdoor experience to train as paratroopers for overseas combat and suicide missions during WWII.



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