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D-Day's Legacy The Enduring Courage

Post by Teentitan on Wed 06 Jun 2012, 18:32

On the beaches of Normandy this morning, there were no blazing guns, heavily defended pillboxes, razor wire or mines. There was no enemy. There were only tears and reflections.

This is a significant day, not just for the men who landed on the coast of France on June 6, 1944, but for all of us who are old enough to understand the concept of courage in the face of oppression and endurance in the face of overwhelming odds.

D-Day was more than just a logistical adventure of mammoth proportions involving tens of thousands of troops, it was a turning point in the Second World War. It was a defining moment in history.

D-Day also followed by nearly two years what was one of the darkest days of the war, particularly for our community. At dawn on Aug. 19, 1942, Allied forces descended on the beaches of Dieppe, France, in an attempt to get a temporary foothold in Nazi-occupied Europe. What followed was one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War.

Among the 5,000 Canadians who landed at Dieppe, there were more than 550 soldiers from the Essex Scottish Regiment. A few hours later, almost 1,000 Canadians were dead, including 121 members of the Essex Scottish.

Nearly every family in Windsor and Essex County was touched as the tragic news found its way home.

The raid on Dieppe has been described as "the biggest military blunder of the Second World War" and "a flawed strategy," but many veterans beg to differ, saying the raid taught the Allied forces important lessons for D-Day.

In fact, the Allied troops trained for months for their assault on Normandy, and their mission was as straightforward as it was challenging - to take back Europe from Germany.

Our country played a pivotal role in the D-Day invasion, and about 18,000 Canadians went ashore that first day. There were 1,074 casualties, and 359 were fatal, but the Canadians had pushed about nine kilometres inland by the day's end.

Veterans Affairs of Canada remembers the events as follows: "Canadians were among the first into action and, against terrible odds fought their way into Normandy from the Juno Beach landing area. The fighting continued throughout the summer of 1944. The living conditions were terrible, and the enemy was ruthless. Even so, the troops pushed forward through northern France and then into Belgium and Holland, liberating people who had suffered four hard years of Nazi occupation.

"Success on D-Day and in the battles that followed came at a price: there are more than 5,400 Canadian graves in Normandy. But their sacrifice was not in vain. The victories won there paved the way to victory on May 8, 1945."

Today, we can all join the remaining D-Day veterans and the families of those who did not return in remembering their valour and sacrifice. We also remember the courage shown by those who landed at Dieppe and set the stage for victory.

They all brought honour and respect to Canada, and they selflessly put their lives on the line in the cause of freedom.

It is a day to be proud. A day we must never forget.
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Military/RCMP History Posted Articles

Post by Teentitan on Fri 11 May 2012, 10:51

I was a soldier once

I liked the idea that as the commercial said; we did more by 0700

than most people did all day. I loved as range safety officer getting

shots down range by 0800.  I loved the brutality of route marches

because they set us apart from my civilian friends, as most of them

could never have hacked the pace.  I liked standing in a United

Nations observation post just before dawn in a far away land,

realizing that I and other soldiers in my unit were doing something

very special by representing Canada and the Canadian

people, undergoing physical and mental strains that many could

not or would not face to keep our country safe and ready.

I loved climbing up cargo nets in full battle order and repelling

down cliffs. I loved running the assault course. I liked the early

morning runs and the late night polishing before a parade.

I liked the smell of the quartermaster stores, an odd mixture of

gun oil, canvas preservative, leather, hemp rope and cigarette smoke. I liked the racks of rifles and sub machine guns and I loved the gun sheds

and tank hangers where the vehicles and weapons of war gleamed

dully and exuded strength and capability and the power to  “git ‘er done”   if need be. I loved the name of the equipment when I started off,

Sherman, Fabrique Nationale, Sten and Bren because they spoke to me

of the proud days when our Fathers used them successfully in

WW2.  Our #36 Grenade was the same as our grandfathers used

in WW1 for God’s sake! I also loved when the 105 mm and the M 109

gave way to the M 777 and the guns could shoot accurately over

30 kilometres. I loved it when the old lady “the duce and a half”

was finally replaced by the modern MLVW. The Centurion tank gave

way to the Leopard and within weeks our tankers showed NATO

they were the best.

     I liked our soldiers, from all parts of the land, from cities of

upper Canada , small towns of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland .

They came from the mountains and from the prairies from all walks of life. I trusted and depended on them as they trusted and depended on me

for professional competence, for comradeship, for strength and courage.

In a word we were “soldiers”, then, and forever. I liked the surge in my

heart when word was passed that a unit was deploying, and I loved

the infectious thrill of riding homeward in convoy waving at the cars

we passed and at pedestrians who I was sure looked at us with envy as

we rolled through their villages on our way back to Base. I loved waving

from the back of a truck at the kids in cars that would trail us for a

while before finally passing.    

The work was hard and dangerous; the going rough at times;

and the parting from family painful, but the companionship of

robust army laughter, the “all for one and one for all” philosophy

of the military was ever present. I once enjoyed the best 2 hours

sleep in my life laying on the ground at a rest halt while doing a

patrol. The weather was overcast but warm and a slight drizzle

did not deter my snoring, which could be heard 4 men down the line. Another 4 or 5 hours would have been nice, but there was work to be done.

I liked the fierce and dangerous activity of the Infantry Rifle Coy as

we began an advance to contact. I liked doing the recce for a

harbour where I had to hide up to 40 pieces of wheeled and

tracked equipment from the enemy.  I hated having to run ahead of

our vehicles in complete darkness and trying to be quiet as the

drivers and co-drivers tried to back vehicles and trailers into a black

hole as quickly as possible so others in line could pass and find me

and also be  properly positioned and put away. One could hear

cursing and unmeant bitching as crews stumbled in the dark to erect

cam nets and digging in for protection from an enemy attack, we cut

and poked branches holding up the nets to break the vehicle outline

so as not to be recognised. The lucky ones had a relatively small

vehicle, others, a two and a half or a 5 ton to cover that even in day

light would take an hour or more. At night it was dangerous,

demanding and extremely hard work. In the rain or freezing snow

this necessary chore was brutal.  

Watching my fellow soldiers as they took down the cam

nets, loaded fuel, ammunition and rations for yet another

long day, feeling truly exhausted and knowing it was going

to get a lot worse before it got better, actually added value

to the experience. We were soldiers and this is what it was like.

I loved the name and the history of my Regiments;

“The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada ”

“The Royal Canadian Regiment”

“ The Royal 22 ième Régiment”

“The Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers”

“The Royal Canadian Engineers.”

I loved the parades, the colours on parade and the

guidon presentation, the march past, the roll past, the advance

in review order and the sound of my hand slapping the stock

of my rifle during the Present Arms. I could feel the

National Anthem inside me while the band played it.

Leaf Forever”.Some liked “The Queen” or “O Canada ”. I loved

“The Maple I loved walking through our position in complete

darkness checking the welfare of my men and NCO’s and

ensuring them that they were not alone, as we stood in our

trench at first light, on stand to. I liked the weight of my

steel helmet on my head and the embrace of my webbing.

It made you feel like superman though in your heart you

surely knew you were not. I loved the weight of my rifle

or pistol and knowing I could outshoot a lot of my men.

It was an ongoing competition during range practice to

out do your friends as well as your superiors. There was pride

in self and country; and growing mastery of the soldier’s trade.

An adolescent could find adulthood. A man could find fulfilment

and an old man finds great joy. I will never forget that I was

once a soldier.  There is no higher calling. I would do it again in

a heart beat. I liked

the traditions of the Army and those who made them.

      I was a soldier once………….

Thanks to CWO (ret) Tommy Tomaso for this piece.
I do not know the name of the author but it was certainly written by someone who was in the Canadian Army Regular as we used to say.
Probably served between 1960 and 2000. Sure brings back a lot memories.
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Kapyong a great Canadian moment

Post by Teentitan on Sat 28 Apr 2012, 13:14

In the first week of April, Canada paid homage to the Battle for Vimy Ridge, fought by the Canadian Corps 95 years ago, and was the first decisive victory for the Allies in that war.

Well planned and rehearsed, it was also one of the most successful set-piece attacks in any war – capturing a hitherto impregnable position that cost the British and French 150,000 casualties in failed attacks. The unexpected victory cost Canada 3,500 killed, and made many who fought there feel “truly Canadian” for the first time in their lives. (This may surprise our Department of Citizenship and Immigration, which says there was no such thing as a “Canadian” before the Citizenship Act of 1947).

Thirty-four years after Vimy, on April 24-25, 1951, the Princess Pats in the Korean war fought what is arguably one of the outstanding defensive battles fought in that or any other war: Kapyong.

Though Kapyong isn’t even close to the scale of the Vimy Ridge battle, it was a critical in that the 2nd Battalion of the Pats was all that was preventing a massive Chinese assault across the whole Korean front, from sweeping up the Kapyong valley and re-capturing Seoul.

Everyone knew that attack was coming and that it was do or die. It may sound melodramatic, but the commanding officer of the Pats, Col. Jim Stone, let it be known that there’d be no retreat -- that his 800 troops would stop the Chinese, or be killed in the process. No retreat. No surrender.

Such a mandate tends to focus the most casual soldier.

Lt. Col. Stone was something of a legend in the army. Enlisting as a private in the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in WWII, he was a natural soldier and served in every rank up to colonel. He was chary about awarding medals, and believed soldiers did what soldiers do: Courage was their role and their duty. By the time he retired, Jim Stone had the Distinguish Service Order (DSO) and two bars – a three-time winner.

Stone had a good eye for ground, and before the attack surveyed the area and figured out he’d attack if he were the Chinese. He shifted his companies and platoons accordingly, to cover likely advances with fire.

On the other side of the mouth of the Kapyong valley was the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment – comprising roughly 800 soldiers like the PPCLI.

The Chinese attack hit the Australians first. Heavy fighting and casualties forced the Aussies to withdraw. On the night of April 24, it was the Pats alone who held the pass – supported by American tanks and New Zealand artillery.

Without attempting to itemize that battle, parts of the Canadian defences were overrun. One platoon commander called artillery down on his own position. There was hand-to-hand fighting. Company headquarters in the rear was surrounded -- cooks and bottle washers manned machine guns in for repair, and inflicted horrendous casualties.

By dawn, the Pats were still there, the Chinese were beaten and withdrew. To the victors, taking their lead from their colonel, it was no big deal. They did what soldiers do.

Three things distinguish a great defensive battle: The enemy must be halted in their tracks; severe casualties must be inflicted on the enemy; few casualties should be endured by the defenders.

The Pats not only beat the attackers, but inflicted huge, unknown numbers of casualties, yet suffered “only” 10 killed and 23 wounded.

In war, 10 killed doesn’t sound like a big battle. But Kapyong broke the Chinese attack and is testimony to the steadiness and resolve of Canadian soldiers.

On the day the Patricias fought Kapyong, on the Korean coast, a battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment (the Glorious Glosters) was in the process of being wiped out by the Chinese. Something like 60 of the battalion escaped, the rest being killed or taken prisoner. The CO, Lt.Col. James Carne, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

But the battalion was no more. The Pats went on to fight another day.

Not much fuss was made in Canada about Kapyong, but Australia recognizes its significance, and has ceremonies every year on the anniversary.

On ANZAC day last year, the 60th anniversary of Kapyong, an Australian docu-drama of the battle was aired. The film crew came to Canada and interviewed Hub Gray who fought at Kapyong, and interviewed me who wasn’t at Kapyong, but served with the Pats in Korea and reveres that battle.

Ironically (or maybe no so ironically), the CBC and other Canadian TV outlets weren’t interested in showing the documentary which, although stressing Australia’s role, pays tribute to Canada’s soldiers who held the line.

Lib-left, vaguely anti-military elements in Canada can’t seem to accept that historically, Canadians make exceptional soldiers. To them, soldiering is being warlike. To soldiers, it is ensuring the peace.

Looking back, Canadians in WWI didn’t lose one piece of ground that they didn’t retake within 48 hours. Nor did they lose ground in WWII, although Dieppe and the Falaise Gap cost them dear.

In a recent edition of Britain’s Spectator magazine, Daniel Hannan, Conservative Member of the European Parliament, recalls Supreme Commander of allied forces in WWII, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, remarking that “man for man, Canadians were the toughest soldiers under his command.”
In the Korean war, Canadian units lost no ground. At the end of that war, the front line had been nibbled away, but Canadians held their positions to the end. Diagrams of the battle line at the end of WWI shows banks of German divisions facing the Canadians, while Germans were thinly sited against the less battle-hardened American divisions.

For their Kapyong victory that saved Seoul, the 2nd Battalion, PPCLI was awarded the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation – a blue bar bordered by gold. At first Ottawa refused to allow the award to be worn, then reconsidered when soldiers ignore the order.

Every member of today’s 2 PPCLI wears the American decoration for as long as he’s a member of that battalion. Kapyong remains a proud moment for Canada, that the country largely ignores. No surprise to soldiers.
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N.L. soldiers proud of shared heritage with Aussie, Kiwi infantry

Post by Teentitan on Sun 22 Apr 2012, 11:38

TORONTO - They’ve been marching again in St John's, Newfoundland.

As dawn rose Saturday in thin increments of grey, a company from the 1st Battalion, Royal Newfoundland Regiment stepped out brightly from its armoury and headed to the Pleasantville cenotaph.

Wreaths were laid, prayers offered, a few quiet words spoken and then a bugler from the regimental band took his cue.

The Last Post rang out and, after two minutes of silence the notes of reveille rose to split the chilled dawn air.

There was little pomp but plenty of circumstance as these troops, representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion and the St Johns general public paid their simple annual tribute to men who died in one of the bloodiest battles of World War I - and saluted their comrades-in-arms at the other end of the world.

Wednesday is ANZAC Day, April 25. It’s the one day of the year that Australia and New Zealand stops to publicly honour the dead of all wars.

In this most remote part of Canada, they traditionally pause to remember too, albeit a few days earlier than most.

Yesterday’s commemoration was just the first in a series across Canada this week to honour the sacrifice of ANZAC troops, including wreath laying ceremonies in London Ont., Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and it has a proud and direct link with the fighting men of Newfoundland.

It was born in 1915 when the first ANZACs joined their British and French counterparts in an expedition to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, following Winston Churchill’s plan to force the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies.

The ultimate objective was to seize Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, a German war ally.

The ANZAC force waded ashore at Gallipoli at dawn on 25 April, 1915 meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army. They immediately started to dig in - earning the tag ``diggers’’ which has been used to describe Australian and New Zealand infantry troops every since.

Aussies and Kiwis stayed together and fought the Turks with an almost reckless ferocity of purpose for eight months. They took part in battles that are forever etched in their military lore, as much a part of the collective antipodean consciousness as Vimy Ridge is to Canadians.

In one battle alone at a place called Lone Pine, the Australians lost close to 2,200 men fighting for a piece of land no bigger than a tennis court.

They won the ground and seven Victoria Crosses were earned in the process.

It’s a little known historical fact that the Newfoundland Regiment was also at Gallipoli (the Royal prefix came later).

It was the only military formation from North America to serve on those bloody Turkish shores, joining Allied troops trying to reach Constantinople.

The Newfoundlanders arrived a few months after the original landings and fought just as hard and copped just as much a battering.

Their fighting skill was so valued that they were chosen to stay and cover the eventual withdrawal of their battered Aussie and Kiwi mates, being the last regimental formation to depart.

That was then and this is now.

Major Andrew Heale of the Royal Newfoundlanders told the Toronto Sun his troops are proud to be the first every year to commemorate the ANZAC legend.

“When our regiment went to Gallipoli, Newfoundland wasn’t even part of Canada,” Major Heale said. “It was a Dominion of the British Empire but the men were keen to fight wherever they were called.

“We sent a full battalion of around 1,000 men who were attached to the British 29th Division at Gallipoli. We then lost around 40 soldiers in combat and to disease in three months of pitched fighting.

“After that they were taken out as the last to leave before heading to the Western Front, still with the British 29th.”

What happened next to the men from Newfoundland is a matter of historical fact. Their own suffering and pain, as well as that of the loved ones they left behind, is always chillingly recalled in the battle of Beaumont-Hamel.

Still, despite having its own fallen to mourn, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment takes time every year to march for their Commonwealth cousins and their losses.

“We have very strong links with the Aussies and Kiwis still,” Major Heale said. “They always send men to join our parade and we have strong regimental associations with units like the Royal New South Wales Regiment in Australia.

“It’s part of our history. The name Gallipoli is on our battle honours. We are very proud of that, you know”

It’s fair to say Australians and New Zealanders are both flattered and esteemed in equal measure by virtue of that association too.

Lest we forget.


The Royal Newfoundland Regiment traces its origins to 1795, and since 1949 has been a militia or reserve unit of the Canadian Army.

During the First World War the battalion-sized regiment was the only North American unit to fight in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915.

Later in the war the regiment was virtually wiped out at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Since then July 1 has been marked as Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador.

More than 6,000 men served overseas during World War I in the regiment, which came to be known as the Blue Puttees.

In recognition of the unit’s valour during the later battles at Ypres of 1917, King George V bestowed upon the regiment the prefix “Royal” on Sept. 28, 1917, renaming it the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

This was the only time during WWI that this honour was given and only the third time in the history of the British Army that it has been given during a time of war, the last occasion having been 101 years earlier.

Today the regiment consists of an infantry battalion of two companies and a battalion headquarters. Its honorary colonel-in-chief is Anne, Princess Royal.
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Canada remembers Vimy Ridge

Post by Teentitan on Sun 08 Apr 2012, 11:36

Some historians will tell you that Canada really defined itself as a nation 95 years ago, at Vimy Ridge in France.

Thousands of young people from across the country are overseas this weekend, getting ready for a hallowed ceremony at the Vimy Ridge memorial to honour the Canadians who mounted a daring battle there during the Great War.

On Easter Monday, April 9, 1917, at 5:30 in the morning, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps came together for the first time and stormed the seven-kilometre-wide ridge that had been long held by the Germans, dug in with machine guns. They suffered more than 10,600 casualties --3,598 of whom died -- but by April 12 they had captured it, achieving what others could not.

"The Canadians would be assaulting over an open graveyard, since previous French attacks had failed, with over 100,000 casualties," writes the Canadian War Museum on a special Vimy Ridge memorial site. "The key to victory would be a devastating artillery barrage that would not only isolate enemy trenches, but provide a moving wall of high explosives and shrapnel to force the Germans to stay in their deep dugouts and away from their machine guns."

The monument to the war dead stands at the highest point of Vimy Ridge, on Hill 145. It was the most important feature at the ridge, and was captured in a frontal bayonet charge by Canadians against machine-gun positions.

Ceremonies are also being held across Canada, including an overnight cadet vigil Sunday at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, and a special one in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on Saturday.

"They invented something that had never been done before, called the rolling barrage -- allied guns were pounding down on Vimy Ridge, and every few minutes the Canadians would move forward," said Mike Duffy, senator for Cavendish, P.E.I. "Never again after that battle did Canadians fight under another command -- British Command, French Command, whatever, we always fought as Canadians as a unit ever since then. That's what they really mean by at that battle Canada became a country."
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'We Never Lost a Battle': Devil's Brigade honoured

Post by Teentitan on Sat 31 Mar 2012, 12:24

Their story isn't well known, but Canada's Special Forces JTF 2, the Green Berets and U.S. Navy SEALs can trace their heritage back to the first top secret commando unit called the "Devils Brigade."

During the Second World War, the idea was pitched to Lord Mountbatten and with Winston Churchill and FDR's blessing they agreed to train an elite force to fight the Nazis. It would be The Allies' "secret weapon."

Based in Helena, Montana the call went out for miners, lumberjacks, tough guys with survival skills.

All volunteers. A small unit of 1,800 men, Canadians and Americans, trained side by side in what was then considered unconventional warfare.

They learned hand to hand combat, cold weather survival skills, mountain climbing and parachuting so they could sneak in behind enemy lines.

Anyone who failed, and there were many, were sent back.

Only the best of the best were chosen.

Theirs was described as a suicide mission -- to take on tasks considered missions impossible. Like blowing up nuclear power plants in Norway.

That didn't come to pass, their first battle was to take on the Germans, who had entrenched themselves on the mountain tops of Italy. Monte La Difensa … the Nazis had the high ground, could see the enemy coming. So the Devils marched enough men and supplies up the back of the mountain attacking in the dark, taking the Germans by surprise.

The Devil's Brigade would go on to liberate towns in Italy and France.

Though they lost many many men, they never lost a battle.

But it's how they got their name that is the stuff of legend. The brigade would go on nighttime raids. They would blacken their faces using burnt cork from wine bottles.

Bill Storey of Winnipeg, one of the first to join this special unit, says they captured a diary from a German captain who wrote "the Black Devils are all around us, we never know where they're going to hit or strike next."

"We were pretty damn deadly to be quite frank," says Storey.

The name, the Black Devils, stuck. Their commander, a well respected man called Col. Frederick, came up with the idea of leaving calling cards with the unit's logo -- a red spearhead with the name USA CANADA and in German beside it, the words "the worst is yet to come." It was a form of psychological warfare and it worked. The "Devils" became a feared fighting force and in just two years captured 30,000 prisoners of war.

The force was the inspiration for Hollywood movies. In 1968 William Holden and Cliff Robertson starred in "The Devil's Brigade." An amusing take where Americans and Canadians brawl, then bond as a fighting unit and the Canadians all have fake sounding Scottish accents.

And in 2009 Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds" features an elite fighting unit commanded by actor Brad Pitt who wears the uniform and insignia of the Devil's Brigade.

At the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC there was a ceremony to honour the Devils and raise awareness about legislation before the U.S. Congress to honour the 230 survivors with one of America's highest awards, the Congressional Gold Medal. Only 144 have been given out, the first to George Washington.

The soldiers we talked to were pretty excited.

After all, their story isn't that well known and there won't be many more reunions. The men are in the 80s and 90s but sharp as tacks.

Jack Callowhill of Stoney Creek looked to his buddy Charlie Mann and said if they get the medal: "that will be our swan song, yup that will be it for us."

Read more:
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A race against time to tell war stories

Post by Teentitan on Wed 28 Mar 2012, 13:14

Randy Young already has the camera rolling in the Fireside Lounge of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch No. 88 in Maple Ridge late on a Friday, and he’s on his second interview. It’s supper time, and he still has two more interviews that evening.

But James Murphy’s story starts slowly as the memories of 70 years ago of Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, gradually rise to the surface.

The two are nursing short glasses of scotch, Young also has a beer, and Murphy recalls signing up with the Canadian army in Calgary in 1941, joining the 1st Survey Regiment, an artillery group, before getting tired of the shells and explosions and switching to transport, where he spent most of the war hauling supplies by army truck.

“I tell you, a lot of the roads (in Italy), some of them a donkey wouldn’t dare go on,” he says.

Murphy was in Italy in 1943, then moved to northern Europe in February 1945, after the D-Day invasion of occupied Europe in June 6, 1944. For that, even though he and others were slogging it out a year before the Allied invasion, he was nicknamed a “D-Day Dodger.”

Young has recorded hundreds of war stories and knew he only needed to jog the mind and the memories will come flooding back.

“Can you tell me about some of the hardships you’ve seen, or the good times or bad times?” he implores.

He’s heard many stories from Canadian veterans who helped liberate the Netherlands from German occupation in 1944.

“When we first went there, people were starving. The Germans took everything from them,” he says, adding the troops often shared their rations or care packages with the starving Dutch population.

The conversation then turns to the 50th anniversary of that event.

Murphy was among the veterans who returned to Holland in 1995 and paraded through the streets to welcoming crowds.

“I felt great about it. Shook a lot of hands,” Murphy said.

Someone gave him a beer, but it disappeared just as quickly, he said.

Young, though, picks up on the emotions that surface from that memory.

“I noticed that’s really touched you. It gets to you,” he says.

Young has been through the routine before. More than 300 times – the number of interviews he’s already got on tape and stored in the Harry Watts Veterans Video Library, part of the Friends of Veterans Canada charity he founded in Ontario in April 2008.

Young’s goal is to interview as many of Canada’s 100,000 or so surviving veterans as he can.

“As long as it takes,” he says.

“When the last one’s gone, is when I’ll stop.”

Young comes from a military family and is motivated by the memory of a scout leader Harold Lapointe, who helped him as a kid growing up in a single-parent home.

It was only by chance 30 years later that he learned Lapointe was a gunner in a Halifax bomber who was shot down in Belgium, crawled under a haystack, where he found a stash of hidden booze and anesthetized himself in order to relocate his broken foot before later capture and interrogation by German troops.

“I found then that these stories needed to be saved because they made an impression in my life.”

He wants to record as many as he can. He points out in one in 12 Canadians volunteered for the Second World War.

“That’s got to say something for our country.

“What do we owe those guys and gals? We owe them the debt of remembrance.”

And those memories have to be recorded or it will show the country lacking, he added.

He’s even thrown a bit of money into the mix. The registered charity will pay $20 per hour of taped interviews under its Video a Veteran for Cash program.

After a few days in Maple Ridge, Young, from London, Ont., is off to Kelowna, but also wants to get to White Rock to hear veterans there.

Murphy tells Young that being in the army was the time of his life – and where he met his wife. She was with a group of his friends in a pub one day when he first saw Joan, from Brighton, in southern England.

Joan considers herself somewhat psychic and said when she saw Murphy it flashed on her, that was her future husband.

They had six children and returned to Alberta after the war before moving to the coast in 1957.

“My wife, she didn’t care much for Alberta, the cold winters, the long winters.

“Being from the coast in England, she loved it out here.”

It wasn’t easy street in peacetime, however.

Young found it tough to find work after he returned in November 1945, but got on with the Canadian Pacific Railway, which he hated, then soon after as a welder in Edmonton. He taught himself that skill and worked as a welder/fabricator for the next five decades.

Young senses the interview is winding down.

So what did you learn from your time in the army? he asks.

He likes to end every interview with that question.

Would he do it again?

Yes, says Murphy, although he’d probably pick his regiment more carefully.

Would you recommend it to kids today? asks Young.

“Definitely, it makes a man out of you, know how to take orders, how to behave yourself.

“I quite enjoyed the army, although we had some tough times.

“I think the boys in the infantry were the ones who had the real hard time.”

The interview is in the can and they both still have their drinks.

Young’s still got two interviews to go, but already he’s asking Murphy about his war bride wife and if she’d like to tell her story about arriving in sub-arctic Alberta.

He keeps peppering Murphy with a few final questions.

What about war in general?

“If the enemy comes into your country, if you think enough of your country, you have to fight,” Murphy says.

“You’re darned right,” Young says loudly.

“Let’s have a cheers to that one. Cheers.”

The two clink their glasses of scotch.
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Long-range sniping of astonishing merit

Post by Teentitan on Sun 25 Mar 2012, 20:54

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, a couple of records stand out that in themselves defy anything that has happened in the past — long-range sniping.

To say the war is winding down is not because the Taliban enemy has been beaten, but because the U.S. and its coalition allies have had a bellyful of fighting an enemy that gets refuge by a neighboring country (Pakistan), and keeps adding recruits and keeps coming back for more.

Technology and training have produced long-range snipers of astonishing merit.

Snipers have always commanded unusual respect in war. They are special people whose talent, or gift, was largely unknown until they went to war. Snipers are regarded by fellow soldiers as almost mystical. Yes, they are excellent shots (most combat soldiers are so-so shots), but they have extraordinary patience and have trained themselves to lie up for hours without moving, in order to get a kill-shot.
While soldiers tend to revere their own snipers, they make short work of enemy snipers they may spot or, better still, capture. Snipers are rarely taken alive.

The First World War was more a sniper’s war for our side than the Second World War. A Canadian Ojibwa, Francis “Peggy” Pegahmabow, picked off 387 Germans as a sniper in the First World War and earned a Military Medal (MM) and two Bars. A Metis, rodeo rider Henry Norwest, recorded 155 kills and a MM and Bar, before being killed by a German sniper as the war ended.
In the Second World War, when Hitler attacked Russia in 1941, Lyudmilla Pavlichenko was a 25-year old student whose doctor had recommended she take rifle practice to steady her nerves. By the war’s end, she had 309 sniper kills and had stopped counting.
On a propaganda visit to Canada, she was awarded a special sniper’s rifle made by the John Inglis company in Toronto. I interviewed her in Moscow in the mid-1960s when she was a grandmotherly babushka. She beamed happily, remembering Canada fondly, and seemed mildly embarrassed to recall her talent as a sniper.

Others who found they had the gift of shooting straight and figuring out firing angles, were Canadian air aces Billy Bishop (72 planes shot down) and Billy Barker (50 kills). Their marksmanship was better than their skill as pilots.

The top sniper in the Korean war was a Chinese — Zhang Taofang — who is said to have shot 71 Americans in 40 days, and 115 by the war’s end. Chinese propaganda being what it is, one can’t be sure of where fact and fantasy meet.
Afghanistan was a different form of sniping — long-range stuff.

Until 2002, the long-range record for a sniper kill was a 2,500-yard shot (1.42 miles) in Vietnam by Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, a U.S. Marine. Hathcock recorded 93 kills, and was known to Vietnamese as “White Feather” because of a feather he wore. The enemy placed a $30,000 bounty on him, and other Marines took to wearing a white feather to confuse enemy snipers. Hathcock remains a legend in Marine ranks.

After Vietnam, in recollecting his experiences, Hathcock mused: “I like shooting and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing. It’s my job. If I don’t get those bastards, then they’re gonna kill a lot of kids dressed up like Marines. That’s how I look at it.”

In Afghanistan, 2002, Cpl. Rob Furlong of the Princess Pats, knocked off a Taliban at 2,657 yards (1.5 miles). Grateful Americans awarded Furlong a Bronze Star for his record-setting shot.

Furlong’s record was shattered in 2009 by British Cpl. Craig Harrison of the Life Guards, who knocked off two Taliban operating a machine gun 2,707 yards away (1.54 miles) that was in the midst of ambushing a British Patrol.

Harrison fired seven shots before his eighth one killed the gunner. His ninth shot killed the Taliban fighter who took over. Throughout, Harrison’s spotter with binoculars directed and corrected his fire. Put another way, Harrison’s fatal shot was roughly 27 football fields distant.

The sniper’s rifle used by Harrison was a 15-pound Arctic Warfare Magnum L115A3 (whatever that is) with a super scope. Its retail value is estimated at $25,000. At that, his lethal shots had to be fired six feet off target, and almost two-feet to one side to allow for wind. The bullet took between three and four seconds to reach the target. So some luck was involved, with the targeted machine gunner himself being very still.

Cpl. Harrison seems quite a guy. Apparently, an earlier shot had deflected through his helmet, and on a patrol, a roadside bomb overturned his vehicle, breaking both his arms. None of this shook his confidence or disrupted his aim.

So who would be the greatest sniper of all time? It depends on one’s outlook — best shot, longest short, or most kills? Arguably, the most successful sniper in any war was a Finnish soldier, Simo Hayha, who was a sniper in Finland’s winter war of 1939-40 in -20C to -40C weather. Using open sights, Hayha killed 505 Red Army soldiers in 100 days, and in that same period, killed another 200 with a sub-machine gun.

The Soviets sent special sniper teams to get Hayha. A Russian sniper shot him in the face, blowing off his left jaw and cheekbone, but he survived to become a folk hero in his country.

A little guy at 5-foot-3, Hayha preferred open sights to telescopic sights so he didn’t have to raise his head high and might be spotted. Also, there was no risk of the telescopic sight fogging over, or being detected if there was a glint from sunlight. He stuffed snow in his mouth in case his breath vapor might pinpoint his location.

After the war Hayha became a moose hunter and dog breeder, often hunting with then-Finnish president Urho Kekkonen. Asked if he regretted killing so many people, he answered rather as Marine Carlos Hathcock would: “I did what I was told as well as I could.” It could well be the motto for all wartime snipers.

Simo Hayha died in 2002 at age 97
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History / Topics & Posted Articles

Post by Teentitan on Sun 11 Mar 2012, 11:41

TORONTO - It’s unlikely that Don Cherry has ever heard of it, even though it’s the sort of thing that would appeal to his sense of history: rough, tough, no frills, no tears and lots of guts.

It’s the Imjin River Cup Memorial hockey tournament in Seoul, South Korea —  dubbed the most prestigious hockey tournament in all of north-east Asia, now in it’s 12th year, and which had its inspiration from Canadian soldiers in the Korean war playing hockey on the Imjin river at the front in 1952-53.

In particular, “C” and “D” companies of the 3rd Battalion Princess Pats, shared a particularly nasty position known as “The Hook” near the Imjin River, which they’d inherited from the Black Watch after a severe attack by the Chinese.

The battalion had suffered its first casualties when it was called upon to help the Black Watch in a counter-attack role to drive the Chinese off the Hook position. The two companies then took over the Hook position when the Black Watch withdrew.

I was a “D” Company platoon commander at the time, and what I remember most about the “Hook” was the ever-prevailing smell of rotting bodies, many of which were buried by shellfire in the defensive breastworks of the trenches. All were Chinese bodies, which we didn’t give much of a damn about.

As winter progressed, troops in reserve built a rink on the frozen Imjin river behind our lines. Sandbags constituted the boards. First it was the Princess Pats playing, then other Canadian unit teams. At the start there were no hockey uniforms. Players wore battle dress, no pads, no shin guards, no real equipment except skates and sticks.

But immensely popular. “To calm and divert soldiers in the war,” is how Vince Courtenay, formerly of “C” Company remembers the hockey.

Eventually, makeshift hockey uniforms were acquired. The whole division was aware of hockey games being played under the sound of artillery fire. Maj.-Gen. M.A.R. West, commanding Commonwealth Division, ceremonially dropped the puck in the regimental championship game.

At one point, officers were concerned that more injuries might occur from Imjin hockey than from enemy action. In that first game, one player’s leg was broken. As I say, Don Cherry would have loved it.

When the war ended and the troops came home, Imjin hockey was relegated to fading memories and a few nostalgic photos.

Then around 2000, the Canadian owner of Gecko’s saloon in Itaewon, a suburb of Seoul, came across an old photo of Imjin hockey but hadn’t a clue what it meant. His pal, Vince Courtenay, told him the story of Imjin River hockey in the midst of war, and the rest is history.

The owner of Geckos, Chris Damboise, an animated cartoon producer from B.C., was so intrigued that he wrote the regimental adjutant of the Patricias and got permission to wear the PPCLI crest on the uniforms of his hockey team — the Gecko Glaciers.

Other teams adopted the names of Canadian regiments. Players are a mixture of Canadian expats living and working around Seoul, and Korean athletes whom they’ve taught to play hockey. Enthusiasm exceeds the available talent.

Not belonging to any formal league, every year there’s an invitational tournament spread over six weeks starting in April for what is now known as the Imjin River Memorial Cup.

Off season, the Cup is on permanent display in Gecko’s Café in Itaewon, along with the original photo of soldiers taking time out from war to play our national game.

Interestingly, a photo of Imjin River hockey is reputed to be in one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s offices — big hockey fan that he is. It also adorns the reception area of Sen. Yonah Martin’s office in Ottawa. Born in Korea, Sen. Martin has become something of a patron saint to Canadian Korean war veterans.

Some are hoping to put Gecko’s Café on the itinerary for reunion visits of Canadian veterans to Korea. All that’s missing is a plug by Hockey Canada’s Don Cherry — the soldiers’ friend — who’d be right at home with the Gecko Glaciers.
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