canadian army

Nah but I think the biggest highlight was seeing the part of the plane the Canadian Army managed to salvage that my grandfather was shot down in. That’s a huge deal to me, and for them to set up a memorial in a museum to the men killed in that crash was really, idk, significant to me. Also, I got to add his name to the war memorial, and I got to see the Vimy Ridge memorial before it was removed. It reminded me just how much I love history - especially any history involving warfare.

Today (06.06.17) marks the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.

No. 2 Construction Battalion

Fighting for a country that didn’t want them.

On March 25 1917, Canada’s first and only black military unit left Halifax harbor for the Western Front. Six hundred soldiers, mostly from Nova Scotia, formed up as No. 2 Construction Battalion. Many had been trying to enlist since 1914,  but winning this privilege had been an up-hill fight: for two years military authorities had turned down black recruits, telling them “This is a white man’s war.”

Finally, in 1916, Canada allowed black recruits entry into a segregated united of laborers. An additional 165 African-Americans crossed the border to join them, creating a full complement of 600 men. Winning the struggle to join up hardly ended discrimination. Except for the reverend, all officers were white, and even when they went to board their transport ship on March 25 the captain initially refused to let them on, saying that he would not let them travel on the same vessel as white soldiers.

The recruits hoped to be allowed to fight when they reached France, but instead the Canadian Expediotnary Force immediately downgraded them from a battalion to a company and assigned them to fell trees and prepare positions for white soldiers. They were not ever even issued with rifles. Their work was tedious and demoralizing, and many considered themselves failures even as they suffered casualties from artillery shells and poison gas.

The unit returned to Canada in 1919, but received no fanfare upon arrival. Much like America’s black soldiers, they returned to a country that did not value them or their sacrifice and actively oppressed their rights. Most of these veterans returned to poverty and unemployment. When they finally had their first reunion in 1982, only nine could attend from twenty known survivors. Their legacy and sacrifice has been revived since then. Although very few men were allowed the chance to serve, they began the first crack in the Canadian military’s institutionalized racism.

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The first Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicles (TAPV) arrived at 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown on Friday 12 August 2016. They were unloaded at building L-33 where a final check took place before the Canadian Army took ownership. The first six vehicles will be used for initial cadre training for operators and maintainers, which is set to start on 22 August 2016. Future lots of vehicles will be delivered to Canadian Army units. Plans are being made to have a TAPV for public viewing at the Army Run in Ottawa in September 2016.

There were nine of us camped at West Down South,
And nine of us crossed to France,
And we grew savvy to each other’s gaits,
When all of a sudden we fouled the fates,
And the only one left of all my mates
Is me, by the grace of Chance.
— 

Poem by a Canadian soldier deployed to France during the First World War published in The Brazier, a Canadian soldiers’ newspaper.

From “Shock Troops” by Tom Cook

Sergeant Léo Major, the Nazi Killing Machine

Sergeant Léo Major was a French Canadian soldier in the Régiment de la Chaudière during the Second World War. He was the only Canadian and one of only three soldiers in the British Commonwealth to ever receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal twice in separate wars.

Major’s first military action came in June of 1944. During a reconnaissance mission on D-Day, Major captured a German armoured vehicle single-handedly. The vehicle contained German communication equipment and secret German Army codes.

Days later, during his first encounter with an SS patrol, he killed four soldiers; however, one of them managed to ignite a phosphorus grenade. After the resulting explosion, Major lost one eye but continued to fight.

He continued his service as a scout and a sniper by insisting that he needed only one eye to sight his weapon. According to him, he “looked like a pirate”.

Major single-handedly captured 93 German soldiers during the Battle of the Scheldt in Zeeland in the southern Netherlands. In a nearby village, SS troops who witnessed German soldiers being escorted by a Canadian soldier shot at their own soldiers, injuring a few and killing seven. Major disregarded the enemy fire and kept escorting his prisoners to the Canadian front line. Major then ordered a passing Canadian tank to fire on the SS troops.

He marched back to camp with nearly a hundred prisoners. Thus, he was chosen to receive a DCM. He declined the invitation to be decorated, however, because according to him General Montgomery (who was giving the award) was “incompetent” and in no position to be giving out medals.

In February 1945, Major was helping a padre load corpses from a destroyed Tiger tank into a Bren Carrier. After they finished loading the bodies, the padre and the driver seated themselves in the front whilst Major jumped on the back of the vehicle. The carrier soon struck a land mine. Major claims to have remembered a loud blast followed by his body being thrown into the air and smashing down hard as he landed on his back. He lost consciousness and awoke to two concerned medical officers trying to assess his condition. He simply asked if the padre was okay. They did not answer, but loaded him onto a truck so he could be transported to a field hospital 30 miles (48 km) away, stopping every 15 minutes to inject morphine to relieve the pain in his back.

A doctor at the field hospital informed him that he had broken his back in three places, four ribs, and both ankles. Again they told Major that the war was over for him. A week went by and Major seize an opportunity to flee. He managed to get a ride from a passing jeep that drove him to Nijmegen. He went back to his unit in March 1945. Technically, Pte Major would have been AWOA (Absent Without Authority). There is a lack of sources regarding how Major was able to avoid punishment.

In the beginning of April, the Régiment de la Chaudière were approaching the city of Zwolle, which presented strong German resistance. The Commanding Officer asked for two volunteers to reconnoitre the German force before the artillery began firing at the city. Private Major and his friend Corporal Willie Arseneault stepped forward to accept the task. In order to keep the city intact, the pair decided to try to capture Zwolle alone, though they were only supposed to reconnoitre the German numbers and attempt contact with the Dutch Resistance.

Around midnight Arseneault was killed by German fire after accidentally giving away the team’s position. Enraged, Major killed two of the Germans, but the rest of the group fled in a vehicle. He decided to continue his mission alone. He entered Zwolle near Sassenport and came upon a staff car. He ambushed and captured the German driver, and then led him to a bar where an officer was taking a drink. Inside he found that they could both speak French (the officer was from Alsace), and Major told him that at 6:00 am Canadian artillery would begin firing at the city, causing numerous casualties among both the German troops and the civilians. As a sign of good faith, he gave the German his gun back.

Major then proceeded to run throughout the city firing his machine gun, throwing grenades and making so much noise that he fooled the Germans into thinking that the Canadian Army was storming the city in earnest. As he was doing this, he would attack and capture German troops. About 10 times during the night he captured groups of 8 to 10 German soldiers, escorted them out of the city and gave them to the French-Canadian troops that were waiting in the vicinity. After transferring his prisoners to the troops, he would return to Zwolle to continue his assault. However, four times during the night he had to force his way into civilians’ houses to get some rest. He eventually located the Gestapo HQ and set the building on fire. Later stumbling upon the SS HQ, he got into a quick but deadly fight with eight ranking Nazi officers: four were killed, and the other half fled. He noticed that two of the SS he just killed were disguised as resistance members. The Zwolle resistance had been (or were going to be) infiltrated by the Nazis.

By 4:30 am, the exhausted Major found out that the Germans had retreated. Zwolle had been liberated, and the Resistance contacted. Walking in the street he met four members of the Dutch Resistance. He informed them that the city was now free of Germans.

Major found out later that morning that the Germans had fled to the west of the River IJssel and, perhaps more importantly, that the planned shelling of the city would be called off and his Régiment de la Chaudière could enter the city unopposed. Major then took his dead friend back to the Van Gerner farm until regimental reinforcements could carry him away. He was back at camp by 9:00 am. For his actions, he received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Léo Major also fought in the Korean War, where he was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Conduct Medal for capturing and holding a key hill (Hill 355).

This position was being controlled by the Third US Infantry Division (around 10,000 men) when the 64th Chinese Army (around 40,000 men) lowered a decisive artillery barrage. Over the course of two days, the Americans were pushed back by elements of the Chinese 190th and 191st Divisions.

They tried to recapture the hill, but without any success, and the Chinese had moved to the nearby Hill 227, practically surrounding the US forces. In order to relieve pressure, LCol J.A. Dextraze, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal 22nd Regiment, brought up an elite scout and sniper team led by Léo Major. Wielding Stenguns, Major and his 18 men silently crept up the hill. At a signal, Major’s men opened fire, panicking the Chinese who were trying to understand why the firing was coming from the center of their troops instead of from the outside. By 12:45 am they had retaken the hill.

However, an hour later two Chinese divisions (the 190th and the 191st, totaling around 14,000 men) counter-attacked. Major was ordered to retreat, but refused and found scant cover for his men. There he held the enemy off throughout the night, though they were so close to him that Major’s own mortar shells were practically raining down on him.

For three days his men held off multiple Chinese counter-assaults until reinforcements arrived. For his actions, Major was awarded the bar to the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Major died in Longueuil on 12 October 2008 and was buried at the Last Post Fund National Field of Honour in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. He was survived by: Pauline De Croiselle, his wife of 57 years; four children; and five grandchildren.

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An anon on /k/ had posted a snippet of the  diary of his grand father, who had served in the first world war. His grand father was from Toronto Ontario, and had joined the Canadian Field Artillery when he was 17, with his friend, Alex Joss, in 1915.

No other information is known besides that which can be inferred from the pages.

Part 2

(Part 1 here)

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70 years ago today, on June 6th, 1944 the Western Allies’ armies landed in the Normandy region of France, beginning their push through Europe for Germany that would, combined with the Soviet onslaught from the east, result in the fall of Nazi Germany within the next year. 

In 2014, as we approach the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Peter Macdiarmid returned to the invasion grounds to photograph the locations of some iconic - and lessor known - images from the Allied invasion. Presented here are some of the “Then” and “Now” photographs.

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An anon on /k/ had posted a snippet of the  diary of his grand father, who had served in the first world war. His grand father was from Toronto Ontario, and had joined the Canadian Field Artillery when he was 17, with his friend, Alex Joss, in 1915.

No other information is known besides that which can be inferred from the pages.

Part 1.

2

“We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is long ago.”
-
All Quiet on the Western Front