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  • Jack 5:00 am on November 25, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , malcom hutton,   

    Ancient Egypt 

    EXCLUSIVE: BRITISH and Irish people may have their heritage intertwined with Ancient Egyptians, with the advanced group believed to have established links with these lands thousands of years ago.

    Historian Malcolm Hutton became interested in the possibility of a link by studying ancient myths and stories which appeared to reference Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and gods.

    Mr Hutton claims to have unearthed evidence in England – and also Ireland – which shows there is truth in the myths and stories.

    He told Express.co.uk: “The Ancient Egyptian finds in both Ireland and England leave no doubt as to their presence in the British Isles, thus bearing out all the old mythical stories.”

    Mr Hutton has unearthed plenty of evidence that would appear to bear this claim out.

    In 1939 the hulls of two ancient ships were discovered in Ferriby in the Humber Estuary but because of the outbreak of World War Two no research on them was carried out at the time.

    However, they have since been raised and examined, and the study revealed they were of the type used by Egyptians.

    They have been radio-carbon dated, placing them at around 1400 to 1350BC.

    Mr Hutton indicates that this would fit in with the story of Princess Scota, who is said to be the ancestor of the Gaels who settled in Argyll and Caledonia.

    There also appears to be evidence of physiognomic similarities with the races too.

    In Sir Charles Oman’s ‘History of Britain before the Norman Conquest’ it states: “Enough of bones and skeletons of this age have been found to prove that the Neolithic people were a race of moderate stature and slender proportions, with skulls that were markedly long in shape, whence they have often been called simply the early Dolichocephalous people…”

    And Mr Hutton said: “In simpler English, a people with long skulls and kin to similar races of the Mediterranean basin.

    “We only have to look at the head of King Tut, uncle of the Princess Scota or Skhety to see the very same skull and stature.”

    Mr Hutton also points to research undertaken by Heather Elizabeth Adams on a find in 1955 at the Mound of Hostages, a tomb located in the Tara-Skryne Valley in County Meath in Ireland which would appear to be the remains of a young prince wearing a necklace of faience – fine tin-glazed pottery – beads.

    Mr Hutton said: “The skeleton was radio-carbon dated to the very same time period, 1350 BC and the necklace has been identified as being Egyptian, not only of identical manufacture but also a matching design.

    “The collar of the dead King David whom we call Tut has the very same faience beads embedded into it. Another identical necklace has been found not in Ireland but at Molton in Devon.”

    There are also a number of burial sites across Europe, including the Newgrange Barrow in Ireland, that are full of Ancient Egyptian depictions.

    Many of these have drawings of Egyptian Solar ships which include images of the Sun God Ra, according to Mr Hutton.

    There also appear to be linguistic similarities with TW Rolleston in his book ‘Celtic Myths and Legends’ citing Professor J Morris Jones, saying: “The pre-Aryan idioms which still live in Welsh and Irish were derived from a language allied to Egyptian and the Berber tongues.”

    Mr Hutton has also researched the numerous stone circles that are dotted through the British Isles, which according to the historian reflect solar formations.

    These in turn are possibly linked to the Great Pyramids.

    Mr Hutton said: “It is only when we link the circles up that we begin to get an inkling of their whole purpose and that purpose ties Britain firmly to the Pyramids of the Giza Mound.

    “The Thornborough Henges in North Yorkshire are not just another ground reflection of Orion’s Belt but these circles point directly to another circle, Cana Barn, placed at the relative distance of Orion to the star Sirius and that Star was for the Egyptians the one they watched for every 1,460 years.”

    Mr Hutton said: “There isn’t the slightest doubt about a very large and strong Egyptian presence in the British Isles during the Bronze Age.”


    Ed. Note: There are many pictures available in the original column that readers can access.


  • Jack 2:59 am on November 17, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , buddha, ,   

    Buddha Found? 

    Human remains buried by a pair of monks in China over a millennia ago are claimed to belong to Buddha.

    Believers say the 2,000 pieces of cremated bones belonged to Siddhartha Gautama, whose teachings became the foundations of the Buddhist religion.

    The cremated bones were found in an ceramic box with an inscription claiming they belong to Buddha, who is believed to have died 2,500 years ago.

    The box was found in Jingchuan County, China, alongside more than 260 Buddhist statues.


    In addition to the chest, archaeologists also found a collection of 260 two metre (6.6 foot) high statues.

    However, they are unsure whether the stone figures were buried at the same time as the collection of bones.

    The carved objects depict the Buddha and his followers, as well as deities and a collection of steles, tall stone blocks which may be inscribed, carved or painted.

    The statues were carved between the Wei dynasty (386 to 534 AD) and the Song dynasty (960 to 1279 AD.

    Archaeologists also found the remains of a building that could be from the now lost Mañjuśrī Hall part of the temple complex.

    Monks from the Mañjuśrī Temple of the Longxing Monastery in China’s Jingzhou Prefecture, named Yunjiang and Zhiming, are said to have spent two decades collecting the artefacts from neighbouring countries.

    Buddha, the philosopher and teacher, who is thought to have renounced his royal inheritance to follow a life of a spirituality, was born in modern day Nepal.

    Holy texts say he travelled through the eastern parts of India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BC.

    Legend also says that upon his death, around 2,500 years ago at the age of 80, Siddhartha Gautama’s remains were divided up among his disciples and royalty and spread far and wide.

    The Buddha’s remains were originally meant to to go only to the Shakya clan, to which he belonged.

    However, six clans and a king demanded the relics.

    To avoid fighting, a religious leader divided them into ten portions, eight from the body relics, one from the ashes of Buddha’s cremation pyre and one from the pot used to divide the relics, which he kept for himself.

    The Buddha’s relics were then enshrined and worshipped in stupas by his followers.

    Any relic said to relate to known to relate to the Buddha, whose name means ‘enlightened one’, is known as a śarīra.

    The discovery of the chest, known as an ossuary, was made by villagers conducting roadworks near the temple around five years ago.

    It has only just been reported in English by the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

    Archaeologists who have translated an inscription on the box report that it said: ‘The monks Yunjiang and Zhiming of the Lotus School, who belonged to the Mañjuśrī Temple of the Longxing Monastery in Jingzhou Prefecture, gathered more than 2,000 pieces of śarīra, as well as the Buddha’s teeth and bones.

    ‘[They] buried them in the Mañjuśrī Hall of this temple.’

    In addition to the chest, archaeologists also found a collection of 260 two metre (6.6 foot) high statues.

    However, they are unsure whether the stone figures were buried at the same time as the collection of bones.

    The carved objects depict the Buddha and his followers, as well as deities and a collection of steles, tall stone blocks which may be inscribed, carved or painted.

    The statues were carved between the Wei dynasty (386 to 534 AD) and the Song dynasty (960 to 1279 AD.

    Archaeologists also found the remains of a building that could be from the now lost Mañjuśrī Hall part of the temple complex.

    This not the first time that remain said to belong to the Buddha have been uncovered.


    The legends associated with the major events of Buddha’s life are based on a number of different historical sources, according to theVictoria and Albert museum.

    The most important is the Buddhacarita or ‘The Acts of the Buddha’, the first full length biography of the Buddha written by an Indian poet called Ashvaghosha in the 1st century AD.

    He is believed to have lived between just after the mid 6th century and the late 5th century BC.

    The Buddha’s parents were Suddhodana, king of the Sakyas, people living on the Indian borders of Nepal, and his wife Maya.

    The young Siddhartha Gautama grew up surrounded by luxury and wealth.

    He was protected from the harsh realities of life by his father who had been warned that his son would withdraw from the world should he encounter such sights.

    However, one day when riding outside the palace grounds, the future Buddha saw suffering for the first time.

    This kick started a chain of events that would lead him on the path to enlightenment.

    After his enlightenment, Buddha travelled on foot throughout northern India, teaching constantly for forty-five years.

    People of all castes and professions, from kings to courtesans, were drawn to him.

    He answered their questions, always pointing them towards the true nature of reality.

    Throughout his life, Buddha encouraged his students to question his teachings and confirm them through their own experience.

    This non-dogmatic attitude still characterises Buddhism today.

    Upon his death, Buddha’s remains were originally meant to to go only to the Shakya clan, to which he belonged.

    However, six clans and a king demanded the relics.

    To avoid fighting, a religious leader divided them into ten portions, eight from the body relics, one from the ashes of Buddha’s cremation pyre and one from the pot used to divide the relics, which he kept for himself.

    The Buddha’s relics were then enshrined and worshipped in stupas by his followers.

    Any relic said to relate to known to relate to the Buddha, whose name means ‘enlightened one’, is known as a śarīra.

    A chunk of skull, mixed with a collection of remains of Buddhist saints, were found during excavations at a Buddhist temple in Nanjing, China, in 2010.

    When they opened a stone chest in a crypt underneath the temple, they found an ornate shrine called a stupa, used for meditation.

    According to Live Science, the shrine is a box 117 cm tall and 45 cm wide (4 feet by 1.5 feet) made from sandalwood, gold and silver with jewels embedded and contained the bone inside.

    The bones were found within a tiny gold chest less than 8 cm (3.1 inches) tall, which itself was stored in a larger silver casket 20 cm (7.8 inches) tall.

    This casket was locked within the stupa, before the entire nest of boxes was stored safely within the stone chest – suggesting the contents held great importance to the monks at the Grand Bao’en Temple.

    Inscriptions carved into the protective stone chest tell the story of how Buddha’s skull bone came to lie in the tiny golden chest within.

    According to a man known as ‘Deming’, after the Buddha died his body was cremated at the Hirannavati River, before the ruling king divided the remains into thousands of portions, 19 of which found their way to China.

    One of these fragments was the fragment of parietal bone which inhabits the golden box along with the remains of other Buddhist saints.

    But the journey took a number of turns, with the original resting place for the relic destroyed during a period of unrest.

    The temple was then rebuilt by Emperor Zhenzong in the 11th Century, with the shrine placed safely within its crypt.


  • Jack 7:25 am on November 11, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: canadian commandos, , , chinese veterans, force 136,   

    Secret Unit 

    Giant monkeys in the jungle are what Ronald Lee remembers most about his Second World War “adventure” in Burma as part of a dangerous and secret British-led operation.

    “They’d come and steal your food!” he says laughing. “We had to shoot them for meat, for food.”

    At 98, the dapper Vancouver-born resident with a gleaming smile says little about the hardships his unit of eight commandos faced far from their home on Canada’s West Coast.

    Greg Lee fills in parts of the story he heard as a teenager, the ones his father now chooses to bury.

    “They weren’t fed well because the British didn’t treat them as first-class soldiers. Dad said it was like they forgot them.”

    Lee was in his early 20s when he tried to enlist in the army to fight for his country. He was shown the door.

    “When I wanted to enter the army in Canada I was refused. At that time they did not take any Chinese-Canadians in the armed forces. We were second-class citizens. We were not allowed to go to university or take special training. We were only allowed to work in grocery stores, restaurants, things like that.”

    In 1944, Lee was accepted into Force 136, and many of its members from Canada were Chinese-Canadians recruited in British Columbia for deployment in Southeast Asia, including Burma, now called Myanmar, to support resistance fighters against the Japanese.

    About 150 Chinese-Canadians were provided basic training in B.C.’s Okanagan region and then split into units of about eight members each. He is among four who are still alive.

    “When we were down there training we never thought of coming back home because we knew once we went into Burma either we surrender or the Japanese would take us prisoner or we’d be dead,” says Lee, who trained as a radio operator.

    The story of that successful mission and Canada’s racist policies is told in “Force 136: Chinese-Canadian Heroes,” a mini-documentary available online on the Storyhive YouTube channel and on Telus Optik TV starting Friday.

    A photo of recruits who completed basic training in the Okanagan, including a bespectacled Lee, is featured prominently in his living room.

    “We were told we wouldn’t let them take us alive. If we were captured we had to take our cyanide pills.”

    Everyone in his unit returned home after their mission ended in the summer of 1945 when Japan surrendered.

    Lee, who had six children and now lives with his two youngest daughters, was among those who were part of a quiet civil rights movement back at home in Canada. They called for Chinese-Canadians to have the right to vote while still facing “White Canada forever” sentiments.

    “It was the sacrifice,” Greg Lee says, his voice cracking. “There was no guarantee that when they came back they would get the vote.”

    It wasn’t until two years after the war, in 1947, that Canada allowed Chinese-Canadians to vote and repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which had banned almost all immigration from China since 1923. Chinese immigrants had also been singled out to pay a head tax.

    “I think it was after we got our citizenship and our right to vote that they realized we did our duty,” Lee says of the general population in Vancouver, where the return of Caucasian soldiers was widely celebrated while minorities who’d also risked their lives in war were mostly ignored.

    Henry Yu, a professor in the history department at the University of British Columbia, says the federal government did not want Chinese-Canadians fighting in the war because of fears they’d demand the vote.

    “They’d seen it already because several hundred Chinese and Japanese had fought for Canada in World War I and when those veterans returned they asked for the vote. So they knew from experience in World War I that this was going to be a problem,” Yu says. “They wanted to maintain white supremacy.”

    Chinese-Canadians were recruited into Force 136 with the belief they’d blend in behind enemy lines, he says.

    Catherine Clement, curator of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver’s Chinatown, says the little-known story of Force 136 has been mostly forgotten and there are few records of the clandestine group of spies that was part of Britain’s Special Executive Operations.

    “They created this double victory,” she says of Lee and the Chinese-Canadian veterans. “They helped the Allies win the war and they also helped to win the rights for all Chinese living in Canada.”


  • Jack 3:39 am on November 11, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , danelle cloutier, poppy, remembrance day,   

    The Poppy 

    How a First World War poem about poppies blossomed into an annual Remembrance Day campaign raising $14 million each year to assist veterans.

    Written by Danelle Cloutier

    April 5, 2015

    Amid the blasting bombs, lifeless bodies, and muddy trenches of the Great War, bright red poppies flourished in Flanders Fields, Belgium. This sight inspired a poem that moved the British Empire. Now, each Remembrance Day, many people wear the blood-red flower (albeit artificial ones) to honour those who died at war. Here’s how the poppy became an enduring symbol.

    Lt.-Col. John McCrae and his dog Bonneau.
    Library and Archives Canada

    Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae was serving as medical officer in Belgium when he wrote “In Flanders Fields.” A friend had just died from wounds sustained on the battlefield, and, in May 1915, as he awaited the wounded from nearby Ypres, he drew inspiration from the blood-red poppies that grew in the region. London magazine Punch published McCrae’s work in December 1915 and it quickly became one of the most popular war poems.

    alt text

    Moina Michael

    Two days before the Armistice, American humanitarian and academic Moina Michael read McCrae’s poem while on duty at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries headquarters in New York. Servicemen would go there to say goodbye to family and friends before heading overseas.

    Inspired by McCrae’s poem, Michael wrote her own called, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” in which she vows to wear the poppy to remember the war dead: “And now the torch and poppy red, we wear in honor of our dead.”

    In 1920, Anna Guérin, a French woman, was inspired by Michael’s idea to make poppies a memorial flower. Soon after, Guérin made red silk poppies and sold them in Britain to raise money for the Earl Haig Fund in support of former soldiers and the families of those who died during the war.

    The newly formed British Legion sold nine million of the poppies on November 11 of that year, raising more than 106,000 British pounds.

    Guérin convinced the Great War Veterans Association of Canada to use the poppy as a symbol of remembrance while fundraising, which it first did on July 5, 1921.

    By 1922, poppies distributed in Canada were made by disabled veterans, via the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment.

    Veterans assemble wreaths and poppies in Montreal in this undated photo.
    Canadian War Museum,

    On Remembrance Day in 1933, the Co-operative Women’s Guild — an organization in Great Britain that encourages and educates women — distributed the first white poppies to challenge the continuing push for war.

    A year later, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) started distributing the white poppies and still does today. Although the PPU says the white poppies aren’t meant to insult the war dead, many view them as disrespectful.

    Article continues below…

    From 1980 to 2002, poppy centres were green. The colour reverted to black to better represent the colour of the poppies in Flanders. Over the years poppies have been made from different materials.

    In the United Kingdom, early poppies were made from silk but now are made from paper, whereas in the United States wearing fake flowers on Remembrance Day never took off. In Canada, our weather makes plastic a better medium.

    The Royal Canadian Legion in Princeton, B.C.
    Joe Mabel/Wikipedia Commons

    Today, the Royal Canadian Legion holds its Poppy Campaign from the last Friday in October to Remembrance Day. The money raised from this campaign provides financial assistance to veterans, funding medical equipment, research, home services, long-term facilities, and more. The campaign raises about $14 million annually from donations.

    On the Legion website you can:link opens in new window

    • • learn more about the poppy
    • • find teaching materials for the classroom
    • • find information and services for veterans
    • • locate your local Legion branch

    Although their primary fundraising campaign is in the few weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, they accept donations all-year round. You can make your cheque out to Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund and drop it off or mail it to the legion branch closest to youlink opens in new window.


  • Jack 3:16 am on November 10, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , joanna dawson, korean war   

    Unknown War 

    At first glance, the scenes at Winnipeg’s Fairmont Hotel were those of a typical reunion. People with nametags were chatting, meeting rooms were set up with coffee and refreshments, and a makeshift bulletin board held messages from old friends looking to reunite. However, a closer look revealed that this event was much more than just an ordinary reunion.

    Last week, the Korean Veterans Association of Canada held their final national meeting — “the Last Hurrah.” About 500 veterans who served either during the war (1950–1953) or during the peacekeeping phase (1953–1956) made the trek to Winnipeg for the grand event.

    Article continues below

    Interview with Jenna Misener, Manager of Programming with the Historica-Dominion Institute.

    The veterans had a busy schedule during their four day visit to Winnipeg. There were film screenings, tours to the Manitoba Legislature and CFB Shilo, a meet-and-greet, and a formal banquet, with many dignitaries including Chief of the Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk.

    Korean War veteran Kim Reynolds, who travelled from British Columbia, was overwhelmed by the event. “It’s brought together a lot of guys, I’ve never seen this many together before,” Reynolds said. “It should mean a lot to all of us that we’ve brought it to this stage.”

    26,000 Canadians served in the Korean War, which began in 1950 when the Soviet-backed North Korea invaded South Korea. The newly-created United Nations supported South Korea and sent troops from member nations, including Canada. Despite having a weakened military as a result of the Second World War, Canada played a significant role in the war. The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was instrumental in blocking an offensive attack from the Chinese Communist Forces at the Battle of Kapyong. The unit was even awarded a United States Presidential Unit Citation in recognition of “outstanding heroism” and “exceptionally meritorious conduct.”

    Yet the legacy of these soldiers, including the 516 who lost their lives, is unknown to many Canadians.

    Nicknamed the “Forgotten War,” the events of the Korean War were overshadowed by the two World Wars. For many years, it was ignored by the media and even overlooked by historians. Fortunately, this is beginning to change and the war has received more attention in recent years. One initiative in particular will help the “Forgotten War” become less forgotten.

    Staff from The Memory Projectlink opens in new window were at the reunion to help document the stories that were circulating the rooms. An initiative of The Historica-Dominion Institutelink opens in new window, The Memory Project has already collected thousands of stories and photos of World War II veterans, which have been digitized and made available online. “The Last Hurrah” marked the beginning of a new phase to include the Korean War in The Memory Project.

    The Memory Project booked interviews with veterans in advance, but found themselves scrambling to accommodate additional appointments. In three days, they conducted interviews with sixty veterans, and will be following up with more in the coming months. Veterans were also encouraged to bring photos, scrapbooks, medals or other mementos, which the Memory Project was able to digitize on-the-spot.

    Jenna Misener, Manager of Programming with the Historica-Dominion Institute, says the archival process is one of her favourite parts of The Memory Project. “I get to look through all of the photographs and documents and actual things that the veterans have brought with them,” Misener says. “It’s like going back in time with them and when they’re looking at their photographs and talking through them you can really get a sense of their experience.”

    History was in the air at the Fairmont and it is certain that many memories and stories were being rediscovered. Thanks to the work of The Memory Project and the enthusiastic veterans, this reunion doesn’t have to be the last hurrah — the stories and legacies of the Korean War will be preserved and shared with generations to come.


    See Also:

    (1) Canada in the Korean War

  • Jack 3:27 am on November 9, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: battle of britain, canadian government, royal canadian airforce,   

    Summer of Heroes 

    PL-905, DND Archives

    Squadron Leader Ernest A. McNab, the commanding officer of No.1 Squadron during the Battle of Britain.

    The Battle of Britain, says Canadian historian Hugh Halliday, “represented the first commitment of the Royal Canadian Air Force to combat in [the Second World War], although the Canadian role was small compared to future operations”.

    The summer of 1940 was a dark time for the Allied Forces during the Second World War. A large portion of continental Europe had fallen to the Nazis and Hitler was preparing to launch a full-scale invasion of Great Britain. But first, he needed to dominate the airspace over the English Channel. To do so, his Luftwaffe (air force) needed to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF).

    Prelude to the Battle of Britain

    With shocking rapidity, Hitler’s military machine had overrun France.  The Battle of France began on May 10, 1940 with the invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium; Poland, Denmark and Norway had already fallen.

    Within three days, the German forces crossed into France and by the end of May French and British forces had been pushed back to the English Channel. It was then that the “Miracle of Dunkirk” occurred; between May 27 and June 4, more than 300,000 men escaped from France, taken off the beaches of Dunkirk by naval ships and civilian boats of all shapes and sizes that ferried back and forth between England and France.

    The amount of materiel that the army had been forced to abandon at Dunkirk meant that they now faced a substantial shortage in fighting equipment. “The RAF were successful in keeping the majority of German bombers and fighting away, shooting down 150 aircraft,” states the RAF Battle of Britain website. “However, they lost 100 precious fighters and 80 irreplaceable pilots.” These losses added to the perilous situation in which the Allies now found themselves.

    On June 14, Paris fell and eight days later France signed an armistice with Germany.

    A few days later, Winston Churchill, the newly-elected Prime Minister of Great Britain, spoke in the British House of Commons about the dire situation facing the Allies:

    The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. … Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

    Library and Archives Canada

    A Luftwaffe Heinkel HE-111 aircraft is shot down during the Battle of Britain.

    Directive 16

    “Operation Sea Lion (Seelöwe), the plan for the invasion of Great Britain, was conceived hastily and belatedly,” says Mr. Halliday. “Following the Dunkirk evacuation and the capitulation of France in 1940, Hitler expected Britain to face facts and sue for peace. However, when days passed and no indication came from Britain that they were willing to sue for peace or even negotiate, Hitler decided to launch Operation Sea Lion. Only on July 16, 1940, did he issue Directive No. 16, which itself was couched in hesitant terms.”

    “Since Britain still shows no sign of willingness to come to an agreement in spite of her hopeless military situation, I have decided to prepare and, if necessary carry out, a landing operation against England,” Hitler said. “The purpose of this operation will be to eliminate the English homeland as a base for continuation of the war against Germany and, if necessary, to occupy it completely.”

    The directive also said that “the British Air Force must be eliminated to such an extent that it will be incapable of putting up any sustained opposition to the invading troops”.

    “For the Germans to invade, the [German] navy must dominate the Channel. But before it could do that the Luftwaffe must dominate the air over the channel. … it must gain control of the airspace over northwest France and the Low Countries, the Channel, and southeastern England,” explains Canadian historian Dr. James L. Stokesbury.

    “The problems faced by both sides were enormous, and they had never been faced before. Never in history had one nation tried to defeat another from the air. The whole Battle of Britain was so new, and in the end such a near-run thing, that it is probably the most tantalizing of all the single episodes of World War II.

    “Neither the British nor the Germans knew what was going to happen. No one even knew what it would take to achieve the kind of conditions desired,” Dr. Stokesbury continues.

    Phase I – The Channel Battles

    (Kanalkampf) [1]

    Phase I of the battle began on July 10 and lasted for a month. During this time, the Luftwaffe attacked convoys in the English Channel and Channel ports. They also began attacking radar stations on the south coast of England.

    Phase II – Eagle Attack (Adlerangriff)

    Phase II, the main assault, was marked by further attacks on radar positions and massive attacks against airfields to destroy Great Britain’s fighter capability in the air and on the ground. In particular, the airfields of 11 Group, located in the southeast of England, came under fire.  The only Royal Canadian Air Force squadron in the Battle – No. 1 (Canadian) Squadron, later renamed 401 Squadron – was part of 11 Group.

    The launch of the main assault took place on August 13, called Eagle Day (Adlertag) by German High Command. The previous day the Luftwaffe heavily damaged but did not destroy the southern chain of radar stations. On Adlertag, “the Luftwaffe came out in force, hitting radar stations, airfields, and aircraft factories,” says Dr. Stokesbury. “They flew almost fifteen hundred sorties, and the British responded with about seven hundred.”

    On August 20, as Adlerangriff was in full flight, Churchill delivered his speech praising the airmen fighting the Battle in words that have echoed through the decades:

    The gratitude of every home in our island, in our Empire and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world by their prowess and their devotion.

    Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

    All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…

    Listen to the above words of Churchill (mp3 667 kb)

    The attacks continued throughout the month and into September and, according to the RAF website, “the situation in 11 Group became desperate,”.

    However, the Germans “decided that their attacks on the radar stations were not paying off – just as they were beginning to – and they discontinued them, another in their chain of fatal mistakes,” notes Dr. Stokesbury.

    Phase III – The Blitz

    On August 1, 1940 Hitler issued Directive No. 17, which said that “the war against England is to be destructive attacks against industry and air force targets…” However, he said, “I reserve to myself the right to decide on terror attacks as measures of reprisal” – i.e., attacks against civilians.

    Later in the month, when it appeared that the Luftwaffe was winning, the Battle of Britain took another unexpected turn.

    There had already been some bombing of military locations on the outskirts of London and the docks. However, on the night of August 24-25 a Luftwaffe aircraft mistakenly dropped its bombs on the city of London. In retaliation, more than 80 British bombers raided Berlin. As the bombing of Berlin continued, a furious Hitler rescinded Directive 17, ordering “disruptive attacks on the population and air defences of major British cities, including London, by day and night”.

    The Blitz, which lasted for 57 nights, began on September 7, and the Battle of Britain began to swing in favour of the British. “In a contradictory way, it was just what the British needed. London was like a vast sponge, and it absorbed damage as a sponge does water,” says Dr. Stokesbury.

    The shift in targets gave 11 Group in southeast England a chance to repair their airfields and radar sites. As well, the German raids heading for London were now within striking range of 12 Group, located in the Midlands and East Anglia.

    Sunday, September 15 was the high point of the battle according to most – and is now celebrated as Battle of Britain Day. The Germans launched a massive attack on London by 123 bombers escorted by more than 650 fighters. The Luftwaffe suffered huge losses but were back again the next day. The fighting was fierce, but ultimately the Allied airmen were victorious.

    Twelve days later, the Luftwaffe made one last major effort to bomb London by day. Henceforth bombing raids would be by night, and “any serious aerial fighting to be done during daylight hours would have to take place over occupied Europe,” says the Official History of the RCAF.

    The Luftwaffe had clearly failed to destroy the Royal Air Force; two days later, Hitler announced the postponement of Operation Sea Lion and partially dispersed the invasion fleet.

    Phase IV – The End of the Battle

    The Battle of Britain continued with Luftwaffe heavy bomber raids against cities and nuisance raids against towns and military targets, but the Germans had lost the initiative. After mid-September raids were of much lesser scale, especially as the weather began to worsen.

    On October 12, Hitler “formally advised his service chiefs that Operation Sea Lion had been put off to the spring of 1941. In fact, he had already turned his thoughts and energies eastwards – towards Russia – and would never return to Sea Lion,” says Mr. Halliday.

    By the end of October the Battle of Britain was over; as some historians say, it simply “petered out”.

    The Blitz continued in an effort to destroy Britain’s will to fight.  For 57 consecutive nights, bombs rained down on London and the British suffered nine months of aerial bombardment of their cities.

    “It would be misleading to say that RAF Fighter Command ‘defeated’ the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. As of late October 1940 both sides actually had more aircraft and pilots than they had possessed in early August. Yet it was an RAF victory in that the enemy was denied his objective – obliteration of British air defences, rendering impossible any air attacks on invasion forces,” says Halliday.

    “Yet, like the Battle of Waterloo, the Battle of Britain was a ‘near-run thing’. … By early September [the Luftwaffe] had come dangerously close to [gaining air superiority over the intended invasion areas]. That the enemy failed was due in large measure to their overestimation of the damage they were causing and frequent changes in plans,” he concludes.

    DND65-110, DND Archives

    The famed No. 242 “Canadian” Squadron was a Royal Air Force squadron that – at least initially – included a large number of Canadians. From left to right: Pilot Officer Denis Crowley-Milling, Flying Officer Hugh Tamblyn (Canadian), Flight Lieutenant Percival “Stan” Turner (Canadian), Sergeant Joseph Ernest Saville, Pilot Officer Norman Neil Campbell (Canadian), Pilot Officer William Lidstone McKnight (Canadian), Squadron Leader Douglas Bader, the squadron’s commanding officer, Flight Lieutenant George Eric Ball, Pilot Officer Michael Giles Homer and Flying Officer Marvin Kitchener “Ben” Brown (Canadian).

    Canadian Contribution

    The airmen whom Prime Minister Churchill dubbed “the few” comprised 2,353 pilots and air crew from Great Britain and 574 from overseas. All flew at least one authorized operational sortie with an eligible unit of the Royal Air Force or Fleet Air Arm from July 10 to October 31 and were awarded the Battle of Britain clasp to the 1939-45 Star.

    Participants included Poles, New Zealanders, Canadians, Czechs, Australians, Belgians, South Africans, French, Irish, Americans as well as a Jamaican, a Southern Rhodesian and a flyer from the Palestinian Protectorate.

    Five hundred and forty-four lost their lives.

    More than 100 Canadians are deemed to have participated in the Battle of Britain, and 23 lost their lives. A Royal Canadian Air Force squadron fought during the Battle; No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron, whose pilots were from both a regular force unit and an auxiliary unit, became operational on August 17, 1940. It was known as “RCAF” to distinguish itself from the RAF’s No. 1 Squadron but in February 1941 it was designated 401 Squadron.

    Three members of No. 1 (RCAF) Squadron received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their efforts during the Battle of Britain: the commanding officer, Squadron Leader Ernie McNab; his second-in-command, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Roy McGregor; and Flying Officer “Dal” Russel.

    Canadians also fought in the RAF’s 242 (Canadian) Squadron, which was heavily, although not exclusively, Canadian. It was led by RAF Squadron Leader Douglas Bader during the Battle of Britain. (Squadron Leader Bader has gone down in Air Force history for losing both legs in a flying accident in 1931; he successfully re-enrolled in the RAF at the outbreak of hostilities and serving until 1946 – including being shot down, taken as a prisoner of war and even escaping from captivity once.)

    Many more flew with other RAF squadrons – as well as Bomber and Coastal Commands providing support to operations to prevent the German invasion. An untold number served as groundcrew, keeping the fighters flying.

    “Groundcrews who serviced No. 1 (Canadian) Squadron’s Hurricanes, sometimes under fire and routinely under pressure, received belated recognition in June 1942,” says Mr. Halliday, “when Flight Sergeant John R. Burdes was awarded a British Empire Medal and Flight Sergeant Cecil M. Gale was mentioned in dispatches.

    “The citation to Gale’s award read, in part: ‘Working under trying conditions, he has maintained the squadron aircraft in a capable manner. Owing to the intense operational activity during the latter part of August and September, the flight maintenance crew was called upon to work to the limit. Flt. Sgt. Gale carried out his duties, often working from very early morning until late into the night, with a result that sufficient aircraft for flight use were available at all times.’”

    Replacing experienced pilots throughout the Battle had been a significant challenge, especially in the early days of the Battle. Later in the Battle replacements became less of an issue, but the pilots became exhausted and replacements were less experienced.

    The last 10 days of August, according to the Official History of the RCAF, “had cost Fighter Command 231 pilots or almost one-quarter of [Fighter Command’s] initial strength, and 60 per cent of those casualties were experienced flyers who could only be replaced by inexperienced graduates of Operational Training Units and as time wore on less and less experienced pilots were taking to the air. …as pilots gained practical experience they were likely to be killed, wounded, or mentally exhausted by the strain, or else promoted into other squadrons.”

    The Battle of Britain would not have been won without the contribution of another Canadian: Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook.

    Prime Minister Churchill appointed Lord Beaverbrook, a newspaper tycoon, as minister of Aircraft Production in May 1940. In a series of moves and innovations that upset the senior leadership at the Air Ministry, Lord Beaverbrook dramatically increased the production of fighters for the war effort. “He rode roughshod over all the happy dilatory routines of peace,” says Dr. Stokesbury. “Factory managers and senior air force officers alike came to hate him, but without him, or someone equally acerbic, it is hard to see how the British would have lasted through the summer. He provided a steadily increasing flow of aircraft, so that in spite of loses of well over 100 per cent of strength, the RAF still ended the battle stronger than it went into it.”

    In the month before Lord Beaverbrook’s appointment, 256 fighters were produced. In the critical month of September, as RAF losses reached their height, his system produced 465 fighters.

    And now, with the Nazi’s plan to invade Britain in tatters, another key Canadian contribution to the war in the air would begin to show its effect.

    “As the Battle of Britain ended, the first young pilots, observers and gunners were emerging from the schools of the [British Commonwealth] Air Training Plan in Canada,” says Leslie Roberts, author of There Shall be Wings, “Soon their tide would be in full flood.”

    Top of Page

    National Air Force Museum of Canada

    Two pilots race to their awaiting Hurricanes.

    Canadians who served

    Determining exactly how many Canadians served in the Battle of Britain is challenging, to say the least. The numbers vary from 88 to 103 to 112, depending on which source one consults. Part of challenge “is in the accounting of the number of Canadians, because there’s a definitional problem [regarding] who was a Canadian in 1940,” says Dr. Steve Harris, National Defence’s chief historian.

    All sources seem to agree, however, that 23 Canadians died during the Battle of Britain.

    The Royal Air Force’s Roll of Honour indicates those who were killed during the Battle, those who were killed or died later in the war and those who survived the war – along with the squadrons in which they served. It includes 88 Canadians.

    The Battle of Britain London Monument, however, lists 112 names. Nevertheless, the RAF Roll of Honour appears to list three persons who are not on the London Monument.

    The following list, which is not meant to be the final or definitive tally of Canadians who served in the Battle of Britain, therefore contains 107 names. The airmen’s squadron and status is indicated and verified to the best of our ability.

    Additional information about the personnel listed here would be most welcome.

    Rank, Initials, Name Squadron Status  Remarks
     F/O C.I.R. ARTHUR 141 Survived the war Winnipeg, Manitoba
    F/L R.A. BARTON 249 Survived the war Kamloops, British Columbia
    P/O P.H. BEAKE 64 Survived the war Quebec City, Quebec
    F/O E.W. BEARDMORE 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Montreal, Quebec
    P/O R.W.G. BELEY 151 Killed in action  September 7, 1940 Rossland, British Columbia
    P/O J. BENZIE 242 Killed in action  September 7, 1940  Winnipeg, Manitoba
    F/Lt. H.P. BLATCHFORD 17 / 257 Survived the Battle, killed in action May 3, 1943 Edmonton, Alberta
    P/O C.R. BONSEIGNEUR 257 Killed in action September 3, 1940  Gull Lake, Saskatchewan
    F/O J.G. BOYLE 41 Killed in action  September 28, 1940 Casselman, Ontario
    F/O E.C. BRIESE 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Rosetown, Saskatchewan
    F/O E.P. BROWN 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Coronado, California, USA
    F/Lt. M.H. BROWN 1 Survived the Battle, killed in action November 12, 1941  Portage la Prairie, Manitoba
    P/O M.K. BROWN 242 Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident February 21, 1941 Kincardine, Ontario
    P/O J. BRYSON 92 Killed in action September 24, 1940  Montreal, Quebec
    P/O P. BYNG-HALL 29 Survived the war Unknown, Nova Scotia
    Sub/Lt. A.R. McL CAMPBELL 54 Survived Unknown
    P/O N.N. CAMPBELL 242 Killed in action October 17, 1940 St. Thomas, Ontario
    Sub/Lt.(FAA) J.C. CARPENTER Fleet Air Arm, 229 / 46 Killed in action 8 September 1940 Toronto, Ontario
    F/O J.C. CARRIERE 219 unknown  Quebec City, Quebec
    P/O G.C.T. CARTHEW 253 / 145 / 85 Survived the war  Mountain Park, Alberta
    F/O E.F.J. CHARLES 54 Survived the war Lashburn, Saskatchewan
    P/O J.A.J. CHEVRIER 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident July 6, 1942 St. Lambert, Quebec
    F/O G.P. CHRISTIE 242 /  66 Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident July 6, 1942 Westmount, Quebec
    P/O B.E. CHRISTMAS 1 (RCAF) Survived the war St. Hilaire, Quebec
    P/O A.C. COCHRANE 257 Survived the Battle, killed in action March 31, 1943 Vernon, British Columbia
    P/O G.H. CORBETT 66 Killed in action 8 October 1940 Victoria, British Columbia
    F/Lt. V.B. CORBETT 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident February 20, 1945 Westmount, Quebec
    P/O M.C. CORNER 264 / 141 Survived the Battle, killed in action April 23, 1945 Westmount, Quebec
    F/O L.E. CRYDERMAN 242 Survived the Battle, killed in action February 8, 1941 Toronto, Ontario
    P/O W.A. CUDDIE 46 Survived the Battle, killed in action October 3, 1943 Regina, Saskatchewan
    F/Lt. R.W. DENISON 236 Survived the war Vernon, British Columbia
    F/Lt. J-P.J. DESLOGES 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident May 8, 1944  Hull, Quebec
    P/O R.H. DIBNAH 1 / 242 Survived the war Winnipeg, Manitoba
    F/O N.D. EDMOND 615 Survived the Battle, killed in action April 20, 1941 Calgary, Alberta
    P/O H.D. EDWARDS 92 Killed in action September 11, 1940 Winnipeg, Manitoba
    F/O R.L. EDWARDS 1 (RCAF) Killed in action, August 26,  1940 Cobourg, Ontario
    F/O A. L EDY 602 Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident December 5, 1941 Winnipeg, Manitoba
    P/O G.J. ELLIOTT 607 Survived the war  Winnipeg, Manitoba
    P/O W.M.L. FISKE 601 Died of wounds, August 17, 1940 Montreal, Quebec
    S/Ldr. A.W. FLETCHER 235 Survived the war. Cardston, Alberta
    P/O E.G. FORD 232 / 3 Survived the Battle, killed in action December 10. 1942 Regina, Saskatchewan
    P/O R.C. FUMERTON 32 Survived the war  Fort Coulonge, Quebec
    F/Lt. L.M. GAUNCE 615 / 46 Survived the Battle, killed in action November 19, 1941   Lethbridge, Alberta
    S/Ldr. J.A.G. GORDON 151 Survived the Battle, killed in action June 1, 1942 Red Deer, Alberta
    F/O R.D. GRASSICK 242 Survived the war London, Ontario
    F/Lt. H.R. HAMILTON 85 Killed in action August 29, 1940 Oak Point, New Brunswick
    F/O B.A. HANBURY 1 / 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident March 27, 1942  Vancouver, British Columbia
    F/Lt. T.P. HARNETT 219 Survived the war Moncton, New Brunswick
    F/O J.S. HART 602 / 54 Survived the war Sackville, New Brunswick
    P/O N. HART 242 Survived the Battle, killed in action November 5, 1940 Dugald, Manitoba
    P/O D.A. HEWITT 501 Killed in action July 12, 1940 Saint John, New Brunswick
    F/O F.W. HILLOCK 1 / 1 (RCAF) Survived the war  Toronto, Ontario
    P/O R.A. Howley 141 Killed in action July 19, 1940 Victoria, British Columbia
    F/O G.G. HYDE 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in action May 17, 1941 Westmount, Quebec
    P/O J.T. JOHNSTON 151 Killed in action August 15, 1940 Brandon, Manitoba
    S/Ldr. J.A. KENT 303 Survived the war Winnipeg, Manitoba
    F/O J.W. KERWIN 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident July 16, 1940 Toronto, Ontario
     P/O J.E.P. LARICHELIERE 213 Killed in action August 16, 1940 Montreal, Quebec
    P/O J.B. LATTA 242 Survived the Battle, killed in action January 12, 1941 Vancouver, British Columbia
    F/O R.G. LEWIS 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in action February 12, 1941 Vancouver, British Columbia
    F/O T.B. LITTLE 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in action August 27, 1941 Montreal, Quebec
    F/O P.W. LOCHNAN 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in action May 21,1941 Ottawa, Ontario
    S/Ldr. J.R. MacLACHLAN Unknown Unknown Unknown
    P/O J.B. McCOLL 615 Survived the war Waterdown, Ontario
    F/Lt. G.R. McGREGOR 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Montreal, Quebec
    P/O W.L. McKNIGHT 242 Survived the Battle, killed in action January 12, 1941 Edmonton, Alberta
    S/Ldr. E.A. McNAB 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Rosthern, Saskatchewan
    F/O W.B. MacD MILLAR 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Penticton, British Columbia
    P/O J.A. MILNE 605 Survived the war Corklin, Saskatchewan
    P/O H.T. MITCHELL 87 Survived the war Port Hope, Saskatchewan
    F/O H.deM. MOLSON 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Montreal, Quebec
    F/O W.H. NELSON 74 Survived the Battle, killed in action November 1, 1940 Montreal, Quebec
    F/O A.D. NESBITT 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Westmount, Quebec
    P/O H.G. NIVEN 602 Survived the war Toronto, Ontario
    F/O R.W. G NORRIS 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    F/Lt. P.G. St.G O’BRIAN 257 / 247 / 152 Survived the war Toronto, Ontario
    P/O A.K. OGILVIE 609 Survived the war  Ottawa, Ontario
    F/O J.D. PATTISON 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Toronto, Ontario
    P/O O.J. PETERSON 1 (RCAF) Killed in action September 27, 1940 Halifax, Nova Scotia
    F/O P.B. PITCHER 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Montreal, Quebec
    P/O G.R. PUSHMAN 23 Survived the war Ottawa, Ontario
    P/O H.W. REILLEY 64 / 66 Killed in action October 17, 1940 London, Ontario
    F/Lt. E.M. REYNO 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Sgt. L.V.P.J. RICKS 235 Survived the war Calgary, Alberta
    F/O B.D. RUSSEL 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Toronto, Ontario
    P/O K.M. SCLANDERS 242 Killed in action September 9, 1940 St. John’s, Newfoundland
    F/O A.W. SMITH 141 Survived the Battle, killed in action March 28, 1941 Summerland, British Columbia
    F/Lt. F.M. SMITH 72 Survived the war Edmonton, Alberta
    F/O J.D. SMITH 73 Survived the Battle, killed in action April 14, 1941 Winnipeg, Manitoba
    F/O R.R. SMITH 229 Survived the war London, Ontario
    F/O R. SMITHER 1 (RCAF) Killed in action September 15, 1940 London, Ontario

    Name shown as Smithers on the RAF Honour Roll

    P/O H.A. SPRAGUE 3 Survived the war Hamilton, Ontario
    F/O W.P. SPRENGER 1 (RCAF) Survived the Battle, killed in action November 26, 1940 Montreal, Quebec
    P/O N.K. STANSFELD 242 / 229 Survived the war Edmonton, Alberta
    F/Lt. H.N. TAMBLYN 242 / 141 Survived the Battle, killed in action April 3, 1941 Yorkton, Saskatchewan
    F/O C.W. TREVENA 1 (RCAF) Survived the war  Regina, Saskatchewan
    P/O A.A.G. TRUEMAN 253 Killed in action September 4, 1940 Toronto, Ontario
    F/Lt. P.S. TURNER 242 Survived the war Toronto, Ontario

    Initials shown as R.S. on RAF Honour Roll

    P/O J.R. URWIN-MANN 238 Survived the war Victoria, British Columbia
    F/O J.A. WALKER 111 Survived the Battle, killed in action, February 8, 1944 Gleichen, Alberta
    F/O J.R. WALKER 611 / 41 Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident November 16, 1940 Oak Bay, British Columbia
    P/O C.A.B. WALLACE 3 Survived the Battle, killed in action October 27, 1941 Vancouver, British Columbia
    P/O J.J. WALSH 615 Survived the Battle, died of injuries March 2, 1941 Bassano, Alberta
    P/O F.S. WATSON 3 Survived the Battle, killed in flying accident October 11, 1941 Winnipeg, Manitoba
    P/O R.R. WILSON 111 Killed in action August 11, 1940 Moncton, New Brunswick
    F/Lt. J.S. YOUNG 234 Survived the war  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    F/O A. McL YUILE 1 (RCAF) Survived the war Montreal, Quebec
    P/O A.R. ZATONSKI 79 Survived the Battle, killed in action December 6, 1941 Born in Philadelphia; his  family immigrated to Canada in 1926.

    Top of Page


    See Also:

    (1) History: Royal Canadian Air Force

  • Jack 3:50 am on November 8, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: battle of the atlantic, , , dr. roger sarty, royal canadian navy,   

    Atlantic Battle 

    The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest campaign of the Second World War and the most important. Canada was a major participant: this country’s enormous effort in the struggle was crucial to Allied victory. While the ships and personnel of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) operated across the globe during the war, they are best remembered for their deeds during the Battle of the Atlantic.

    At stake was the survival of Great Britain and the liberation of western Europe from German occupation. Britain could be saved from starvation, and strengthened into the launching pad for the liberation of Europe, only by the delivery of supplies, troops, and equipment from Canada and the United States. Everything had to be carried in vulnerable merchant ships that faced a gauntlet of enemy naval forces. The friendly territory closest to Great Britain, Canada’s east coast and Newfoundland (which had not yet joined confederation) were in the front line of the Battle of the Atlantic. Canada’s navy and merchant marine, augmented by seamen from Newfoundland, played leading parts in the battle throughout the war.

    When Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, the German navy, which had prepositioned U-boats (submarines) and powerful surface warships in the Atlantic, began to attack British merchant ships. Halifax, the Atlantic base of Canada’s tiny navy, immediately became an indispensable Allied port from which to fight the Battle of the Atlantic. During the First World War, 1914 to 1918, the British had sent a strong force to Halifax for protection of Atlantic shipping, and in 1939 the same thing happened. Britain-bound merchant ships of many nationalities also came to Halifax, where Bedford Basin provided a magnificent secure anchorage in which ships could be organized into convoys which then set out under the protection of Allied warships. The convoy system had proven its worth during the First World War. HX-1, the first of the hundreds of convoys that would cross the Atlantic during the Second World War, sailed from Halifax on 16 September 1939.

    Canada’s navy in September 1939 included only 3500 personnel, both regular force and reserve, and six ocean-going warships, the ‘River’ class destroyers His Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Fraser, Ottawa, Restigouche, Saguenay, St Laurent, and Skeena. A seventh ‘River,’ HMCS Assiniboine joined the fleet in October. All these ships were British built, Saguenay and Skeena according to special Canadian specifications. Destroyers were among the smallest full-fledged, ocean-going warships, but the ‘River’ class were thoroughly modern — fast and powerfully armed. In the early months of the war, the Canadian destroyers escorted the convoys, and also large Allied warships, within Canadian coastal waters.

    Both British and Canadian authorities believed in 1939 that Canada’s navy could expand on only a modest scale, and mainly for operations along the North American seabord. In early 1940, the government placed orders for the construction of 92 small warships: 64 ‘corvettes’, depth-charge-armed anti-submarine escorts, and 28 ‘Bangor’ class minesweepers. These rather slow and simple vessels were all Canada’s limited shipbuilding industry could produce, but they were adequate to patrol the entrance to ports and along coastal routes, where enemy submarines could most readily find ships to attack.

    The German offensives in the spring of 1940 that conquered most of western Europe, and Italy’s entry into the war at Germany’s side in June of that year, transformed the war, not least at sea. From bases in France and Norway, right on Britain’s doorstep, the German submarine fleet, augmented by submarines from Italy, Germany’s Axis partner, launched devastating attacks against the overseas shipping on which Britain now wholly depended for survival. Canada rushed four of the ‘River’ class destroyers to British waters, and these protected convoys off the western shores of the British Isles against intense attacks by enemy submarines and aircraft.

    Meanwhile, in the fall of 1940 the Canadian government embarked on full-scale naval expansion, laying down additional corvettes and Bangors as soon as the first ones were launched. Canada also began to produce merchant ships. The Royal Canadian Navy further assisted the short-handed Royal Navy by taking over seven of the fifty First World War-era destroyers the still-neutral United States made available to Britain. Canada, although its coasts were now almost unprotected, dispatched the four best of these old destroyers to British waters, together with the first ten corvettes to come from Canadian shipyards. It soon became clear that the old American ships and the new, only partly equipped, corvettes, crewed by former merchant seamen who had had only basic naval training and raw recruits, would need considerable work and time to become fully effective.

    There was no time. By 1941, the Germans, encountering stronger defences in British waters, developed highly successful techniques for intercepting convoys at mid-ocean, where they were weakly escorted, if at all, and far from help. Air cover did not extend across the Atlantic, and the mid-ocean area beyond range of patrolling Allied aircraft became a killing ground for the U-boats. The submarines patrolled in long lines and, when one sighted a convoy, shadowed it, summoning the other submarines. They then attacked in a group – a ‘wolfpack’ – at night and on the surface, when their low proffles were nearly invisible to the escorting warships. The U-boats were much faster on the surface than underwater, and they were therefore able to move rapidly through a convoy, making multiple attacks, sometimes sinking with torpedoes three and four ships apiece.

    In response to Britain’s call for help, Canada, starting in May 1941, took the lead in building a new naval base at St John’s, Newfoundland, and in supplying most of the warships that escorted convoys across the 3000 kilometres of ocean between Newfoundland and the British Isles. All of the Canadian warships that had been operating in British waters came to Newfoundland and, as additional corvettes were completed at Canadian shipyards, these, with incomplete equipment and virtually untrained crews, launched into the harrowing transatlantic escort mission. Small ships designed for calm coastal waters, with some crews unqualified even for that duty, had to face massed enemy attacks in some of the most stormy open ocean waters in the world.

    The great demands on Canadian east coast ports increased rapidly. Growing numbers of ships flowed into the convoy system, and many of these were old vessels in need of constant repair and special services. These vessels had to be attended to even though Halifax, Sydney (since 1940 a major convoy port as busy as Halifax), Saint John, Pictou, and other smaller centres were already swamped with repair work for merchant vessels and warships that had been damaged by the enemy or by the heavy seas. All the while the Halifax base had the additional responsibility of equipping and crewing the scores of new Bangers and corvettes that arrived from builders along the St. Lawrence and on the Great Lakes. The old, cramped Royal Navy dockyard mushroomed with temporary buildings, and the navy took over adjacent army and municipal properties, which almost instantly became overcrowded as well.

    At the end of 1941, senior officers warned that men and ships were being tested beyond their limits, with too little and inadequate equipment, insufficient training, and too little time to recover from the horrors they frequently witnessed as ships were blown apart and survivors froze to death within minutes in the frigid north Atlantic. Yet, the exhausted naval seamen and their little warships get no respite – only increased pressure. After the United States entered the war against the Axis powers following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the German navy initiated a major submarine offensive against the North American coast. As part of this offensive, early in January 1942 eight U-boats came in close to the shores of southern Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, torpedoing ships within a few kilometres of land. The quick, effective response of the RCN in organizing most coastal shipping into local convoys soon persuaded the Germans to concentrate against the less well defended US coast. Nevertheless, there were U-boats on station in Canadian and Newfoundland waters through much of 1942; these stayed hidden, dodged the Canadian defences, and sought targets of opportunity. They destroyed over 70 vessels, including 21 in the Gulf of St Lawrence, where deep, turbulent waters helped the submarines to escape detection.

    The burden on the Canadian fleet became nearly unbearable. Because the United States, the source of much of the supplies for Britain, was now in the war, in the summer of 1942 the HX convoys shifted to New York. The United States Navy, however, was not yet in a position to defend these convoys, so Halifax-based Canadian warships shepherded them between New York and Newfoundland, and then brought westbound convoys from Newfoundland to New York. These tasks were in addition to the comprehensive network of coastal convoys between Canadian and northern US ports. At the same time, Canadian escort vessels still formed a major part of the mid-ocean force that took convoys between Newfoundland and British waters and, during the summer and autumn of 1942, these corvettes and destroyers faced a new German ‘wolfpack’ offensive that was stronger still than the assault in 1941.

    Early in 1943, Britain withdrew Canada’s battered mid-ocean escort groups to British waters to free up crack British submarine-hunting ‘support’ groups to smash the wolfpacks. The RCN needed to upgrade its escort fleet with new detection and weapons technology, something the British had already done with most of their escorts. In fact, the Canadian groups had little chance for rest in British waters since they became heavily engaged on the United Kingdom-Gibraltar convoy run, before returning to the north Atlantic battle. This all-out British effort, with Canadian support, succeeded, and Admiral Karl Dönitz the German commander-in-chief of the U-boat fleet, pulled his forces out of the central north Atlantic in May 1943. Although this was a decisive turn in the war, the Germans still had over 200 U-boats available, and soon they were using new equipment and tactics to challenge Allied defences. The Allies, meanwhile, recognized Canada’s large and expanding contribution to the war at sea by making Canadian and Newfoundland waters a distinct theatre of operations under Canadian command. In place of the previous command exercised by an American admiral based in Newfoundland, Rear-Admiral L.W. Murray established the Canadian Northwest Atlantic headquarters at Halifax on 30 April 1943.

    All of the warships and merchant ships Canada could produce were urgently needed to transport supplies to Britain for the final buildup of Allied forces for the invasion of Normandy, the beginning of the liberation of France and northwest Europe. As a testament to its much-improved effectiveness based on new equipment and ships (anti-submarine frigates, true ocean-keeping vessels based on the corvettes but considerably larger, joined the fleet in increasing numbers), during the first half of 1944 the RCN took over full responsibility for escorting north Atlantic convoys to Britain. The navy also sent large numbers of its best escorts, including the venerable ‘River’ class destroyers, into the English Channel to support the invasion, which took place on 6 June 1944. Over 100 RCN ships ranging from large destroyers to troop transports participated in the Normandy landings.

    Although the U-boats had little success against the invasion fleet, they were able with new ‘snorkel’ breathing tubes, enabling the submarines to ‘breathe’ and cruise under water for weeks at a time, to press their offensive in the coastal waters of Britain and Canada right to the end of the war. Thus, the Canadian fleet was continuously and heavily engaged in Canadian and Newfoundland home waters, as well as in protecting the by-then enormous transatlantic convoys that fed supplies to the Allied armies in Europe. This was an essential military contribution to the Allied cause. Moreover, the navy maintained its commitments in British and European coastal waters and also escorted convoys to the Soviet Union along the treacherous and unforgiving Arctic route.

    Despite the turn of the tide, the German submarine fleet continued to strike effectively. Indeed, during 1944 and 1945, the Canadian fleet took its heaviest losses in action against submarines using sophisticated evasion tactics and armed with powerful new types of torpedoes. Among the ships destroyed by snorkel-equipped U-boats were the corvette HMCS Shawinigan, which was lost with no survivors among its crew of 91, close off Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland on the night of 24 November 1944, the Bangor minesweeper HMCS Claycquot, in the near approaches to Halifax on Christmas Eve 1944, and HMCS Esquimalt another Bangor lost off Halifax, on 16 April 1945, only three weeks before Germany surrendered. Both Bangors sank with heavy loss of life, many of the sailors falling victim to the lethally cold waters off Nova Scotia.

    By the last months of the war the RCN had grown to a strength of over 95,000 personnel, 6,000 of them members of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, and the fleet committed to the Battle of the Atlantic included some 270 ocean escort warships. Canada possessed the third-largest navy in the world after the fleets of the United States and Britain. The most important measure of its success was the safe passage during the war of over 25,000 merchant ships under Canadian escort. These cargo vessels delivered nearly 165 million tons of supplies to Britain and to the Allied forces that liberated Europe. In the course of these operations the RCN sank, or shared in the destruction, of 31 enemy submarines. For its part, the RCN lost 14 warships to U-boat attacks and another eight ships to collisions and other accidents in the north Atlantic. Most of the 2000 members of the Royal Canadian Navy who lost their lives died in combat in the Atlantic. Proportionally, Canadian merchant seamen suffered much more heavily, losing one in ten killed among the 12,000 who served in Canadian and Allied merchant vessels.


  • Jack 3:26 am on November 6, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: david mehl, presidential pardon, , , ,   

    Historical Lesson 

    With reports indicating President Trump has asked about pardoning his close aides and even himself to thwart special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, you might be surprised to hear that there is precedent for an executive pardoning his own actions. The man who did it first was Isaac I. Stevens, first territorial governor of what is now Washington state, and he did it during one of the most bizarre chapters of the often-colorful history of the American west.

    It was 1856, and sporadic conflict between settlers and the local Indians had degenerated into war. The war was not going well for the settlers. Repeated Indian raids had forced many settlers to seek shelter for the winter in blockhouses. Meanwhile, volunteer patrols were proving singularly unsuccessful in efforts to catch the marauding bands.

    Stevens, also military commander of the territory, gradually began to suspect that some of the settlers were colluding with the enemy. The Washington landscape was dotted with farms owned not by American pioneers but by former employees of the British Hudson Bay Company, which had been active in the territory when it had been under the joint control of the English and Americans a few years earlier. They had married Indian wives and settled in Washington, and their family connections protected them and their farms from the attacks.

    Stevens suspected these settlers were in league with the Indian raiders, passing warnings to them whenever the patrols were out. He ordered them to leave their farms and move to the blockhouses with the other settlers. When several refused, he declared the county to be under martial law and had them arrested. The imprisoned settlers hired lawyers, and that’s when everything flew straight off the rails.

    Arresting Judicial Developments

    Judge Edward Lander convened a court in the affected county to hear the settlers’ claims of corpus. To prevent the judge from ordering their release, the governor sent a colonel of the state militia to stop the court from proceeding. Col. Benjamin Shaw stopped the hearing, arrested the judge, and brought him before the governor in Olympia.

    Once Lander was in Olympia, Stevens ordered him released on the grounds that Olympia was not under martial law and thus he had no right to hold him there without charges. The newly freed jurist immediately convened a court in Olympia, issuing writs of habeas corpus for the imprisoned settlers and a contempt of court citation for the governor. He also sent marshals to arrest Stevens for contempt.

    When the governor heard what Lander had done, he immediately declared Olympia to be under martial law as well and ordered Lander’s arrest, sending a company of volunteers to take the judge into custody again.

    The governor’s forces were successful and Lander’s marshals were not, so Lander was once more arrested and brought to the governor. Stevens offered to release the judge again if he would promise not to re-open his court without permission. When Lander refused, he was imprisoned with the settlers he had tried to free.

    Justice Is Ultimately Served

    When details of what had occurred reached the ailing chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, Francis Chenowith, he rose from his sickbed to travel by canoe to the heart of the dispute, where he convened a court to continue where Lander had left off. Stevens sent troops to break up this court as well, but Chenowith was ready: he had ordered the county sheriff to organize a posse of 50 men to defend his court. When the soldiers found the posse awaiting their arrival, they retreated rather than risk bloodshed.

    The whole saga finally came to a close when the court-martial Stevens had ordered to try the settlers ruled that it did not have jurisdiction, and recommended that the settlers be tried in civil court. Now without allies, the governor capitulated, and released the settlers and, for the second time, Judge Lander.

    The settlers returned home, but for Lander it wasn’t over yet. He convened a court yet again and found Stevens guilty of contempt of court, sentencing him to pay a $50 fine. For this offense Stevens performed the act, unique thus far in American history, of issuing a pardon for himself.

    The episode was a disgrace from start to finish. For playing the petty tyrant throughout, Stevens was censured by the territorial legislature and the U.S. Senate, and reprimanded by the secretary of State. Nevertheless, he remained popular in the colony and would eventually serve with distinction as a general in the Union Army until he was killed at the Battle of Chantilly.

    Self-Pardon Destroys the Law

    It’s instructive that the only precedent for pardoning oneself can be found in one of the strangest outbursts of banana republicanism in American history. Just as it is inappropriate to declare martial law for the purpose of preventing a court’s proceedings, it is a violation of democratic norms for a governor or president to pardon himself, because an executive who can pardon himself or herself cannot be constrained by the bounds of law.

    Much of the Trump presidency has involved the rejection of the “old playbook” in favor of the new. Yet for the sake of American democracy, President Trump would do well to leave Stevens’s playbook in the history section, where it belongs.


  • Jack 3:26 am on November 5, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , flipboard, , passchendaele, tim cook,   


    The battlefield at Passchendaele was a sea of mud, shell craters and unburied animal and human corpses. The titanic campaign in Flanders was fought from July 31 to mid-November of 1917 and it drew hundreds of thousands of German, British, Dominion and other Allied soldiers into the cauldron of combat.

    The Canadian Corps, under the command of Canadian-born Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie, fought there 100 years ago this month, in a series of battles to capture what was left of the German-held Passchendaele ridge.

    Sir Douglas Haig, the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force, yearned to attack the Germans to the east of Ypres, Belgium. His strategic aim was to drive back the Germans and overrun U-boat pens along the coast that were sinking hundreds of merchant ships bringing war supplies to Britain.

    Gen. Haig remained blindly optimistic in the face of the enemy’s strength, partially because his intelligence officers assured him that the Germans were on their last legs. In turn, it was difficult for the field marshal’s subordinate officers to know exactly what he thought, since he communicated largely through inarticulate grunts and half-sentences. But it was clear to all that he wanted an extended push and a long campaign.

    Hundreds of Allied artillery pieces fired more than four million shells in the leadup to the battle, and the British Tommies – as the infantrymen called themselves – drove forward on July 31. The German lines were pulverized, but their defences were based around concrete pillboxes. These hardened positions, often fortified with a foot thick of reinforced steel concrete, were difficult to destroy with shellfire. Most housed machine-gun teams that could fire up to 500 bullets a minute.

    The British made some advances on July 31, but then the rain started. It barely stopped for the next four months. The shellfire mulched the ground and the rain turned it into a bog. In horrendous conditions, the British forces suffered gut-wrenching losses, with every major operation costing thousands of lives. The Australians and New Zealanders were thrown into the battle in late September. They, too, were torn apart in hails of gunfire as they slithered forward, often through thigh-deep mud.

    By mid-October, Gen. Haig was desperate for a victory, and Passchendaele Ridge, which was to have fallen on the first day of the offensive, was still in German hands.

    He called upon the Canadian Corps, Canada’s primary fighting formation with about 100,000 soldiers. Their commander, Lt.-Gen. Currie, had been a prewar militia officer and real-estate broker in Victoria. He did not look the part of a modern general, being large and overweight, but he demanded careful planning and the application of massive artillery bombardments to support the infantry at the sharp end. He instigated new tactical reforms, he empowered junior officers to lead the men, and he insisted on constant training.

    Lt.-Gen. Currie also tried to talk Gen. Haig out of sending the Canadians into the morass. Taking his protest almost to the level of insubordination, he told Gen. Haig, “Let the Germans have it – keep it – rot in it.” Gen. Haig could not do that, and without a victory after two-and-a-half months of fruitless fighting, he would likely have been removed from command. The Canadian Corps moved to the Ypres front, but Lt.-Gen. Currie grimly predicted it would cost 16,000 casualties.

    The Canadians arrived at the bog of mud in mid-October. The stench of death pervaded the front for kilometres, making men gag and reach for their cigarettes to mask the stench. There were few solid roads and almost no firm ground upon which to situate artillery batteries.

    A massive enterprise of road building was necessary, all of which was done under enemy fire. Hundreds of Canadians were killed or wounded under the onslaught of German shells and poison gas.

    The Canadians steeled themselves for the clash. Infantryman William Breckenridge of the 42nd Battalion recounted after the war, “I don’t believe a single man went into the battle with the expectations of returning with his limbs. Each and every man felt it was a sure death trap.” Only a slow and methodical advance would have any chance of succeeding against the German positions on the ridge. Lt.-Gen. Currie ordered four phases to the battle, with limited attacks on Oct. 26 and 30, and then Nov. 6 and 10.

    The Germans had all the advantages – the height of the ridge, drier ground and concrete pillboxes – but the Allied artillery would eventually fire 1.45 million shells during the course of the battle in support of the Canadians. The attacks on Oct. 26 and 30 involved thousands of infantrymen in a mad melee of shooting, stabbing and fighting for their lives. Soldiers on both sides died in appalling numbers. As one Canadian gunner recounted in a letter to his mother, “Words can’t express war of this kind. The human mind can’t grasp it.”

    The Canadians drove back the Germans in fierce fighting, where all Allied troops had failed over the previous months. Thousands were killed and wounded in the muck. Some men died instantly, others bled out in the mud as they could not be carried to the rear.

    Wounded soldiers pulled themselves to the water-filled craters, instinctively trying to escape the fire-swept battlefield. They usually drowned in the quicksand-like mud, their water-logged equipment dragging them to their doom. All along the battlefront, cries of help could be heard amid the brief pauses of battle.

    After a week of fierce battle and shelling, the exhausted survivors were rotated from the line and fresh troops renewed the attack. The Canadians captured the ruins of Passchendaele village on Nov. 6 and a final attack on Nov. 10 extended the lines. The long nightmare came to an end. “Only those that saw it will ever know just what it cost to take Passchendaele Ridge, in [terms of] sheer grit and bull-doggedness,” wrote infantryman Garnet Dobbs.

    Victory had been bought with courage and blood, acts of self-sacrifice and collective endurance. Canadians received nine Victoria Crosses, the Empire’s highest award for bravery. It was the most for any single Canadian battle during the war.

    One hundred years later, the popular memory of the campaign is that of a futile struggle in unimaginable conditions that achieved little at horrendous costs. Indeed, the long and brutal battle nearly broke the British and Dominion forces, with soldiers’ morale plummeting in its aftermath. But the battle also delivered a severe blow to the Germans. The Kaiser’s best and more aggressive soldiers were killed and maimed. The Germans lost some 220,000 soldiers, but the Allies were even worse off with about 275,000 casualties.

    As Lt.-Gen. Currie had predicted, the Canadians suffered almost 16,000 killed and wounded, although they delivered a victory that was much needed throughout the British Empire. The final word should go to a Canadian who was there. Will Bird, a hardened combat soldier, wrote of the experience: “Every man who had endured Passchendaele would never be the same again.”

    Tim Cook is the author of 10 books of military history, including Vimy: The Battle and the Legend (2017).


  • Jack 3:20 am on November 1, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: chairman mao, , , douglas murray, genocide, , , mass murder, , ,   


    Editor’s Note: This article and its accompanying sidebars originally appeared in the October 30, 2017, issue of National Review magazine.

    If there is one line we surely will never hear uttered, even in these times, it is any variant of this statement: “I grant that the Nazis committed excesses, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be said for Fascism.” While there certainly are groupuscules of neo-Nazis around, they do not get a polite reception on campuses, let alone tenure. Watered-down versions of Fascism do not emerge in the manifestos of mainstream political parties in the West. No student is ever seen sporting a T-shirt with a chic Reinhard Heydrich likeness emblazoned across the front.

    If the bacillus of Fascism is never dormant, then at least we appear to have retained significant stockpiles of societal antibiotics with which to counter it. It is unlikely that Richard Spencer will address the Conservative Political Action Conference anytime soon. Unlikely that there will be celebratory centennials for Mussolini’s rise to power. And less likely still (despite the cries to the contrary of professional anti-Fascists, who need Fascists for business purposes) that anyone dreaming of a fairer Fascism will reach the White House in any coming electoral cycle.

    Yet 100 years on from the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, can the same be said about the Communist dream? Only the wildest optimist could say so. For in fact wherever you turn in the world today, it seems that the virus of Communism — in every Marxist, socialist strain — remains alive and well. Conditions for its spreading range from moderate to good.

    In June, Russians were asked in an opinion poll to name “the top ten outstanding people of all time and all nations.” Perhaps it is unsurprising that the joint second most commonly given name was Pushkin. Even less surprising that Russia’s national poet should have shared this position with the country’s current strongman, Vladimir Putin. What is more startling for any outsider is that the person whom the largest number of Russians declared the “most outstanding” person in world history was Joseph Stalin. It is true that the man responsible for the deaths (around 20 million, by most moderate estimates) of more people than any other in Russian history has slipped slightly. This year he was at 38 percent, down from 42 percent in a 2012 survey. Yet still he leads the polls. Were the greatest mass murderer in Russian history able to return from his grave today, he could resume power without even needing to fix the ballot.

    Of course, if Adolf Hitler remained the most popular figure in modern Germany, the world would be worried. But with the Communists it was always different. An admirer of General Franco who opposed Primo de Rivera is somehow not the same as a Trotskyist who opposed Leninism (a type that remains a staple of the media and academic worlds). Perhaps the 20th century’s greatest remaining mystery is how, between the twin totalitarian nightmares, it remains acceptable to have spent a portion of your life envying, emulating, or celebrating the global cataclysm that commenced in 1917.

    It is not surprising that Russians have not reckoned with their past. Five years ago, on a visit to Stalin’s birthplace in Gori, Georgia, I paid a visit to the Soviet-era museum that still stands alongside the tiny wooden hut where the dictator was born and that is still preserved, like a relic. Here you can view the train carriage in which Stalin traveled, a suitcase he used, his writing implements and furniture, and, of course, gifts from the many people who admired him. The last room you enter on this tour of the house is somber and contains his death mask. This whole tour uncritically celebrates the great leader who, from the moment he succeeded Lenin, caused a disproportionate number of deaths of people from this region of his birth.

    Then, in 2012, the Georgian authorities were only at the start of what would turn out to be a failed attempt to transform their fawning, Communist-era memorial to the region’s most famous son into a museum of “Stalinism.” At that stage they had made only one half-hearted effort to put the man into anything other than a hagiographical context. After learning about his astonishing rise and rule, and before being presented with a slim volume of his early poetry (“The lark sang its tune / High up in the clouds. / And nightingale joined / In the jubilating song”), visitors were taken under the main staircase. There two rooms had recently been added, to commemorate all the people who died in the Gulag, with a desk to re-create an interrogation cell from the time of his rule. It was like visiting a museum dedicated to the career of Adolf Hitler only to learn at the last moment (after due recognition of the Führer’s skill as a watercolorist) that there had been this thing called Auschwitz. The gift shop sold Stalin wine (red), lighters, and pens. No memorial to the victims of Fascism can finish with an attempt to sell visitors a Heinrich Himmler tea towel.

    Anyone hoping that such attitudes would remain confined to what was once the Soviet Union will feel deflated when they look about the rest of the world. Not only because there are still countries attempting to perfect the experiment (North Korea most ascetically, Cuba and China with increasing laxness) but because, away from the scenes of the 20th-century charnel houses, the experiment is barely remembered at all. And where it is, it is not remembered in a negative light.

    Last year, the research firm Survation conducted a poll to ascertain the attitudes of young British people in the 16–24 age bracket. The oldest among this group would have been born in the year the Soviet Union collapsed, the youngest around a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The respondents were asked to look at a list of names and say which ones they most associated with “crimes against humanity.”

    Adolf Hitler finished first, with 87 percent of young people seeing him in a negative light. Much further down (below Saddam Hussein) came Joseph Stalin, whom 61 percent of young people associated with such crimes, with 28 percent of all respondents admitting that they had never heard of him. Half of young people admitted they had never heard of Lenin. And while 8 percent were ignorant of Adolf Hitler, and therefore clearly as ignorant as swans, it is what happened farther down the name-recognition list that was more alarming.

    Fully 39 percent of young people associated George W. Bush with crimes against humanity, and 34 percent associated Tony Blair with the same. Which were higher percentages than for either Mao Tse-tung (20 percent) or Pol Pot (19 percent). The cause is not fellow-traveling but sheer ignorance. No less than 70 percent of young people said they had never heard of Chairman Mao, while 72 percent had never heard of the Cambodian génocidaire.

    Were the low numbers replicated for historical figures related to the Holocaust or Fascism, they would cause an outcry. There would be calls for great education drives and the erection of museums and monuments to the victims of Nazism and Fascism. If young people were discovered to know so little about those crimes, every teacher in the land would be hollering about the inevitability of replaying history we do not remember.

    But it is always different with the Communist virus let loose on the world a century ago. The figure of 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust is rightly set in our collective consciousness and conscience during our years of education and constantly reinforced through popular culture, political reference, and a whole panoply of institutions devoted to keeping memories alive. Consider the recent film Denial, about the attempt by David Irving to sue the American historian Deborah Lipstadt for accurately identifying him as a Holocaust-denier. Some people might have thought this comparatively tangential corner of Nazi history to have been well furrowed, only to discover that a new generation hadn’t seen it done and that it was understandable and even necessary to see it furrowed again.

    But what are the consequences of societies with so little memory of 20 million deaths in the USSR? Or the 65 million deaths caused by efforts to instill Communism in China? If those 65 million Chinese deaths cannot detain us, what are the chances that anyone will care about the 2 million deaths in Cambodia? The million in Eastern Europe? The million in Vietnam? The 2 million (and counting) in North Korea? The nearly 2 million across Africa? The 1.5 million in Afghanistan? The 150,000 in Latin America? Not to mention the thousands of murders committed by Communist movements not in power, a number that could almost seem meager compared with the official slaughter?

    Who could survey this wreckage — 100 million deaths in a century alone — and not recoil? Who would stand on top of these 100 million tragedies and think “Once more, comrades, though this time with subtly different emphases”?

    Few would do so boldly. Of course there was the celebrated historian Eric Hobsbawm, who remained in the Communist Party even after the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and earned his place in infamy in 1994 by saying in an interview that, yes, if another 20 million deaths had been necessary to achieve the socialist utopia of his dreams, then 20 million deaths would have been fine by him. Irving claimed that 6 million Jews had not been murdered, and he achieved rightful ignominy. Hobsbawm expressed approval of several times the number of Communist murders and subsequently received from a Labour government one of the highest civilian honors.

    Yet Hobsbawn’s infamous admission is striking for its uncommonness as much as for its drawing-room barbarism. Commoner, especially among the denizens of the academy in the West, is a form of evasion that goes hand in hand with emulation. This is the process, familiar to anyone who has studied the sewers of thought in which some people seek to diminish Nazi culpability in World War II, by which small platoons of intellectuals fight to divert blame from the Communist cause. They blame a few rogue elements and diminish the body count to form some kind of equivalence of their own with whatever crime of the West they can find within reach.

    For decades, America’s public intellectuals have been noteworthy for chipping away at the lower reaches of the Communist canon. It is over the genocide in Cambodia that America’s most cited public intellectual, Noam Chomsky, retains some notoriety. As reports of Pol Pot’s genocide emerged, Chomsky was one of those who wished to ignore the reporters accurately describing what was happening. Instead he relied on Richard Dudman, a source who after two weeks in Cambodia described working conditions in the country as “hard” but “by no means intolerable.” For Chomsky it was clear that, in the wake of America’s involvement in Vietnam, it remained the capitalist U.S.A. that must be focused on as the source of all crimes. Local actors, especially socialist and Communist actors, could be viewed only in a secondary light, and even then with the presumption of innocence, while always and everywhere America met with the presumption of guilt. This is the trick that Irving attempted with the Holocaust and the number of deaths resulting from the bombing of Dresden. American college students are of course not fed — or encouraged to digest — a diet of Irving.

    Other prominent intellectuals in the years since have also viewed the “excesses” of the Marxist dreamers as being either a necessary evil or a necessary evil that did not even happen. Some have managed to hold both thoughts in their heads, as Paul Hollander among others has chronicled.

    Consider that other present favorite of American students, Slavoj Zizek. This is a man who praised the Khmer Rouge “for attempting a total break with the past” and criticized them for being “not radical enough” and for failing to “invent any new form of collectivity.” Thus the jocular imbecility that constitutes Zizek’s style also reveals its moral imbecility. This is a man who, while praising the “humanist terror” of Robespierre, asserted that the French revolutionary “redeemed the virtual content of terror from its actualization.”

    The campuses of the West too often loosen up the politics of the young through such immoral effusions. While the concepts and realities of borders and national identity, which are erroneously believed to encompass a “Fascist” worldview, remain so tainted as to be unusable before any audience of people under 30, the concepts of solidarity, equality, and other benign spillages from the Marxist-Communist worldview remain wreathed in halos. What their exponents mean in practice, what endpoint they seek and what restraints they would ever exercise, never gets asked. But it is in this environ of spilt Marxism that such figures as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren now address their growing young audiences. Were equality (which they press instead of fairness) to have been tainted by an ideological ordure equivalent to that heaped on the concept of borders, then our current conversation would be very different.

    But it is not. And amid the ignorance and the deliberate efforts, the presumption remains that while the perpetrators of Fascism always meant to do evil, the inheritors and emulators of 1917 meant to do good. Only accidentally (and even then only arguably) did they do unparalleled harm. All the while, the people whom students might study and revere to correct this view are disappearing into history. While everybody knows the stories of the good anti-Nazis from more than seven decades ago, the heroes of anti-Communism are becoming forgotten. That 2016 poll of British youth found that 83 percent of young people had never even heard of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

    Well, young people don’t know anything about anything very much” is one response to such findings. But they can, and they do. Alternatively, they can be encouraged to pile optimism on top of ignorance. Consider what the simple iconography and popular history would suggest to an impressionable young mind (what other is there?).

    It is there not just for anybody who seeks it out — such as at the May Day marches, where banners depicting Lenin, Stalin, and Mao are still carried proudly aloft across the West, all without a single hostile demonstrator (let alone Antifa) in sight. It is there even for those not hoping to seek it out. Recently, schoolchildren in Cuba gathered to honor Che Guevara on the 50th anniversary of his death. “Be like Che,” they chanted. But it is not only in Cuba. Also this month, the Irish postal service issued a new commemorative stamp to honor the 50th anniversary of the death of the Argentinian Marxist mass murderer. On and on it goes. When Fidel Castro died last November, it was not Kim Jong-un but Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, who issued a statement describing the late despot as “a legendary revolutionary and orator” who had “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” About Castro’s skills at running the trains on time, Trudeau remained perhaps self-consciously coy.

    So what are they loosened up for, these young people who view the 20th century as having had only one besetting evil? The answer is in the politics bubbling up all around us: the politics at which conservatives are everywhere losing. The politics that got away with its crimes in the 20th century only to reboot itself with a softer, friendlier façade in the 21st.

    That movement includes people who have consistently chipped away at the top as well as the bottom of the barbarism of their forebears. Nine years ago on a television program in Britain, Diane Abbott, a prominent Labour backbencher in Parliament and a rising star of TV punditry, said in passing that “on balance Mao did more good than harm.” For her, the move away from feudalism and the alleged agricultural advances that Mao instituted made up for the 65 million deaths. Back then Diane Abbott seemed as far from the center of power as the even more obscure backbench MP Jeremy Corbyn. Yet as a result of the global financial crisis and specific local political shifts, Corbyn is now the leader of the Labour party and of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition. If there were a general election in Britain today, the polls suggest, he would become prime minister.

    This is a man whose consigliere Seumas Milne used to distinguish himself as a staffer at the Guardian by, among other things, working to whittle down the number of people claimed in articles to have been killed by Comrade Stalin. How everyone laughed at Milne’s persistent Stalinism — until his closest political ally took over the party of the Left and made Stalinism mainstream again.

    Two years ago, after Corbyn first became Labour leader, his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, stood at the dispatch box in the House of Commons and waved a copy of Mao’s “Red Book” to give the Conservatives some lessons in economics. McDonnell has also called for a popular “insurrection” against the elected government. He later said the stunt was a “joke.” He is a man who has consistently advocated violence in the pursuit of political goals and who would be the second-most-important person in government — the man in charge of the nation’s finances — if an election were called in Britain today. Suddenly it has become acceptable on the political left, including the parliamentary left, to open the whole socialist possibility up again. Labour politicians openly debate the merits of forcibly removing private property from “the rich.”

    And so we see revealed the persistence not just of this ideological worldview but of the edifice its modern adherents have been hoping to reconstruct all these decades. Not in Venezuela, or in Cuba, but in a developed modern Western democracy.

    How hard they have worked, these people. And how hard they work still. Never leaving a comrade behind. Never demoralizing those who are working towards similar goals. In recent years they exercised considerable energy defending their comrades in Venezuela. Today, as Venezuela’s troubles have burst into everybody’s view, they lament the tiny mistakes they consider their allies to have made along the way. But the result is always the same. As are the excuses. The problem is never the dish. The problem is that the dish has just not yet been perfectly served. How often it brings to mind that famous exchange between George Orwell and a Stalinist. Orwell was eventually able to make his Stalinist concede that there had been excesses and mistakes — the famines, the show trials — in the attempt to attain the state they were striving towards. And finally the inevitable cliché leaked out: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.” To which Orwell replied, “Where is the omelette?”

    The question lingers still: not just in Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela but now again in the West. How come we are still watching this attempt to make this horrible, bloody recipe, which aims for utopia yet always leaves the same catastrophic, bloody mess?

    There are some people who worry that T. S. Eliot was right: “We do not know very much of the future / Except that from generation to generation / The same things happen again and again. / Men learn little from others’ experience.” Perhaps the only way that the next generation will learn the horror of the Communist experiment is if they experience a bit of it. It is a dangerous gamble to take. It was a theory among some on the moderate left before Corbyn took over their party. Instead of being a healthy working organism that could benefit from the careful inoculation, it turned out that the party was deracinated and weak and ended up getting a full-blown outbreak of the virus it was seeking to inoculate itself against. It is a parable that social democrats and conservatives across the developed world should study with caution. One hundred years on from 1917, it turns out that our stocks of inoculation to this virus remain not just low but dwindling.

    Mr. Murray is the author, most recently, of The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam.


  • Jack 3:04 pm on October 24, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: 1917 revolution, , czar's gold, lina zeldovich,   

    Treasure Hunting 

    It was our third night on the Trans-Siberian Express in mid-July, and we had grown accustomed to the heat. The prehistoric cars contained neither air conditioning nor showers. My husband Dennis, who doesn’t speak any Russian, was left to play with his new fancy video camera, but I was more fortunate ‒ I could listen to conversations. As I stood in the narrow hallway of the train, waiting my turn to use the bathroom, the two middle-aged Russian guys in front of me in the queue were having a heated debate about the infamous treasure train that rattled along these very tracks a century ago, possibly setting the course of the Russian Revolution.

    “The gold’s buried in the woods right out there,” said one of them, jabbing his finger at the vast Siberian plains flying by outside the window. “The guards stole a bunch of it en route.”

    “No, the gold fell into [Lake] Baikal! That’s why no-one can find any trace of it.”


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    The men were arguing over one of the most enigmatic Russian legends: that of Tsar Nicholas II’s family gold reserve, a chunk of which supposedly disappeared during the Russian Revolution 100 years ago.

    The story is part of the reason why we were on this train, so I couldn’t help but interrupt. “Don’t historians agree that all of the gold was found and accounted for?” I asked. “I read it in Sergey Volkov’s book, The Ghost of Kolchak’s Gold Train.”

    The man at the head of the line laughed. “Yeah, right. We always believe what we read in a book!”

    The bathroom door opened and an elderly lady squeezed past us. The man stepped in, but before he shut the door, he stuck his head out and informed me condescendingly, “Anyone can write anything in a book. If you want to know the real story, you listen to the people.”


    My family moved to New York City from Russia nearly 30 years ago, but I’m still weirdly drawn to the country’s old sagas ‒ and the tsar’s lost gold is one of the most enticing.

    Before World War I, Russia possessed the third largest gold reserve in the world, bested only by the US and France. When the war broke out, the tsar’s supporters, the White Forces, moved nearly 500 tons of gold from the capital of St Petersburg, which they felt was too close to Russia’s western border for the gold’s safekeeping, to Kazan ‒ my hometown ‒ a big trading city on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, about 640km east of Moscow. The Bolsheviks’ Red Army, led by Vladimir Lenin and his commander Leon Trotsky, laid siege on Kazan to seize the treasure from the tsar’s troops. Whoever got the gold would have enough money to pay for arms and soldiers, and would win the revolution.

    Whoever got the gold would win the revolution

    In the summer of 1918, after a bitter fight with the White Forces, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks took Kazan. But when the Red Army soldiers triumphantly marched up the steps of the Kazan Bank, they found the vaults empty. The treasure was already on its way to Siberia, which was not yet under the control of the revolutionary regime. Trotsky assembled his own train and gave chase.


    Having done my nightly ablutions over a rattling sink in the train’s closet-like bathroom, I lied on my berth, leafing through the book that Volkov, a lifelong Russian historian with expertise on Siberia and Baikal, had published in 2011, and picturing the two armoured trains chugging through the same woods as my Trans-Siberian Express. It would take me three days to reach Siberia from Kazan, but a century ago the same journey would have taken months. The trains, powered by hand-loaded coal furnaces, moved slowly. And more importantly, hobbled by intermittent battles, fuel shortages, harsh winter weather and the general chaos of war, neither the White Forces nor the Bolsheviks could advance quickly. The chase, which was more like a schlepp with obstacles, progressed in slow motion.

    A few months into the race, halfway across Siberia, the treasure train arrived into the hands of general Alexander Kolchak, the White Forces’ newly minted commander-in-chief. With Trotsky’s troops on his tail, Kolchak directed the train further east, as far away from the enemy as possible. He brought the train to Irkutsk, a trading city near Lake Baikal. And that’s exactly where my train was stopping next.


    We arrived in Irkutsk in the dead of night, when the city is so empty that even taxi drivers were gone. With only a vague sense of where our hotel was, Dennis and I dragged our luggage through the darkened streets, avoiding stray dogs who made their home in the overgrown bushes. Streetlights didn’t seem to work in this part of town, so we spent an hour walking in circles with the moon as our only light. We could barely believe our luck when we finally discovered our hotel behind a patch of tall trees.

    It was here in Irkutsk that the Czech battalions, who had been hired by Russia to fight alongside them in World War I, were stranded after the Bolsheviks seized Russia’s western part and cut off all routes to Europe. The Czechs wanted to go home, so when the treasure train arrived in Irkutsk, they captured Kolchak and the gold and handed them over to the Bolsheviks in exchange for permission to set sail from the Vladivostok port in Russia’s far east. The infrastructure in eastern Russia hadn’t yet been ravaged by the war or the revolution, so for the Czechs, heading east was now safer than taking the more direct route west.

    The collateral worked. The Bolsheviks took the gold, let the Czechs begin their journey and promptly shot Kolchak, who for the next 70 years was portrayed in Soviet history books as an enemy of the people and thus deserving of his death by firing squad.


    But as Dennis and I wandered along Irkutsk’s broad streets the next day, I made a surprising discovery. In one of the city squares I found a recently erected monument to Kolchak, honouring him as an important political figure. Russian historians clearly have rewritten that chapter of the revolutionary chronicle; the monument’s brass plaque explained that he fought for his ideals and died protecting the empire’s treasure.

    Kolchak’s story culminated in Irkutsk, but the treasure’s journey didn’t. The Bolsheviks loaded the gold onto a new train and sent it back to Kazan. According to Volkov, the treasure was returned in its entirety. But some historians insist the numbers don’t add up, easily being off by 200 tons, if not more. Local lore sides with the latter: with such tremendous fortunes at their fingertips, would the hungry, angry, war-ravaged Czech soldiers really hand it all to the Red Army without saving some for their return trip? The local theory purports that the Czech troops stashed crates of gold on their own trains as they headed east through the rocky slopes of the Sayan Mountains, which stand almost perpendicular to Lake Baikal. It was on that rickety, old track where one of the overloaded trains is said to have lost traction and tumbled down into Baikal’s kilometre-deep waters.

    And as the legend has it, that’s where it still lies today.


    The next day we took the Circum-Baikal train ‒ an old-fashioned, coal-powered locomotive capable of pulling only two carriages ‒ to trace what may have been the final leg of the gold’s journey. As we disembarked at our first exploration stop, a flattened patch of land on top of a rocky cliff overlooking Lake Baikal, our soft-spoken blonde guide Tatiana issued a warning. “Be careful going down, the slope is very steep!”

    We passed by the village babushkas selling bread and smoked omul, a Baikal fish, and headed down a meandering path overgrown with stinging nettles. The crumbly soil didn’t hold up well underfoot, making us grab at tree branches and rocks for balance. While a few daredevils went skinny-dipping in Baikal’s frigid water, which barely reaches 10C, I sat on a mound and stared up the slope so sheer that I could no longer see our train. Yes, any carriages that lost their footing here would inevitably tumble down to the lake.

    Back then accidents happened all the time

    Tatiana sat next to me and I couldn’t help but ask, “So is this where the famous gold train fell off?”

    She gave me a wide smile. “That depends who you ask,” she said. “People from Moscow don’t believe this story – they think we made it up. But the local elders, who heard it from their parents, they know something happened. And if you think about it, back then accidents happened all the time. The old trains were wobbly and unbalanced.”


    Her words made me wonder what it was like to ride a train here 100 years ago, so when I climbed back uphill, I headed straight to the train crew. For a small tip, the crew let Dennis and me ride with them in the old locomotive, next to the sizzling, hand-loaded coal furnace.

    “Looking for the gold, huh?” one of the crewmen asked me as the train pulled off with a deafening whistle. “My friend’s father was a diving pro who could stay underwater for five minutes. He dove for that gold every summer but found none. Baikal keeps its secrets, you know.”

    “So is the gold really there, at the bottom?” I asked.

    Baikal keeps its secrets, you know

    The other crewman jumped in. “When the research submersible Mir did its Baikal dives in 2009, the team found train wrecks at 700m deep. They saw small objects glistening through the sediment in a crevice, so they couldn’t get to it, couldn’t grab it to bring it up to the surface. If that wasn’t gold bars then what was it, I’m asking you?”

    The train picked up speed and the rattle of its huge metal wheels became overwhelming. For the next hour, we were thrown around the small cabin and smacked by tree branches while trying to look out the window. But I got to see how incredibly close the tracks were to the precarious edge, and the spine-tingling feeling of hanging over that nothingness made me dizzy.


    That evening, I sat in the outdoor terrace of my hotel in the rustic resort town of Listvyanka near Baikal’s southern tip, recovering from the bumpy train ride and watching the sun set into the lake, colouring the waters a shimmering gold. I was embroiled in yet another debate with yet another local ‒ this time a matronly lady who had the familiar, irrefutable, pro-gold argument. Her son, a gangly man in his 20s, listened quietly, but she was getting upset that I dared to question the legend. “You can’t just go by what’s written in a book,” she raved. “You should listen to the people!”

    And then it dawned on me. In Russia, which lived through decades of propaganda, the printed word changes from one regime to the next, capricious like Baikal’s weather. The Kolchak monument I saw in Irkutsk is a perfect example of that. But while the information published in books and periodicals may change with the tide, the people, who see, hear and pass on what they remember, act as their own historians. Even if they add new details and drama now and then, their memories may indeed hold more truth than a heap of pages fresh off the press.

    We want the legend to live on, it’s just too beautiful to die

    Silenced by this sudden revelation, I didn’t respond to the lady’s fervent speech; she decided I was ignoring her and walked away with an indignant snort. “This is a delicate subject for my family,” her son explained. “My mother told us that her grandfather helped the soldiers bury some gold in the woods, but when he went back he couldn’t find the spot. He spent every summer searching for it, until one year he didn’t come back. He disappeared.”

    “I’m sorry,” I apologised. “I didn’t mean to offend your mother. I’m just curious if the lost gold really exists.”

    “So are we,” he assured me with a smile. “That’s why we want the legend to live on. It’s part of our landscape now, part of Baikal, part of Siberia. It’s just too beautiful to die.”

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  • Jack 3:59 am on October 24, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , canadian history, , ccgs matthew, joseph brean, , , , ,   

    Selling History 

    Canada is selling its last inshore coastal surveyor ship, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Matthew, in an auction that closes on Friday with a minimum bid of $1 million.

    If it sells, a lot of history will go with it.

    Its loss also “decimates” a crucial maritime capability, to map the sea floor off Canada’s coastline, according to people who sailed on the CCGS Matthew over its quarter century of service.

    “It’s absolutely appalling,” said Michael Lamplugh, a retired hydrographer with Canadian Hydrographic Service, who led the team on the Matthew for ten years until 2012. Just the sonar on board is worth more than Canada is asking, he said. And with no replacement, Canada risks not only domestic maritime safety, such as for cruise ships in the Northwest Passage, but also its geopolitical credibility in disputes over sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean.

    When Swissair flight 111 from New York to Geneva crashed nose first into the ocean off Peggy’s Cove, N.S., in 1998, the Matthew sailed immediately out of Halifax, reaching the scene just after the local fishing boats.

    But she had no hydrographic crew to run her surveying equipment. Lamplugh, who lives near the crash site in St. Margaret’s Bay, was on board by dinner time the first day, as the hydrographer in charge. John Hughes Clarke, then a professor of engineering at the University of New Brunswick, flew in to Halifax and the Navy got him on board too.

    “We were mowing the lawn, if you like,” said Hughes Clarke, who is now with the University of New Hampshire. They were using sonar to systematically criss-cross a sea floor that was already naturally strewn with car-sized boulders, looking for a plane. “We mapped fields of boulders and we looked for clusters,” he said.

    In the end, the largest piece recovered was an engine block. “Nothing on that spot looked like a plane,” Lamplugh said. The only man-made thing they could recognize was a mostly forgotten scuttled submarine from the Second World War.

    Sailing the eastern coasts of Canada, Matthew received a fair share of distress calls.

    In August 2011, it took part in the rescue of two lost kayakers from Montreal, a man and a woman, off the coast of southern Labrador. Another time off Yarmouth, N.S., the crew saw a fire on the horizon, investigated, and two crew members discovered a fisherman who had been blown off his boat by an explosion. They performed CPR until they got him to shore, but he died.

    Mainly, though, Matthew was used for mapping the coastal sea floor, showing routes into harbours, and enabling smaller vessels to hug the coast on their journeys, rather than travel far offshore with the big ships.

    It surveyed all around Newfoundland and the Bay of Fundy, sometimes updating charts for the first time since the days of the British Admiralty and Capt. James Cook. It also investigated sinkholes in Bras d’Or Lake of Cape Breton, an inlet from the sea despite its name.

    Lamplugh said the most interesting work was on the shipping corridors up the coast of Labrador, jagged with “pinnacle shoals, underwater mountains.” His last work on Matthew was a new chart for Gros Morne National Park.

    “That I think is the capability we don’t have any more,” said Hughes Clarke. Losing it just to save money is a sorry shame, he said. “Canada still needs more surveys of her coast.”

    The east and west coasts, right up against the U.S. border, are pretty well surveyed now, Hughes Clarke said. But as you head north it gets slimmer until the Arctic, where cruise ships with state of the art global positioning equipment are navigating according to outdated, insufficient maritime charts.

    They know exactly where they are, but not what is underneath them.

    “Canada led the world in sea floor mapping for probably a solid decade,” from about the early 1990s until 2005, said Dick Pickrill, retired manager of marine geoscience at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, in Dartmouth, N.S., where the Matthew is today, awaiting its new owner. Since it came out of service last year, Canada has nothing with the same capability as Matthew on the east coast, and the only similar research vessel, the ancient and decrepit CCGS Hudson, is currently in Burlington, Ont., with its repair contract cancelled.

    It’s part of a broader “rust-out” of Canadian maritime science, Pickrill said. “It seems bizarre.”

    Named for the explorer John Cabot’s boat, the Matthew is 50 metres long, with two survey launches and a helicopter deck that was never used, as it made her top-heavy.

    Walter Foerger, a retired logistics officer who sailed on most other Coast Guard ships, but not the Matthew, spots it in Halifax Harbour every time he crosses a nearby bridge across the harbour.

    “It’s not an eyesore, but it is depressing to see a ship tied up and not being used,” he said.


  • Jack 1:26 pm on October 11, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: battle of tours, charles martel, french history, , , writer in black, writerinblack.com   

    Battle of Tours 

    On this date, in AD732, Charles Martel led the Franks against Muslim invaders near the city of Tours and turned back the tide of Islamic advance at the Battle of Tours (sometimes called the Battle of Poitiers).

    In the preceding 110 years, Islam, thanks to the diligent efforts of polite young men in white shirts and ties on bicycles going out two-by-two, had spread from its origins in the Arabian peninsula through south-central Asia and across the north of Africa, and up into the Iberian peninsula.

    Did I say polite young men in white shirts and ties on bicycles going out two-by-two?  Just kidding.  That’s Mormons.  The Muslims did it by going out conquering and to conquer, slaughtering everyone who would not submit, in a tide of blood across all their conquered lands.

    It seemed that Muhammed and his successors did not understand that “Jihad” meant internal struggle over oneself and that “Islam” meant “peace” and the meaning of “submission” was ones own submission to Allah.  They apparently thought “Jihad” meant real war against unbelievers, using real swords and spears, leaving real dead and mutilated bodies in its wake and the “submission” was forcing those not in Islam to submit to it.  But what did they know?  They only founded the religion or followed in the footsteps of the founder.

    Muslims of the Umayyad dynasty, chiefly Berbers, invaded the Iberian peninsula (really, it was a military invasion, not a lot of missionaries on bicycles.  Besides, the bicycle hadn’t been invented yet).  With an decade they had essentially conquered the Iberian peninsula and were expanding across the Pyrenees into what would eventually be part of southern France.

    In the spring of 732, these Umayyad Muslims defeated Duke Odo at the Battle of the River Garonne, thus setting the stage for what was to come.

    Odo, surviving the battle, asked the Franks for help.  Charles Martel, “Mayor of the Palace” (Ruler in all but name but it would wait for his son, Pepin the Short, for his line to officially claim the throne) would only promise aid in return for Odo submitting to Frankish authority.

    While this was going on, the Umayyads, in apparent unconcern about possible Frankish might, advanced toward the Loire river.  Lax in scouting and unconcerned, they did not note the power massing to oppose them.

    The Umayyads were mostly cavalry.  Charles, according to accounts, was mostly infantry, but heavily armed and armored infantry.  One of the Frank’s main weapons was the Francisca, a heavy-headed, short-handled throwing axe.  The Byzantine historian Procopius (c. 500–565) described the axes and their use thus:

    …each man carried a sword and shield and an axe. Now the iron head of this weapon was thick and exceedingly sharp on both sides while the wooden handle was very short. And they are accustomed always to throw these axes at one signal in the first charge and thus shatter the shields of the enemy and kill the men.

    And at the time of Charles Martel, the axes were still in common use.  It would be some time yet before the Frankish forces converted to being primarily cavalry under the successors to Charles Martel.

    When the Umayad’s reached the Franks and their allies, they faced off with skirmishes while waiting for their full force to arrive.

    Finally, the forces were all ready and the day of battle arrived.  Abd-al-Raḥmân, the leader of the Umayyad forces, trusted to the strength of his cavalry and had them charge repeatedly at the Frankish infantry lines.  The incredibly disciplined infantry stood its ground staunchly despite (according to Arab sources) Umayyad cavalry breaking into their formation several times.

    A charge of Umayyad broke through, attempting to reach Charles reasoning, probably correctly, that if they could kill Charles the Frankish army would break.  However Charles’ liege men surrounded him and held off the attack.

    While the battle still raged, rumors went through the Umayyad forces that Frankish scouts were threatening the Umayyad baggage train and threatening to carry off the loot they’d already gathered in their march northward.  Arab reports indeed claim that this was the case (in a second day of battle where Frankish reports say it only lasted one day).

    This, apparently was too much for many of the Umayyads.  Fight them on the field of battle.  Throw axes at them.  Stab at them with spears and slash at them with swords.  All good.  But threaten their loot?  No way.

    However, they didn’t appear to make clear to their compatriots what exactly they were doing and why.  The others saw them heading back the way they’d come and thought they were in retreat.  And “if he’s retreating, maybe I should be too” is a thought soldiers have shared many a time throughout history.  The result was the Umayyad’s went into full-fledged retreat.  Abd-al-Raḥmân tried to stop the retreat and, as a result, was surrounded and killed.

    The next day, Charles, fearing the possibility of an ambush, kept his troops in formation in their relatively secure position.  He did, however, send out extensive reconnaissance which discovered that the Umayyad’s had abandoned not only the field of battle but their own camp so fast that they’d left their tents behind, heading back to Iberia as fast as their horses and wagons could carry them taking what loot they could carry with them.

    Had to protect that loot.

    The Umayyad’s retreated south back over the Pyrenees and that remained the end of Muslim advance into Europe.  Further attempts into the European heartland were made but they came to nought in the end.  Charles Martel and his forces had broken the back of the Muslim conquest of Europe for many centuries to come.

    How Charles Martel would weep to see Europe inviting in a new generation of invaders with open arms.


  • Jack 2:43 pm on October 1, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Shock Claim? 

    HISTORIANS has thrown doubt on the Ancient Egyptians ever having built the Great Pyramids of Giza instead claiming the monuments could have been built by a lost civilisation.

    The authors of a forthcoming book investigating the only remaining wonder of the ancient world throw doubt on conventional thinking that it was the Ancient Egyptians that built the Pyramids at Giza around 2,500 BC.

    Instead Gerry Cannon and Malcolm Hutton claim that the Sphinx in front of the pyramids must have been carved out of natural rock and long before any sand covered the area, meaning that at one time, long ago the area must have been fertile.

    Mr Cannon told Express.co.uk: “The Sphinx had to have been carved when there was no sand there. You can’t carve a rock when it’s under sand.

    “When it was not under sand was about 12,000 years ago and the Egyptians weren’t there.”

    This would mean, according to the pair’s research, the pyramids and sphinxes were built at least 12,500 years ago which could have been before the start of the Ice Age.

    Conventional thinking about when the Pyramids of Giza were built date construction to between 2,560 to 2540 BC, a difference of around 10,000 years.

    The significant time difference would mean that the artefacts were not built by the Ancient Egyptians, according to Mr Cannon.

    Mr Cannon, although not completely convinced, believes it could have been by the hands of the people of the advanced civilisation of Atlantis that was ultimately consumed by flooding.

    He said: “The theories are, and I can believe them, that there was some advanced civilisation – and I can’t say they are 100 per cent right – that came to this planet tens of thousands of years ago.

    “I’ve done some research and there’s a direct line from the pyramids to a submerged continent with a sea mount and on the sea mount there are two pinnacles that look like pyramids.

    “It’s possible, and I don’t say 100 per cent, that it’s Atlantis – when Atlantis sunk they went to another place, probably Egypt and they had the technology to build those pyramids. There’s no one else that could have done it, we don’t have the technology.

    “Nobody knows who was there 12,000 years ago. The three smaller pyramids at Giza probably were built by the Eygptians as they could be built by man but it’s impossible that the three bigger ones were, simply from the size of them – they’ve got 2,250,000 blocks in them and each block weighs about 250 tonnes, we couldn’t even move it with all the equipment we have today so it had to have been done by a civilisation that was more advanced than any of us.

    “The Egyptians couldn’t have done it, they didn’t have the tools.”

    However the word of Mr Cannon and others who have raised doubts regarding the Egyptians building the pyramids have been met with a brick wall by the Egyptian authorities who maintain the Ancient Egyptians built them.

    Mr Cannon said: “The Egyptians have their blinkers on and they won’t even look at anything else because all their work, all their books, all their history will be thrown out of the window and they are all against anyone that says anything different.

    “There have been big problems. The Egyptians are adamant they built it.”


    • Jack 2:54 pm on October 1, 2017 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Anyone who has been following this kind of information will find this latest claim credible. There’s a ton of information on the net about the great pyramid and other ancient wonders which have yet to be explained properly.

      Here are ten facts on the great pyramid well reinforced in other publications which will cause any reasoning mind to doubt the screams of Egyptian historians.

  • Jack 4:10 pm on September 29, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , frankie johnson, hawker typhoon, joe o'connor, , raf squadron 174,   

    In Remembrance 

    Frankie Johnson was having a Molson Export and reading the papers at the Islington Golf and Country Club in west-end Toronto some months back, a Saturday ritual he observed since it allowed him to hold court with “his pals.”

    On this particular Saturday, Stan Elsdon was the pal, and Johnson was telling him that he had received a call from the Department of National Defence — as he sometimes did. The kid on the line was phoning to inform the 95-year-old former fighter pilot and veteran of the Second World War that he was the sole surviving member of RAF Squadron 174.

    Frankie looked Stan in the eye after offering this bit of information and growled: “Now, why the hell would they want to tell me that?”

    “Frankie was quite pissed off,” Elsdon recalls, chuckling. “But that was him.”

    Frank C. Johnson died in the early morning hours of Sept. 24, after a long life that had always left him feeling lucky. He survived the fighting and had, in his words, a “ball” when he got back. Marrying his best girl, Sheila, hopping out to Aspen on ski trips, working at a good job in insurance, doting on nephews and nieces, playing tennis, knocking around the golf course and getting as far away from the horrors of Europe as he possibly could.

    Johnson would host squadron reunions in the basement of his bungalow. He had a bar, a fridge full of beer — and even a model of his old Typhoon fighter. Old stories would get told, and retold, and the laughs would follow. The last reunion was in 2012. Only six guys made it. War was hell, but so was getting old, and the older Johnson got the more the war scratched at him, a festering sore he would dream about and wake up shaking his head.

    “Frankie always had a war story to tell,” Elsdon says. “But every time he got into a conversation he would remember, as he said, the things that weren’t so nice that he had had to do.”

    Johnson and I met in November 2013, at his home just west of Toronto. He had a voice made for radio. He had crossword puzzles scattered here and there. He talked to me about flying in low on a bombing run and dropping his payload on a ferry, blowing it — and all the people aboard — sky high.

    “We had to kill, see?” he said. The only thing he would point to with some measure of pride was another incident from late in the war. The German air force was almost non-existent by then. Johnson was aloft in his Typhoon when he got a call from the air traffic controller. A German plane had been spotted.

    “Anybody who was an experienced fighter pilot would never be flying over an enemy airstrip and would never be flying in a straight line. But this guy was,” he said. “He was obviously a rookie. Maybe it was his first flight in that God-damned aircraft and maybe he had gotten lost, and so I pulled alongside and I looked over at him.

    “He was just a boy. And I thought to myself, why the hell would I kill this kid? The war is almost over. He doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. So I waved at him and flew off.”

    Johnson did not attend Remembrance Day services. He wore a poppy, but the politicians’ speeches, and the spectacle of the day, bothered him. He didn’t need a special occasion to remember the foolishness of it all.

    He was shot down and crashed into a farmer’s field. He had a bullet in his hip, shrapnel in his shin and was, in his words, a “God-damn mess.” He was captured and cold. A German soldier gave him his coat and, the next morning, a German farmer’s wife washed him, spoon-feeding him soup.

    “Now, why would she do that?” he said. “I was the enemy. I still can’t get over it. Jesus. She was a wonderful person.”

    He realized, right then, that most Germans weren’t a bunch of raving Nazis, but ordinary folks. People with sons and daughters — sons, like Frankie, who were probably just as scared and sick of the killing and dying and waste as he was. He never took a day for granted after he got back. His wounds prevented he and Sheila from having any children, but they had an old Husky dog named Yukon, though Johnson called him Tom. After Sheila passed away from dementia, Johnson lived alone.

    Doctors barred him from driving, which he couldn’t quite understand, since at 18 his government had told him he was old enough to kill people — and suddenly he was too old to handle a car?

    He told them he planned to live to be 105. He made it to 95 and, up until a few weeks back, was still making his Saturday trips to the golf club to have a Molson, read the paper and hang out with his pals.

    On Friday night they are holding a wake for him at the club. Cold beer will be on tap. Frankie Johnson paid for it in advance.


    See Also:

    (1) RB396’s Journey

    (2) No. 174 Squadron RAF

    • Jack 4:34 pm on September 29, 2017 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I posted this story because O’Connor did something that very few of our younger generation never bother to do. Talk to these elderly people before we lose their memories completely.

      That is a sad thing but it is something that the “Justin Trudeau’s” of this world count on as they try desperately to change our countries in ways young people never envisioned in 1939. And here’s my point: because we forget we are already doomed to repeat Johnson’s scenario unless we wake up.

      They call his generation the “finest generation” but in truth there have been many generations, rising to the challenges our countries faced time and again.

      I am not fooled by the ongoing idiocy pandered as good politics these days by those who have no clue. I prefer to learn from the past and if at all possible avoid something which in the long term is likely unavoidable. Humans have a natural propensity for extreme violence and one only needs to read back to understand how long that bloody trail is.

      Rest assured, there will be future wars. The only question is when. I prefer to put it all off as long as possible.

      Rest in peace, Franky and “God Bless”.

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