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Thursday, 08 November 2012 16:11

Take the time to pause and remember this Nov. 11

Written by  Dale Ferrel
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As Nov. 11. approaches, each additional year adds another chapter to the long history of service by our Canadian armed forces.

Literally thousands of pages documenting their accomplishments and their losses are available coupled with as many photos, drawings and paintings.
I will select what I believe to be a few snippets from various times and places I believe will help us to get a snapshot of their valour along with events on the home front and will strive to chronologically list the events.
FIRST WORLD WAR: Our nation consisted of about eight million Canadians. An astounding 620,000 men and women “volunteered” to serve for King and country.
Of that number, 66,655, or one in nine, were killed.  Another 173,000, about one in four, were wounded. For every 61 who returned unharmed, another 39 were killed or injured. Psychological injuries were not recognized at that time so it is likely almost every soldier was effected in some way.
BATTLE OF THE SOMME: The biggest single day losses for allied troops came on July 1, 1916. Four Canadian Divisions were part of the 30,000 lost in the first hour. Another 28,000 casualties were recorded by nightfall. For every metre of the 12 kilometre advance more than 51 allied solders were struck down.
The Newfoundland Regiment of 800 men had only 68 men still standing at days end. How anyone claiming to be in charge of this debacle could claim that walking thousands of men over open ground into machine gun fire and artillery bursts made them leaders astounds me.
WILLIAM GEORGE BARKER: The deadliest fighter pilot who ever lived died in 1930 at the age of 35 in a flying accident. He was one of only seven Canadian aviators ever awarded the Victoria Cross, the military’s highest honour. He downed a total of 50 enemy aircraft. After the war he was the founding, acting director of the Royal Canadian Air Force. In 1927, he was the first president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He also exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
SECOND WORLD WAR: Having previously dealt with many land, sea and air missions by our armed forces, I will dwell solely on the Dieppe raid and Canadian efforts on the home front this time.
THE DIEPPE RAID: For 70 years since the raid, many including myself have questioned the sanity of what appeared to be a poorly-planned and executed abject failure.
First, I wondered why the raid was not cancelled after German ships were encountered and obviously warned their defence forces.
Following that, there was poor weather and delays that turned an intended raid in darkness to one in daylight. The efforts at neutralizing the defences by bombardment from ships and planes had very little effect. Tanks lost their tracks or spun out on the lose stoney beach. A total of 119 allied aircraft were shot down.
Of the 5,000 Canadians involved, 913 were killed and 3,300 wounded or taken prisoner. It could not have gone better for the enemy if they had planned the attack themselves. So why the insanity?
A hard-working war historian, has now almost surely determined a top-secret operation called “Operation Jubilee” was the reason for the five-pronged attack that was to last for only five or six hours.
The whole effort was designed to distract the German defences and provide cover for 200 Royal Marine commandos to take the local German headquarters quickly.
They were to go ashore by way of a special flat bottomed boat — HMS Locust — that could enter shallow water to decrease both their exposure and arrival time to get ashore. Their goal to capture special German decoding equipment intact could have saved the lives of thousands of allied soldiers and sailors. Unfortunately, they too encountered tremendous opposition and their mission was aborted.
Other logical reasons for the raid have also surfaced over the years. It distracted a huge number of enemy forces away from the Russian front sending a message to the Russians that we were supporting their efforts in some way. Much was learned about preparation, tactics and equipment that saved thousands of allied lives during the main invasion into Europe on D Day.
THE FARMER’S WAR: In April, 1941, Federal Agricultural Minister, James Gardiner broadcast an urgent message to Canadian farmers. He still wanted wheat, but urged them to move into producing more hogs, cattle, eggs, butter and cheese.
The farmers responded. Hog production rose from 3.5 million to 7.5 million per year. In 1944, 700 million pounds of bacon went to to Britain meeting 85 per cent of their total demand. Nearly a total of three billion pounds were shipped during the course of the war. Cattle production doubled to over two million per year as did the production of cheddar cheese at 177 million pounds in 1945. Egg production also followed suit as did potatoes, due to a newly-invented dehydration process.
Canadian farmers endured long hours of labour, worn-out machinery with limited replacements and a shortage of help, but responded magnificently to the war effort.
THE KOREAN WAR: June 25,1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations responded with a contingent of armed forces from several countries. Canada sent three battalions of Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) as our contribution to the three-year war which ended in a stalemate. It remains so today, thanks to United Nations incompetence.
A total of 26,791 Canadians served during the conflict while 7,000 more served from the signing of the armistice, July 27, 1953 until the end of 1955. Canadian casualties  totaled 1,558 with 516 of those being fatal.
The Royal Canadian Navy provided eight destroyers. Our Air Force provided transport service with 600 round trips over the Pacific carrying 13,000 passengers and 3,000,000 kilograms of freight without a loss. Twenty-two fighter pilots served and were credited with 20 enemy aircraft destroyed.
AFGHANISTAN -  MAY, 2005 TO JULY 2011: Killed — 148. Wounded — 1,830. Estimated cost $18 billion or about $1,500 for every Canadian family. And all of this for a total exercise in futility.
“But we will remember each and every one of them.”   

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