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Canada Remembers Times - 2012 Edition - Page 4

The Falcon of Malta

Beurling marking his kills.
Photo: LAC PA-037422.

George “Buzz” Beurling was born in Verdun, Quebec, in 1921. In September 1941 he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF). His first action was escorting bombers and flying fighter sweeps across the English Channel.

Shortly after his first kill over Calais, France, in May 1942, Beurling was posted to the Mediterranean island of Malta. The “Falcon of Malta” shot down 17 enemy aircraft in just 14 days and his total of 27 kills was the most by an RAF pilot over the island. For his accomplishments, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Flying Medal, and the Distinguished Service Order.

He owed his combat success to good eyesight, excellent shooting skills and the ability to fly his Spitfire like no other pilot would dare. His aggressive style saw him shot down four times over Malta, however, suffering several injuries. On October 31, 1942, while being medically evacuated to Britain, his flight crashed into the sea off Gibraltar. One of only three survivors, Beurling eventually returned to the cockpit with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Squadron Leader Beurling was the most successful Canadian ace of the Second World War, ending his military career with 31½ confirmed kills.

The Sawdust Fusiliers

Proud members of the Canadian Forestry Corps
show off their muscles.
Photo: CWM 19930065-858
© Canadian War Museum

An urgent need for lumber in the First World War led to the creation of a special auxiliary service: the Canadian Forestry Corps. Also known as “The Sawdust Fusiliers,” it was created to supply the huge quantities of wood needed on the Western Front. For every soldier, an estimated five trees were required to build living facilities, make crates to ship food, weapons and ammunition . . . and even for coffins.

The British government concluded that nobody was more qualified to harvest timber than the Canadians. Instead of shipping the wood from Canada, however, our lumberjacks were sent over to cut down forests in the United Kingdom and France.

Through the achievements of the Canadian Forestry Corps, the British armies in France became self-sufficient in timber and trans-Atlantic shipping space was freed for vital reinforcements and supplies.

Did You Know?

Helicopters were used for the first time on the front lines during the Korean War, proving essential in the evacuation of wounded United Nations troops. Because there was a relatively static front line during the second half of the war, field hospitals could be located near the fighting and the helicopters did not have to fly far. More than a thousand Canadians were wounded. About half remained in the area to receive medical attention while the more severely wounded were airlifted to Canada.

Highway of Heroes

Canadians paying respects along the Highway of Heroes
in Northumberland County in 2007.
Photo: Pete Fisher /

Canadian Forces members have served in Afghanistan since late 2001 in support of the war on terror and to help stabilize the troubled country. The most dangerous part of Canada’s mission there was in the Kandahar region from 2005 to 2011. Kandahar was a hotbed of insurgent activity and our soldiers had to constantly be on guard anytime they left their camps to go “outside the wire.”

Sadly, more than 155 Canadian Forces members have died in Afghanistan over the years. People have honoured them by lining the overpasses of Ontario’s Highway 401, between Trenton and Toronto, which fallen soldiers travel on their return to Canada. Flags fly, fire truck and police car lights flash, salutes snap, and men, women and children respectfully stand as the convoy of vehicles passes by. On a stretch of road now known as the “Highway of Heroes,” Canada remembers.

Michel Noël during the war.
Photo courtesy of Mireille Noël.

Michel Noël, born Jean-Noël Croteau in 1922, grew up in Québec City. He volunteered with the Régiment de Hull in 1943 and joined the Army Show to entertain the troops. He served in the Aleutian Islands in November 1943, and was later sent to Europe, where he fought in the Battle of the Scheldt and in the Netherlands. While in Bergen Op Zoom, Noël was severely wounded by an explosion. A piece of shrapnel stayed in his heel for the rest of his life.

Following the war, Noël went on to become a famed author, singer, radio personality, comedian and actor for more than four decades. He created the well-known character Capitaine Bonhomme and popularized the expression “Les sceptiques seront confondus-dus-dus!” (The skeptics will be baffled!). He died in 1993.

A Good Neighbour

Mrs. A leading classes at Waterloo
Station in London, England. 1945.
Photo: - Museum on the Boyne

Not all Canadian women spent the Second World War years in uniform or in coveralls. To the women on the home front, Kate Aitken’s voice was akin to welcoming a good friend to their kitchen. Mrs. A, as she was fondly known by her listeners, dispensed household hints, gossip, down-to-earth advice, and current events on her CBC Radio show “Your Good Neighbour.” Her broadcasts even provided a week’s menu based on the considerations of rationing and the produce in season from Victory gardens.

The Ontario native was also a speaker, interviewer, educator and cookbook author. As the conservation director for the federal Wartime Prices and Trade Board, her slogan “Use it up, wear it out, make over, make do” also became a poster. Her “Remake Review” tour even travelled across Canada with new ideas for remaking clothing. Mrs. A’s wartime popularity was so great that in 1945 alone, she received 260,000 letters. She really was a good neighbour!

Did You Know?

A rock memorial honouring fallen Canadian soldiers in the Panjwa’i District will remain in Afghan soil long after our troops leave the region. The stones represent Canadian soldiers who died in the area. Members of the Royal 22e Régiment took the stones from the memorial and buried them in a nearby trench. This emotional ceremony took place just weeks before the end of the longest combat mission in Canadian history, which lasted from 2001 to 2011.

Touchdown for Remembrance

Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Trophy.
Photo: VAC

Ontario’s Jake Gaudaur is a Canadian hero. A fighter pilot during the Second World War, he also won Grey Cups as a player and an executive. He was the commissioner of the Canadian Football League (CFL) from 1968 to 1984. Many football players like Gaudaur have also worn a military uniform and exemplified the attributes of Canada’s Veterans: strength, perseverance, comradeship, courage and contribution to community. The Jake-Gaudaur Veterans’ Trophy is presented each year to the CFL player who best personifies these qualities. Jake Gaudaur passed away in 2007, at the age of 87.

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