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Canada Remembers Times
Veterans’ Week Special Edition

5-11 November 2021 - Page 1

Peacekeeping in Egypt

Canadian peacekeepers on the border of Egypt and Israel in 1962.
Photo: Department of National Defence

A special milestone in international relations is being observed in 2021. This year marks the 65th anniversary of large-scale United Nations (UN) peacekeeping efforts—the ground-breaking approach to diffusing conflicts by sending in neutral forces to separate the combatants and build peace in troubled regions of the world. Canada has been involved in these kinds of missions from the beginning.

The 1956 Suez Crisis was an armed standoff in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. The forces of Egypt were on one side and the troops of Israel, Britain and France were on the other. The situation was extremely tense and threatened to draw the world into war, so the UN worked to find a solution. Canada would play a pivotal role, suggesting a new kind of military mission which would have a lasting impact on the way the international community deals with unrest in different corners of the globe.

Lester B. Pearson, Canada’s Minister of External Affairs and a future Prime Minister, proposed that a multinational force drawn from UN countries (including Canada) would go to Egypt to enforce a cease-fire and oversee the pull out of foreign forces. This idea would have a huge influence on the way the world responded to conflicts and would help define Canada’s international role in the decades that have followed. In recognition for his contributions, Pearson was awarded the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize.

At war in the Persian Gulf

A Canadian service woman in the Persian Gulf region in 1991.
Photo: Department of National Defence

One of our country’s best known military efforts in more recent decades was the Gulf War. More than 4,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in the tense Persian Gulf region in 1990-1991 as part of the international coalition of countries that came together to push the occupying troops of Iraq out of neighbouring Kuwait.

Our service members played a variety of important roles, from sailing on three Canadian warships that served with the Coalition fleet, to flying CF-18 jet fighters on attack missions, to operating a military hospital and more. It also marked the first time that Canadian women served in combat roles during a conflict. The active fighting ended on 28 February 1991 when the Coalition forces offered a ceasefire to Iraq. This had followed six weeks of a devastating air campaign, followed by an armoured and infantry offensive that quickly liberated Kuwait.

Fortunately no Canadians were killed in the Gulf War but it took a lasting toll on many of those who were there. Thirty years after the Liberation of Kuwait, we remember the brave Canadians who served.

A tragic day to remember

Newfoundland soldiers before their attack at Beaumont-Hamel.
Photo courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL NA-3105)

In most of our country, July 1 is simply known as Canada Day. In Newfoundland and Labrador, however, it has an additional and much more somber meaning. There, it is also known as Memorial Day—a time to remember those who have served and sacrificed in uniform.

On this date in 1916 near the French village of Beaumont-Hamel, some 800 soldiers from the Newfoundland Regiment went into action on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. They bravely advanced into a thick hail of enemy fire, instinctively tucking their chins down as if they were walking through a snowstorm. In less than half an hour of fighting, the regiment would be torn apart. The next morning, only 68 were able to answer the roll call. It was a blow that touched almost every community in Newfoundland. 105 years later, the people of the province still solemnly commemorate it with Memorial Day.

The regiment would rebuild after this tragedy and it would later earn the designation “Royal Newfoundland Regiment” for its members’ impressive actions during the First World War. Today, the now-peaceful Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial overlooks the old battlefield and commemorates the Newfoundlanders who served in the conflict, particularly those who have no known grave.

Fighting in Hong Kong

Canadian soldiers training in the hills of Hong Kong before the invasion.
Photo: Imperial War Museum KF 193

The Battle of Hong Kong was Canadian soldiers’ first major action during the Second World War. Some 1,975 of our troops—mostly members of Manitoba’s Winnipeg Grenadiers and Quebec’s Royal Rifles of Canada—set sail from Vancouver in late October 1941. Their mission was to help defend the British Crown Colony in East Asia from the threat of Japanese invasion.

Only weeks after the Canadians arrived after crossing the Pacific Ocean, the enemy attacked Hong Kong on 8 December 1941. The outnumbered Allied defenders fought bravely before finally being forced to surrender on Christmas Day. Approximately 290 Canadians were killed and almost 500 wounded in the heavy fighting. Life for the survivors in Japanese prisoner of war camps would be incredibly harsh. Over 260 more of our soldiers would lose their lives due to malnutrition, hard labour and physical abuse over the next four years, before finally being liberated when the war ended in August 1945.

Holding the line at Kapyong

‘Holding at Kapyong’ war painting by Ted Zuber.
Image: Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. Canadian War Museum 19900084-001

The Battle of Kapyong was a key chapter in Canada’s efforts during the Korean War. In the spring of 1951, the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry would see heavy action when enemy forces launched a major attack through the Kapyong River valley. If the enemy succeeded in breaking the United Nations lines, the city of Seoul was in danger of being captured.

The Canadians came under intense fire during the night of 24-25 April 1951 from waves of charging enemy soldiers in the hills above the Kapyong River. At times our troops were completely overrun and the situation so desperate, they even requested their own artillery to fire on their positions to drive off the attackers. The outnumbered Canadians later became surrounded and their ammunition ran low, so they had to get new supplies dropped by air.

During the fight, 10 of our soldiers were killed and 23 wounded, but against all odds, the Princess Pats had maintained their position and held back the enemy. The battalion received the United States Presidential Unit Citation for their brave actions at Kapyong, a rare honour for a non-American military unit.

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