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Canada Remembers Times
Veterans’ Week Special Edition

5-11 November 2022 - Page 1

We remember Vimy Ridge

Victorious Canadian soldiers returning from the front lines at Vimy Ridge.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-001270

Canada’s remarkable victory at Vimy Ridge during the First World War is one of the best-known battles in our country’s military history. At 5:30 a.m. on 9 April 1917—Easter Monday—the first waves of 15,000-20,000 Canadian soldiers emerged from their trenches and tunnels to attack this heavily defended hill in northern France. Whoever controlled the high ground at Vimy could dominate a broad stretch of the surrounding front lines, and the Allies wanted to capture this key position.
The battle would be the first time that all four Canadian divisions went into action together. Our troops braved heavy enemy fire as they fought their way up the slopes of Vimy Ridge. They did so with the help of a “creeping barrage”—an advancing line of carefully timed and precisely aimed Allied shell fire which forced the Germans to take cover. The Canadians closely followed behind these explosions and when the barrage shifted ahead to the next set of targets, our soldiers captured the enemy positions before the battered German defenders could react.

The fighting was bitter but most of the hill was captured by early that afternoon, and by April 12 all of the ridge was in Canadian hands. This success came at a great cost, however. Nearly 3,600 Canadians lost their lives and more than 7,000 were wounded. Many have come to believe that the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which saw Canadians from coast to coast to coast come together to triumph, was a pivotal chapter in Canada’s development into a strong and independent country. It remains a point of great Canadian pride today.

Fighting for peace in the Balkans

Canadian peacekeepers traveling in their armoured personnel carrier in the Balkans in 1993.
Photo: Department of National Defence

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of one of the most significant international peace support efforts in Canada’s history—the United Nations Protection Force in the Balkans. When the communist government of Yugoslavia collapsed in the early 1990s, old ethnic and religious differences in the southeastern European country flared into a bitter civil war. Canada and other countries sent peacekeepers to try to help. It was exceptionally challenging as there was very little “peace” to “keep” at first. Instead, the violence continued all around them and atrocities against civilians were common.

Early in the United Nations mission, Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia-Herzegovina grabbed the world’s attention as they helped open the Sarajevo airport to international relief flights in the midst of active fighting around the city. They also helped deliver vital supplies to the local people and pushed to restore security in the war-torn region. David Ott of Nova Scotia was there:

Opening up the airport in Sarajevo was probably amongst some of the biggest highlights in my career. Bringing food and medicine to people that hadn’t had it. I mean that’s what we were there for. But we always looked at the heartbreak of the shooting and the shelling. We were the first Canadians shelled since Korea… we had to deal with that.

Tens of thousands of Canadian Armed Forces members would serve in the peace efforts in the Balkans in the 1990s and 2000s, with 23 of our peacekeepers sadly losing their lives there. How will you remember?

Heavy losses at Dieppe

Allied ships in the English Channel heading for Dieppe on 19 August 1942.
Photo: Library and Archives Canada PA-171080

The Dieppe Raid took place on 19 August 1942, and would prove to be Canada’s bloodiest day of the entire Second World War. Almost 5,000 of our soldiers landed along the shores of occupied France at the towns of Dieppe, Puys and Pourville. The Allies carried out the ill-fated raid for several reasons. They wanted to test German defences, gather intelligence on enemy technology and secret military codes, as well as practice coastal landing techniques for future operations. It was also hoped that the attack would ultimately force the Germans to shift some of their resources from the Eastern Front to take some pressure off our allies fighting there.

Sadly, things did not go as planned and the strong German defences took a dreadful toll on the attacking Canadians. More than 900 of our service members would lose their lives and almost 2,000 more were taken prisoner. John Patrick Grogan of Ontario was there:

“We knew what we were supposed to do all right. We were to get to land and get over the beach as quickly as we could and get up over the sea wall. But on landing… the beach was lined with people all lying there… I just couldn’t understand what they were all lying there for. But they were dead.”

80 years after the Dieppe Raid, the people of France remember our brave soldiers who fought there—and so do we.

The RCR at Hill 355

The war painting “Incoming” by Edward Zuber depicting the Royal Canadian Regiment fighting at Hill 355 in 1952.
Photo: © Canadian War Museum CWM 19890328-008

More than 26,000 Canadians served on land, at sea and in the air during the Korean War of 1950-1953. One of the places our soldiers saw the most action was Hill 355— a towering front line position nicknamed “Little Gibraltar.” It was strategically located about 40 kilometres north of Seoul and was greatly valued because it was the highest ground overlooking the surrounding front lines and supply routes. Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) soldiers had been sent there in September 1952 and enemy forces had periodically bombarded our troops in the weeks that followed, leaving the defenses badly weakened. Preparations were clearly being made for an attack and it finally came in the early evening of 23 October 1952. The Chinese laid down another heavy artillery barrage, then sent their soldiers forward in a large raid on the Canadian troops.

Under heavy assault and with communications cut off, some of the Canadians were forced to abandon their defensive positions to the surging attackers. Tank and mortar fire from United Nations forces was poured into the captured areas, however, as well as on nearby Hill 227 and the valley to the north which the Chinese also held. The enemy withdrew and the Canadians were able to reoccupy their lost ground in the early hours of October 24. The fighting had taken a heavy toll, however, with 18 Canadians being killed, 35 wounded and 14 more taken prisoner.

The Great Ice Storm of 1998

Canadian soldiers working on a toppled power transmission tower in January 1998.
Photo: Department of National Defence

Canadian Armed Forces members not only help defend peace and freedom around the world, they also help out during emergencies here at home. Canada is a vast country with millions of square kilometres of forests, countless rivers and an environment that can often be severe. When natural disasters like floods, forest fires and storms strike, our military can quickly swing into action.

A prime example of this important support came in January 1998 when a major ice storm hit Eastern Canada. Days of heavy freezing rain caused great damage to trees, power lines and buildings. More than four million people would lose their power, leaving them without lights, central heating, running water, refrigeration and warm meals in the depths of winter. The governments of Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick quickly asked for military assistance to deal with this widespread crisis.

In response, the Canadian Armed Forces launched Operation RECUPERATION on 8 January 1998. Soon our service members were helping clear debris, rescuing stranded people and animals, repairing downed power lines, assessing damaged roads and bridges, feeding and sheltering people in need, and providing security. More than 15,750 regular and reserve force personnel from approximately 200 units across the country would take part in this effort, making it Canada’s largest operational military deployment since the Korean War.

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