Category Archives: canada

A Smoke and a Read

105 years ago. February 1918. Offical caption: A Canadian soldier enjoys a few minutes with the Canadian Daily Record (Un soldat canadien prenant une pause, s’apprêtant à feuilleter le Canadian Daily Record).”

Note his SMLE .303 to Sergent’s left, a Mills Bomb and electric torch by his pillow for repelling trench-raiding stosstruppen, a gas mask and bayonet eternally at the ready; and a kettle and water can by his rope bed.

Department of National Defence. Library and Archives Canada, PA-002507

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, more than 650,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in The Great War– big numbers considering the country had a population in 1914 of just under 8 million. Canada suffered a staggering 66,000 killed and more than 172,000 wounded in the conflict.

Flip Trihey and The Irish Rangers (of Montreal)

On 2 February 1916, General Order 69 authorized the 55th Regiment “Duchess of Connaught’s Own” Irish Rangers with recruiting starting in mid-March, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

In fact, to help drum up recruits among ethnic Irish in Quebec for the Overseas Battalion, the Montreal St. Patrick’s Society and the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society held a concert for the nascent unit on March 17th. It followed in the wake of the 110th Irish Regiment (now the Irish Regiment of Canada), which had been stood up the year before in Toronto.

Another public draw for recruits was the fact that the unit’s commander was Lt. Col. Henry Judah “Flip” Trihey, O.C., a lawyer and well-known center forward and team captain with the Montreal Shamrocks when they won the Stanley Cup back-to-back at the turn of the century.

Trihey’s name was printed on all of the recruiting posters, and a special “Sportsman’s Company” was raised, drawn from local lacrosse, track and hockey enthusiasts. 

Added to the unit’s leadership was Capt. William James Shaughnessy, the son of Canadian Pacific Railway president, Lord Thomas Shaughnessy, the latter an important donor when it came to funding Canadian units. Lord Shaughnessy had already lost his younger son to the Germans, Alfred, who fell in France with the 60th Battalion just a month after he arrived. 

Group of officers from the Irish Canadian Rangers, May 1916. Trihey and Shaughnessy are up front.

The unit shipped out as the 199th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), aboard the liner/troopship RMS Olympic on 20 December, consisting of 33 officers and 860 enlisted.

Arriving at Liverpool on Boxing Day, the only “service” performed by the unit as a battalion was to take time off of training for a rambling two-month tour of Ireland, where it was used to help drum up additional recruits to “take the King’s shilling” and show goodwill.

Irish-Canadian Rangers in Cork in 1917

Irish Canadian Rangers, O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, 1917.

It should be remembered this was just after the April 1916 “Easter Uprising” and finding either was hard. 

Returning to England, the Irish Rangers were basically dissolved, amalgamated into the 23rd Reserve Battalion, CEF on 11 May 1917, forming the disingenuous 23rd Canadian Reserve Battalion (199th “Duchess of Connaught’s Own” Irish Canadian Rangers), and would never uncase its colors in France. Its men were sent out piecemeal as replacements for other Canadian units on the Western Front, resulting in Triley and several of the other senior officers resigning their commissions in protest.

Officially disbanded on 15 September 1919 and then reborn intermittently as a militia battalion, the unit’s history, along with several others created over the years in “The City of Saints,” is somewhat perpetuated by The Royal Montreal Regiment, whose flag carries 28 Great War, four WWII, and one Afghan battle honor.

As for Trihey, after the war he remained affiliated with assorted Canadian hockey teams and served as Commissioner for the Montreal Harbor Commission, passing in 1942, aged 64. He was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950 and is recognized as “the first man to utilize the three-man line and he also encouraged defencemen to carry the puck.”

Clowns and Mills Bombs

78 years ago today, 23 January 1945: PVT Marcel St-Laurent of “D” Company, Le Régiment de Maisonneuve, clowns for the camera at Cuyk, Netherlands. Details of the fuze on the bottom of the No. 36 Mills Bomb grenade can be seen. The length of the cloth bandolier has been altered by tying a knot in it to make it shorter.

First introduced in May 1918 and updated in the 1930s, the No. 36M Mk I was the British Army’s standard hand grenade until 1972 and still pops up in Africa and the Middle East from time to time.

A Canadian UN soldier in Korea with a U.S. made M-1 Carbine and several British Mills bomb grenades.

As for the good PVT St-Laurent, the Montreal-recruited Régiment de Maisonneuve was first recruited in 1880 and covered itself in glory in both World Wars– where its members became well-acquainted with the Mills Bomb. When the top image was taken, the regiment had previously landed in France in July 1944 as part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. It was bled white through the Battle of the Scheldt, and the Walcheren Causeway before reforming for the final campaigns in the northern Netherlands and the Battle of Groningen.

Infantry of the Regiment de Maisonneuve moving through Holten to Rijssen, both towns in the Netherlands. 9 April 1945. Lt. D. Guravitch. Canadian Military photograph. New York Times Paris Bureau Collection. (USIA) NARA FILE #: 306-NT-1334B-11

It endures to this day as a Primary Reserve unit, still based in Montreal, along with the better-known “Van Doos” of the 22nd Regiment, making up one of the few French-language units of the Canadian forces.

Ninth (and Third Frigate) HMS Glasgow to hit the water

The planned class leader of the Royal Navy’s new Type 26/City-class “Global Combat Ship” frigates rolled off the hardstanding and onto the submersible barge at BAE Systems Govan last week.

She is set to be floated out into the Clyde in a very slow-motion launching ceremony at Glen Mallan, all very Scottish as one would expect for a ship that will become HMS Glasgow.

She will be the ninth such warship to carry the name, dating back to a 20-gun sixth rate that became part of the RN in 1707. Past Glasgows have included a 40-gun fifth-rate Endymion-class frigate that served in the late Napoleanic era, a Portsmouth-built wooden screw frigate that was so beautiful as to be used by Sultan Bargash of Zanzibar as the model for his royal yacht HHS Glasgow, two 20th century cruisers that fought in two successive world wars, and a Type 42 destroyer that fought during the Falklands.

An ASW-optimized ship, the Type 26s will run just over 8,000 tons, use a CODLOG configuration to hit a stately 26 knots (making them probably the slowest frigates since the circa 1960s Leander-class design), and armament that includes a 5-inch gun (rather than the 57mm pop gun on the planned U.S. frigates), 48 Sea Ceptor anti-aircraft missiles and a 24-cell VLS for everything else. They can also carry two Wildcats and only need a 150-ish-man crew to operate.

The British plan to order eight of the ships.

There is a lot riding on the Type 26s to work out, as both Canada and Australia have already ordered up to 24 copies for their own use (numbers likely to be whittled down due to budgetary reasons), something unusual for an unproven design.

Last Inglis Hi-Powers Set to Fade Away

Canada was the center of Allied Browning Hi-Power production during World War II with an estimated 150,000 crafted in Toronto by the John Inglis Company– which is now Whirlpool Canada.

Originally built for the KMT, complete with 300M sights and a wooden stock/holster, most Inglis Hi-Powers went on to be made in a simpler No. 2 format sans stock and with simpler sights.

While Nationalist China accepted 40,000 No. 1 models, the British took almost 50,000 simplified No. 2 models, and further deliveries were made to other allied countries, the Canadians kept around 20,000 No. 2s for themselves and have been using them ever since.

Canada has kept their No. 2 MK I  Inglis Hi-Powers in operation since 1944, using commercial BHP parts to keep them running.

Well, that is set to change next year as the last of these veteran Maple Leaf-marked Browning-Inglis models will be turned in, replaced by new SIG Sauer P320s.

The contract, announced last week by Canada’s Minister of National Defense, is valued at $3.2 million (USD) and will be for an initial batch of 7,000 P320 handguns with an option for up to 9,500. The pistols, type classified as the C22 in Canadian service, will equip the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, and Military Police.

More in my column at Guns.com.

Halifax 57 Art

Below we see the Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) arriving at Busan, South Korea last week as part of the RCN’s continuing Operation Neon— Canada’s contribution to the monitoring of United Nations Security Council sanctions designed to pressure North Korea to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs. Note the art on the rear of Vandy’s Bofors 57mm L/70 Mk3 naval gun.

Canadian Forces image by Sgt Ghislain Cotton

The dozen Halifaxes all have similar gun shield art as a matter of pride.

Royal Canadian Navy Halifax class frigate 57mm Bofors Gunshield art HMCS VILLE DE QUEBEC 332

HMCS ST JOHN’S, on Op Reassurance

Royal Canadian Navy Halifax class frigate 57mm Bofors Gunshield art HMCS FREDERICTON 337 departs Den Helder 17 Oct 2021

HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN,OP REASSURANCE

HMCS CALGARY 335 honors her namesake, the WW2 corvette HMCS CALGARY K231(left), with her gunshield art

HMCS CALGARY departs Sasebo Japan

57mm Bofors old lion gunshield art Canadian navy frigate Halifax class HMCS St.Johns Mediterranean Sea Operation Assurance

Royal Canadian Navy Halifax class frigate 57mm Bofors Gunshield art HMCS Winnipeg.

Royal Canadian Navy Halifax class frigate 57mm Bofors Gunshield art HMCS Montreal

Royal Canadian Navy Halifax class frigate 57mm Bofors Gunshield art HMCS Halifax

Royal Canadian Navy Halifax class frigate 57mm Bofors Gunshield art HMCS Ottawa carrying the legacy shield art of HMCS GRIFFIN

More on the art, here.

The Remnants of 1 & 2 Can Para, 80 Years on

The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was formed in July 1942 with an authorized strength of 26 officers and 590 other ranks, formed into a battalion headquarters, three rifle companies, and an HHC. Incidentally, 2 Can Para was formed shortly after and shipped south to Montana to join a U.S. force to form the First Special Service Force (aka The Devil’s Brigade).

1st Canadian Parachute Battalion shakes hands with Russian officer Wismar Germany on May 4 1945. Source: Photo by Charles H. Richer Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada, PA-150930.

1 Can Para jumped into Normandy during Overlord/Tonga alongside the 6th British Airborne division– the first Canadian unit on the ground in France since Dieppe– and after reforming (the battalion suffered 367 casualties in the D-Day operation) would fight in the Ardennes and jump across the Rhine in Operation Varsity.

32 Canadian paras with 22IPC Pathfinders, were the first Canadians in France on D Day

Uniform and equipment worn by the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion paratrooper via Legion Magazine, note his helmet and toggle rope

2 Can Para would fight with the Devils Brigade up the length of Italy earning battle honors at Monte Camino, Monte Majo, Monte La Difensa/Monte La Remetanea, Anzio, and Rome.

Devils Brigade…

Post War

With its battalion-sized parachute units disbanded after WWII in favor of a few smaller units dispersed through its infantry regiments, the Canadian Airborne Regiment was stood up in 1968, composed of two “commando” battalions (one English speaking, one partially French) at Edmonton, Alberta, then later shifted to Petawawa, Ontario. The Regiment was soon at work in Cyprus in 1974 (and would return there several times in future years).

By 1977, this changed to an airborne-capable commando company in each of Canada’s three active infantry regiments (The Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and the “Van Doos” of the Royal 22e Régiment), seen as capable of landing at a remote strip in the Canadian far wilderness (or Greenland, Iceland, or Alaska) and setting up for fly-in units in the event of a Soviet incursion over the North Pole, while the Canadian Airborne Regiment was reduced to a battalion-sized rump.

Today

Following a terrible scandal stemming from the Canadian Airborne Regiment’s 1992 tour in Somalia, the regiment was disbanded. However, that doesn’t mean the canucks don’t still maintain an airborne capability.

The 1977 program, with the 3rd Battalion of the RCR, PPCLI, and The Van Doos all maintaining a parachute-certified company, typically the “M” company, persisted. Further, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), carrying the lineage of the old Devil’s Brigade, was formed in 2006 to pull off the sort of ops that the old Canadian Airborne Regiment was tasked with from 1968-1995. In short, the Canadians could put together a reinforced airborne battalion combat team if needed, i.e. the old 1 Can Para. 

As the RCAF only has 29 active CC-130J/CC-130H Hercules and a few elderly CC-130Es in storage, they could only combat drop a battalion-sized force in one go anyway, so the size fits what the Air Force can deliver. 

Today, M(3)PPCLI and M(3)R22R are airborne-capable while the entire 3rd Battalion, RCR, is rated as airmobile/air assault and includes a paratrooper company as well, and they recently got some canvas time in, conducting parachute and helocast maneuvers in Petawawa, Ontario as part of Exercise Royal Trident.

Remembering Dieppe at 80

The colossal foul-up that was Operation Jubilee or the Dieppe Raid, using a brigade-sized mix of mostly Canadian troops augmented by a few U.S. Army Rangers and Allied Commandos to capture and hold a French Channel port in a dress rehearsal for taking Europe back, was 80 years ago today. It turned out to be the Canadian Army’s costliest day of WWII with 907 men killed, another 2,500 wounded, and 1,976 captured.

Two Canadians received the Victoria Cross for their bravery.

German officer and soldiers examining a Churchill tank stuck on the beach in front of the boardwalk after the battle, its left track broken. Wounded men lying on the ground are about to be evacuated. Dieppe, August 19th, 1942. Department of National Defence / National Archives of Canada C-017293.

The poor showing led to putting off the liberation of France for two years as the Allies concentrated on opening the second front in the Axis’s “soft underbelly” in the Med. 

This year’s commemoration includes a few of the remaining Veterans, contingents from the Canadian Army, and HMCS Kingston.

Assiniboine takes a scalp

Some 80 years ago today, on 6 August 1942, the Royal Canadian Navy’s C-class destroyer leader HMCS Assiniboine (I18) turned herself into a knife to slice up a German sausage in the form of a U-boat

Ordered in 1929 for the Royal Navy as HMS Kempenfelt, she joined the British fleet in 1932 and served until the outbreak of World War II, when shortly after Hitler sent his legions over the Polish border, the 1,400-ton tin can moved over to the Canadians and was given her Assiniboine moniker (just “Bones” to her crew) and was soon busting German blockade runners in the Caribbean. Allocated for mid-ocean escort service in June 1941, she would ride shotgun on a staggering 71 convoys.

This brings us to Kptlt. Rudolf Lemcke’s U-210, a Krupp-built Type VIIC operating with the Steinbrinck wolfpack some 20-days into her first war patrol.

From the excellent Post Mortems On Enemy Submarines – Serial No. 4 in the NHHC collection:

At 1325 on August 6, in a patch of clear weather, H. M. C. S. Assiniboine, forming part of the escort of S. C. 94 from Halifax to the United Kingdom, sighted a conning tower bearing 30° range 6 miles. At 1338 she fired three salvos, before the last of which the U-boat altered course to port and dived. It has been positively established by survivors’ statements that this boat was not U-210Assiniboine arrived in the vicinity of this U-boat’s diving position at 1357 and altered course to 330°, this being the estimated course of the U-boat before she dived. Assiniboine then carried out a box sweep in the area, at 1418 firing a pattern of depth charges set at 100 to 225 feet, but with no evident results, and continued to sweep in the presumed track of this U-boat.

At 1912 Assiniboine sighted a conning tower bearing 120° at 2,000 yards retiring at full speed into the fog. At 2036, with visibility about 2,000 yards, she established a Radar contact bearing 270°. Almost immediately she sighted U-210, stopped. Then U-210 went ahead at full speed and altered course to starboard, disappearing into the fog after Assiniboine had fired one round. Assiniboine, hearing H. E. at this time bearing 300°, increased speed, but misjudged the distance she had run and, thinking she had passed the U-boat’s position, altered to 345°, the target’s estimated course. She then realized her mistake, and altered course back to 190°. Visibility was then 600 to 800 yards.

At 2000 the bridge watch was relieved aboard U-210, the following men coming on duty: Quartermaster Holst, Coxswain Krumm, Monbach, and Meetz. Mueller relieved Mycke at the helm. Mueller is believed to have stood alone in the conning tower at this time. As none of the bridge watch survived the following action, accounts of the sinking of U-210 are limited to his statements and those of men below decks.

According to Mueller, fog closed around the U-boat as the watch was relieved and Lemcke, thinking that U-210 was safely hidden, came below to eat his supper. A few minutes later Mueller heard confused sounds of shouting and firing above, and Lemcke and Tamm passed him on the way to the bridge. General alarm was sounded throughout the U-boat, by buzzers in the forward compartments and by flickering green and red lights in the engine room, as the crew were eating their evening meal.

–13–

View from aboard Assiniboine.
Assiniboine.

–14–

Closing in on the sub.
closes

–15–

Ship along side submarine.
enemy.

–16–

Assiniboine takes a scalp.
Assiniboine takes a scalp.

–17–

At 2050 Assiniboine gained another Radar contact at 035° on the starboard bow, range 1,200 yards. She closed it at full speed and about 1 minute later sighted U-210, still on the surface. She closed to ram at full speed, having first housed the dome and prepared a 50-foot depth-charge pattern.

Both vessels opened fire and for about 25 minutes a furious action ensued at almost point-blank range. U-210 took a constant evading action, and Assiniboine was forced to go full astern on the inside engine to prevent U-210 getting inside her turning circle, which the U-boat seemed to be trying to do. During some of this action the two vessels were so close that Assiniboine‘s company could see Lemcke on U-210‘s bridge bending down to pass wheel orders.

Aboard U-210 no effort was made to dive immediately nor could anyone reach the 8.8-cm. gun, but fire from Assiniboine was returned by Holst, manning the 2-cm. gun at a range of approximately 200 yards. Explosive bullets were used and started a second-degree fire in Assiniboine‘s forecastle, spreading aft almost to the bridge.

Lemcke was blamed posthumously by his men for not submerging at once, but the volume of smoke pouring from the destroyer apparently led him to believe that he had damaged her considerably, and encouraged him to prolong the action. Prisoners also stated that he felt he could escape on the surface through the protecting fog, if need be.

Assiniboine‘s first hits damaged one of U-210‘s port trimming tanks. The bridge was then struck by machine gun bullets. Holst was shot through the neck and killed outright, and Krumm was badly wounded. An instant later Assiniboine scored a direct hit with her 4.7 gun on the conning tower, the shell making a shambles of the bridge.

A prisoner stated that Lemcke was literally blown to pieces, and that Krumm, lying wounded, was virtually decapitated. It is assumed that Tamm also suffered a violent death.

Mueller believed that a body was flung against the torpedo firing mechanism, releasing an unset torpedo. Between them prisoners counted three more direct hits: One through the forward torpedo tubes, another which carried away the deck covering between the 8.8-cm. gun and the forward torpedo hatch – neither causing leaks in the pressure hull – and one aft which smashed the screws, water entering the boat. The boat was down by the stern, the electric motors had caught fire, and the round hitting the conning tower had severely damaged the Diesel air-intake.

During the action an attempt was also made to fire one torpedo.

The tube’s crew was told to stand by, but the order was never given.

With the conning tower practically demolished, Sorber, the engineer officer, now attempted to dive U-210. As the boat submerged, she

–18–

was rammed to starboard by Assiniboine abaft the conning tower and over the galley hatch (Kombüsenluke). U-210 descended to a depth of 18 meters. Water was flooding into the boat through the damaged Diesel air-intake, and through the battered stern. The electric motors had failed and everything breakable within the boat had been shattered.

Sorber gave the order to blow tanks and abandon ship, under the misapprehension that Göhlich, who had received superficial cuts, was too badly injured to make the ultimate decision. Sorber later reproached himself for surfacing and surrendering as he believed, upon subsequent reflection, that he might have been able to escape submerged. On surfacing, it was found that the water in the air-intake prevented the Diesels from being started and, according to survivors, U-210 remained stopped and slightly down by the stern. Assiniboine rammed again aft as U-210 surfaced, firing a shallow pattern of depth charges as she passed. The C. O. of the destroyer stated that the U-boat then sank by the head in 2 minutes.

Mueller stated that he stayed at his post until he heard the order. “Blow tanks; stand by life jackets!” He then left the helm as his life jacket was in the forward torpedo compartment and the men had been told never to take any but their own. He clambered through to the bow compartment, where he found a number of men abandoning ship through the forward torpedo hatch. Water was flooding through the hatch as he followed them. The majority of the engine-room personnel thought they were trapped when they found, first, that the galley hatch was jammed, and then, that they could not move the conning tower hatch which had become jammed by the direct hit on the bridge. Through their combined exertions they finally got the conning tower hatch open. The last man out of the control room stated that water was well over his boots there as he left.

When all were mustered, the engineer officer and one of the control room petty officers apparently went below, opened flooding valve 5 and put an explosive charge in the periscope shaft. There is a special opening in the shaft inside the boat for this purpose. The radio men threw overboard a number of secret papers, or burned them with incendiary leaflets. They also smashed the radio equipment with a hammer. Sorber himself denied that he had done anything more than open the seacocks before leaving the boat, as the last man out.

U-210 sank at 2114, H. M. S. Dianthus appearing out of the fog in time to see her go under. Although at the time of her sinking her after aerial was out of action and her Morse key broken, the chief radioman said he was able to send a signal reporting her sinking. Although this signal was much under power, he was sure that if B. d. U. did not receive it, one of the other U-boats in the vicinity did.

–19–

One survivor said that the radioman told them afterward that he had not been able to send any signals.

In view of the tremendous punishment taken by U-210 it is remarkable that the entire crew below decks escaped with their lives.

Bones would survive the war and be scrapped in 1952 with three Battle Honours (Atlantic 1939-45, Biscay 1944, English Channel 1944-45).

Four years later a new St-Laurent class destroyer (234) would perpetuate her name in the RCN, carrying it until 1995.

The battle between Bones and U-210 is remembered in maritime art. 

HMCS DIANTHUS IN THE DISTANCE. BONES BEATS U210 THE AUGUST 1942 SINKING OF THE GERMAN SUBMARINE, U210 BY HMCS ASSINIBOINE Tom Forrestal CWM 20110023-001

HMCS ASSINIBOINE by SubLt Beatty Grieve CWM 19740552-002-2487×2160

ASSINIBOINE VERSUS U-BOAT U-210 CDR Harold Bement CWM 19710261-1021

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