Who's Dead Are They Anyway?

An Insult to Sacrifice

Unlike Australia, Canada allowed the British to execute Canadian soldiers deemed to have failed in their duty to the King. Twenty-three Canadian volunteers were shot by British firing squads during the First World War, as if 64,944 Canadian men giving up their lives for the Royals were not enough.

Nov 11, 2014 - Today, accompanied by a member of the Royal Family, Princess Anne, a man with a colonial's mentality will again lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. His very presence will be an insult to all who died  for a sometimes vague notion of liberty, democracy and human rights, and not as colonials pining for a foreign king or queen.

PM restores ‘royal’ moniker to Canada’s navy and air force Globe and Mail, Aug 15, 2011

"Royal label lets troops stand a little prouder, a little taller," says Defence Minister Peter MacKay ... "

"Rebranding forces will honour military heritage and past victories," says Prime Minister Harper.

Canada’s armed forces are again flying the colours of a foreign aristocracy responsible for Passchendaele (1st Earl Douglas Haig, The Butcher of Flanders), Dieppe (Lord Mountbatten) and other military misadventures in which the Canadians were just so much cannon fodder.

Blurring the Lines

Rick Atkinson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is the first significant American historian of the Second World War, whom I have read, who gives Canadians their due.

If others gave most, if not all the credit for the liberation of Europe to themselves and the British, it may have something to do with Churchill, who, to inflate the British contribution, as the author points out in The Guns at Last Light - The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 [Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2013], had Canadian casualties listed as British loses:

Fearful that Britain's contribution was undervalued even as the American preponderance grew, the Prime Minister demanded that Canadians dead and wounded be included in the British publication of casualties. p. 125

It is unfortunate that our anglophile Prime Minister is not more of a reader. If he were, and if Canadian history held any interest other than for political gains, he would never again have blurred the line between Canadian and British Armed Forces.

The Snub at Antwerp

The Canadian First Army sustained almost 13,000 men killed, wounded or missing clearing the Germans from the approaches to the port of Antwerp.

When ships could finally sail into Antwerp at the upper end of the vast tidal estuary of the Scheldt without fear of being sunk by German shore batteries, a ceremony to welcome the first liberty ship was held – a ceremony to which the Canadians were not invited. The British again took all the credit in what historian Rick Atkinson calls "a lamentable snub".

Without the port of Antwerp to supply the Allied armies, the invasion of Germany would not have been possible. That was the reason why the German objective in the Battle of the Bulge was to retake Antwerp, or at least stop the tens of thousands of tons of war material and supplies now flowing to the Allies largely because of the Canadians' sacrifice.

My late father-in-law was a World War II veteran. Thankfully, he died before our Prime Minister decided to dishonour his memory and that of his dead comrades by doing what the British did to them during the War, belittle their sacrifice.

The Snub at Compiègne and Lüneburg Heath

In ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, Prime Minister Harper repeated the old canard about our nation being forged in the crucible of the First World War: “Yet, amid the appalling loss, by any measure, Canada, as a truly independent country, was forged in the fires of the Western Front”. As if 66,000 Canadians dying to preserve the British Empire was Canada's Declaration of Independence.

66,000 dead was not enough to get Canada's Arthur Curry invited to the signing of the Armistice; 37,000 dead in the Second World War was not enough to get Canadian commanders, who fought under Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's overall leadership, to the official unconditional surrender at Lüneburg Heath of the German forces in the Netherlands and in northwest Germany.

At least, the Americans had the decency, when they accepted the unconditional surrender of German forces in their sector, to allow a commander of the the Free French Forces (estimated loses, 12,600 dead subsequent to the Normandy invasion) which fought under Eisenhower's overall leadership, to witness, in writing, the German surrender.

If Harper's Canada has to emulate the armed forces of another country, he should make it the Americans.

June 20, 2014 - New Uniforms for Everyone, Old Chap

The CBC revealed yesterday that the Harper government will be spending at least five million dollars on new uniforms for Canada's military; modifying existing uniforms to replace Canadian emblems and insignia with the British Royal Crest and British Forces insignia proved impossible without damaging them, so its new uniforms for everyone, old chap.

Bernard Payeur