Sunday, March 30, 2014

96 Years Ago Today (3) - The Battle of Moreuil Wood

March 30th, 1918.
This is the tenth day of Operation Michael. The German army has advanced through British positions over a forty mile front. Now they are concentrating on driving a wedge between the British and French armies. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade is attached to the 3rd British Cavalry Division, which has been used mounted and dismounted to struggle against the onrushing Germans.
They are bivouaced at Guyencourt.
5:30 am - Troopers are "standing to their horses". Horses have been fed and saddled. Men had a quick breakfast supplied by the cooks.
             - Word is received--move cancelled for two hours.
9:00 am - The Brigade is on the move, crossing the River Noye and heading northeast.
The road to Castel, Moreuil Wood on the horizon
Some time later a motorcycle despatch rider intercepts them.
 They change direction and proceed toward Castel. Across the River Avre at Castel is Moreuil Wood.

General Seely leads the way across the river with his signal troop, establishing a position at the northwest corner of the Wood.
The bridge across the Avre River at Castel
He is joined by the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), the CCB Machine Gun Squadron, and Fort Garry Horse.
The Brigade is already desperately undermanned.
This day they will suffer many casualties, their ranks depleted by nearly another half. Killed, wounded and missing totalled 305 men, with the Strathconas suffering the most losses.
9:30 pm - The cavalry is relieved and proceed back across the Avre River to the Bois de Senecat, just west of Castel. They are mounted on whatever horses they can find.
midnight - The troopers are able to turn in.

For a copy of my novel Soldier of the Horse, the story of one cavalry trooper's time in the Great War, please see "buy my book" to obtain same from Amazon, or go to my website for a personalized copy.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

96 Years Ago Today (2)--Onward to Moreuil

Typical Picardy countryside, west of Moreuil
  March 29th, 1918.
The Canadian Cavalry Brigade is remounted, with all three regiments, Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), and Fort Garry Horse all in one place. The Strathcona's billet overnight at Sains Morainvillers, Picardy.

6 am--Reveille, an hour later than the normal 5:00.
The Canadian Cavalry Brigade is beaten up, men and horses showing the strain of lack of sleep and short rations. It has been raining, but at least they managed a better than normal amount of sleep.
3 pm--the brigade is on the move, crossing to the west bank of the Noye River. They bivouac at Guyencourt Wood.
midnight--the troopers get their heads down, having set up horse lines, seen to their horses, managed something to eat.
Orders--"Stand To Your Horses" at 5:30 am tomorrow. They'd be up, horses taken care of, scant rations wolfed down, saddled up and ready to go.

Friday, March 28, 2014

96 Years Ago Today, Onward to Moreuil

A trooper in happier, training days
March 28th, 1918. Ninety-six years ago today, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, attached to the British 3rd Cavalry Division, had for a week been in a desperate fight. The German army had broken through and overrun weakened British divisions on March 21st in Operation Michael. Men and horses are exhausted and have suffered many casualties. For a few days they had been separated into dismounted and mounted groups, but now they are remounted and back together.

4:15 am- the brigade received word of a gap in the defensive line at Montdidier.
6:30 am- the brigade moved off.
9:00 am- They were halted and ordered to bivouac.No sooner were fires started but before water for tea boiled, they were mounted and off again.
"C" Squadron, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) are very busy. Lt. Flowerdew and a contingent hunt for Germans, but no contact is made. Lt. Harvey has more luck--he and his party meet a party of Germans and attack, driving them from Fontaine. On falling back, he and his men are arrested by the French, who think they are German impostors. General Seely eventually sorts this out, and Harvey is later awarded the Croix de Guerre for his work that day by the red-faced French.
The rest of the brigade spends most of the day waiting in the rain, and by 6 pm they are billeted in Sains Morainvillers.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hunter Killers--A terrific book about submarines and submariners

Product DetailsI will shortly be publishing a review of  "Hunter Killers: The Dramatic Untold Story of the Royal Navy's Most Secret Service", by Iain Ballantyne. It tells the story of Royal Navy submarines and submariners during the Cold War. "Dramatic" is certainly the word for it, and secret, for sure.

More to follow.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Great War Election With a Twist

Here is a review I did recently for a book by Debbie Marshall, an Alberta historian.

Give Your Other Vote to the Sister: A Woman's Journey into the Great War (Legacies Shared)Give Your Other Vote to the Sister is a fascinating look at a forgotten historical figure, Roberta MacAdams. It is at the same time a narrative of author Debbie Marshall’s retracing of the physical journey of MacAdams’s life, from Ontario to Alberta, the Great War, politics, and eventual family life.
The focus of the book is the Great War, and Roberta MacAdams’s no small contribution to the welfare of Canada’s soldiers and their families. She lived in tumultuous times for women, with the ongoing battles for women’s rights and the vote. MacAdams was the second woman elected to any legislature in the British Empire, the first being her legislative mate Louise McKinney, who preceded her by a matter of months. Both women were beneficiaries of political expediency on the part of the Alberta premier, and not of any great principles on the part of male politicians. What made Ms MacAdams’s election victory unique was that she was elected by soldiers.
Liberal premier Arthur Sifton feared a Conservative vote by soldiers serving overseas if they voted in their home ridings. His solution was to give them their own constituency, which would have two elected members. Thus it was that each soldier could vote twice, which led to the very effective campaign slogan: Give One Vote to the Man of Your Choice and the Other to the Sister.
This is a very readable history of the life and times of Roberta MacAdams, but as well as her compelling story, Ms. Marshall has layered in her own journey into the Great War. Her historical photos as well as those of contemporary remnants that MacAdams would have experienced add to the ambience of the book.
Highly recommended.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Moreuil Day 2014

 By rights, Moreuil Day should always be celebrated in Moreuil, France, on March 30th. There are practicalities in life, though, so the next best thing is, for some, a luncheon on March 20th at the North Sidney Yacht Club.
The gathering this year included more than thirty veterans of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), Royal Canadian Dragoons, and Fort Garry Horse--as well as one ex-submariner.
Pictured here are seven of the attendees on their way to Sidney from Tsawwassen, on board a BC Ferry.

And if they had looked forward, instead of toward the camera, here's what they would have seen, looking toward Active Pass.
A beautiful day, and a significant occasion. Thanks to the organizers and armoured corps vets for a great day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

HMCS Okanagan--Best Boat Ever!

On a recent visit to Victoria I had a very happy reunion with Mike Dalzell, RCN Ret'd. Mike and I served together in HMCS Okanagan, the third of Canada's O-boats.

Mike has since mailed me one of the OK's commissioning booklets, shown at left. It is a real thrill to be able to, in a sense, renew acquaintances with the boat and crew.

Later this year, I'll be in Halifax to say hello to more of the gang from the "best boat ever"! (And it's not just me that says so.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

HMCS Okanagan lives on--remnants and memories

This happy gentleman is George Cruickshank, proprietor and head tour guide at the Museum of the Battle of the Atlantic, located in Duncan, BC.
I recently made a thrilling visit to George's museum. He has hundreds of artifacts from Allied and German submarines and ships, uniforms, etc.
One room is partitioned off, and accessible only through a Fleet Boat-sized doorway.

Inside it are George's most valued Canadian submarine pieces, including this gorgeous clinometer salvaged from HMCS Okanagan, the last-built Canadian Oberon-class boat. She lives on in the memories of her crew, and is brought to life by George's enthusiasm.

Check out the museum here: 

Monday, March 10, 2014

British Submarines at the Western Front

I'm happy to report that I presented a short discussion on the topic "British Submarine Operations in the Great War" yesterday, March 9th. The occasion was the 14th annual AGM and conference of the Western Front Association-Pacific Coast Branch.
Given the advanced spot I had in the program--ie last on the list--I'm very appreciative of the large number of attendees that stayed after the official close, and of the organizers, who let me run over my allotted time!
Bravo Zulu to the Branch and their officers, who had an excellent turnout and put on a terrific program. More about that soon.
And a reminder to others who couldn't make the event, I'd be only too pleased to arrange to bring the topic to other groups.

My email:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Here is another shot taken in the Vancouver Island Military Museum. Not very good of me, but it is very good of my pal in the RCN square-rig whites, pre unification.
The museum, located in Nanaimo, is easy to find on Cameron St, just behind the casino.
A great and welcoming place to visit, it features areas that deal with the War of 1812, WW I and II, Korea, and the Cold War. Excellent displays of Canadian Army equipment, RCN ships and RCAF aircraft.
Highly recommended!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lord Strathcona's Korea Veteran Still Contributing

This photo was taken in the Vancouver Island Military Museum in Nanaimo. Pictured is former Trooper Pat Patterson, who crewed tanks for Canada in Korea and the early years of the cold war.
Pat is one of the many motivated volunteers who makes the Museum an inspiring place to visit. Here, he's standing in front of a display that features the often-seen photo of Lord Strathcona's tanks in Korea.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Life at sea risky--above and below the waves

There are two ongoing stories that demonstrate the risks run by those that go down to the sea in ships, even in peacetime.
HMCS Protecteur has suffered a fire in the engine room and has lost propulsion hundreds of miles off Hawaii. Twenty Canadian sailors were injured, luckily none seriously. But a fire at sea is a terrible threat, made worse in this case by the presence of some family members. The latter have been transferred at sea to USS Michael Murphy, a guided missile destroyer. Unfortunately the Murphy has been unable to take Protecteur under tow in the nasty sea conditions. It is hoped that a guided missile cruiser, USS Chosin, will be able to do so.
In another ocean and another navy, the Indian navy's submarine Sindhuratna had an accident at sea, during which two sailors were lost and seven injured were airlifted ashore. This deadly event comes only six months after another Russian-built Kilo-class boat exploded and sank while alongside, killing eighteen. The Indian naval chief has resigned.
Meanwhile, in the Crimea, Mr. Putin is putting the whole world's nerves on edge....