21 March 2007

Time for something a little different

I've decided to make a change in the format of The Cannon's Mouth / Par la Bouche de nos Canons. Basically, I'm going to try to make this blog more personal. As I close in on the one year anniversary of working on this project, and as I approach 120 posts, I've been thinking about the format I've settled into. And, to be blunt, I'm not happy with it. So, it's time for a change. I'm going to try to approach the writing of this blog in the more traditional (if such a term can be used for a technology so new) sense of the genre being a "web log", or diary if you will. This is reflected in my new masthead statement: "A journey through Canada's military history / Un voyage par l'histoire militaire du Canada". After all, most of what I post is a reflection of the material I discover as I follow the paths of my craft as an historian. The remainder comes from readers who send me information, and for that I'm quite glad and would like to say thank you. Please keep sending me material as I have no intention of straying from the subject matter at the core of this blog - just how it's presented.

I'm going to begin with some of the highlights of my experiences in the pursuit of Canadian military history yesterday. I spent the day at Library and Archives Canada looking at a couple of areas of research. First, I was looking for material on a trench raid in which the 49th Battalion, CEF, participated in during early June 1917. This was to help with material I've been putting together on the raid for my job at the Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence. More on that subject in a future post. Suffice it to say, I looked through a couple of battalion files on "minor operations" - the intriguing name given to patrols, trench raids, small scale attacks - but didn't find much new to me.

The second area I spent researching (and on my own time) involved finishing researching the operations log / war diary of First Canadian Army for December 1944 and January 1945 as well as the war diary for the headquarters of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division for the same period. The reason for this is work on a book length project for which I know a publisher who is very interested in having me produce a manuscript for. The project is the Allied assault on the island of Kapelsche Veer, in southwestern Holland, from late December 1944 through January 1945. This was a nasty piece of business, the terrible weather colliding with a strong sense of pointlessness about the entire endeavour. I had the opportunity to conduct a battlefield tour of the island with Dr. Steve Harris (Chief Historian, Directorate of History and Heritage) in May 2005 for the Canadian Forces' contingent involved in the commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. Three visits to the island - the surface of which has only changed minimally in sixty years - and I was hooked. This is a sad, heroic, tragic, violent tale - war in a nutshell. To date, there have only been a couple of article of chapter length treatments of the operation in English and the subject cries out for more. I'm still in the very early stages of research on the project, but I'm already finding fascinating avenues to follow, coming up with interesting questions, and discovering primary and secondary sources in English, French, Dutch, German and Polish (the 1st Polish Armoured Division attacked first).

Last night, I stumbled across the latest issue of the Canadian Military Journal / Revue militaire canadienne, vol.7, no.4, Winter 2006-07, to be precise. The electronic version always precedes the hard copy which I see at work. As usual, this journal has much to offer in the way of Canadian military history, including: Second Lieutenant Will Lofgren's "In Defence of 'Tommy' Burns" / "À la défense de « Tommy » Burns"; Béatrice Richard's "Henri Bourassa and Conscription: Traitor of Saviour?" / "Henri Bourassa et la conscription : traître ou sauveur?";
Rob Stuart's "Leonard Birchall and the Japanese Raid on Colombo" / "Leonard Birchall et le raid japonais sur Colombo"; Eric Wagner's "The Peaceable Kingdom? The National Myth of Canadian Peacekeeping and the Cold War" / "Un royaume pacifique? Le mythe canadien du maintien de la paix et la guerre froide", as well as a handful of book reviews on historical publications.

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