28 May 2007

Funding for The Military Museums

The Prime Minister's website is reporting important news for the presentation of Canadian military history by one of the country's largest military museums. Under the title "Canada's New Government announces support for local military museum" issued on 25 May 2007, the federal government announced that it would contribute $5 million to The Military Museums (the former Museum of the Regiments) in Calgary, Alberta. Prime Minister Harper remarked: "As the national government, we must do our part to ensure projects that seek to tell Canadians the stories that have shaped the country we know and love today, just as The Military Museums will do, flourish across the country, not just in the nation’s capital.”

27 May 2007

Latest issue of Canadian Military History

I have the latest issue (vol. 16, no. 2, Spring 2007) of Canadian Military History (www.canadianmilitaryhistory.com) in hand and, as usual, it contains a wealth of interesting and informative material on Canadian military history, including the following: David Campbell, "A Forgotten Victory: Courcelette, 15 September 1916"; McKenzie Porter, "Tommy Prince: Warrior", with an introduction by P. Whitney Lackenbauer; Cameron Pulsifer, "Colonel Wily's Brainchild: The Origins of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa's Cartier Square Drill Hall, 1880-1896"; Roger Sarty, Marc Milner and Doug Knight, "Saint John's Red Head Battery: A Forgotten Military Artifact of Confederation"; and Lee Windsor and Lee Ellen Pottie, "Fighting Time: Gregg Centre and Royal Canadian Engineers Join Forces to Record New Brunswick's Past".

25 May 2007

Book review of Anthony L. Stachiw and Andrew Tattersall's CF104 Starfighter (In Canadian Service: Aircraft #4)

In this, my third review of a recent Vanwell Publishing Limited release, the subject matter and book format are a little different than in my first two reviews. This time around, the book is Anthony L. Stachiw and Andrew Tattersall's CF104 Starfighter (In Canadian Service: Aircraft #4) (Vanwell, 2007).

From the very beginning of this 150-page, extremely well-illustrated book, it is clear that this project was a labour of love for the author, Anthony Stachiw, as well as the illustrator, Andrew Tattersall. Stachiw in an aviation industry veteran and former commercial pilot whose has had an active interest in military and civil aviation his entire life. Tattersall is a technical designer, also with a lifelong interest in aviation. The amazing colour aircraft profile drawings were created by freelance artist Stephen Otvos.

This book is a reference tool, with a substantial amount of historical context thrown in to round out the story of the CF104. It covers, to my mind, every conceivable aspect of the history, design, general operational use and technical details of the aircraft - everything from paint schemes to the original "downward firing ejector seat system" of the American-built F-104s.

The first chapter deals with the American background, specifically the design, production and use of the Lockheed F-104 from the early 1950s through the late 1970s. The numerous variants and changes in operational usage and status are clearly set within the context of what could only be described as a troubled and perhaps disappointing career in the United States Air Force. Nevertheless, Stachiw is able to justify that the nearly 2,600 Starfighters produced made it "one of the most important Western postwar military aircraft" (p.22).

The CF104 Starfighter is introduced in the second chapter as part of the overall ability of the Americans to expand the production of the F-104 to allied markets. By the late 1950s the Canadian government was forced to look for a replacement aircraft for the F-86 Sabres and CF100 Canucks serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons on North Atlantic Treaty Organization duties in western Europe. Stachiw's coverage of the type of aircraft produced in Canada, the impact on the Canadian aviation industry, testing, training of pilots, deployment and operations in Europe until the 1980s make this a very interesting discussion. He also discusses the aircraft's perhaps unenviable safety record (the "Widowmaker" moniker), given that more than 100 Starfighters were in major accidents in the air and on the ground, with nearly forty fatalities suffered. Finally, he provides serial number, acquisition and "destiny" data on the overall CF104 fleet.

The third chapter, titled "Aircraft Description and Drawings", is, not surprisingly, where the book gets really technically-minded. This portion provides great detail on the specifications of CF104s, combining data, images and drawings.

The fourth chapter takes the structural or organizational look, and provides brief lineages and operational histories on the divisions, wings, squadrons, training units, and establishments involved in operational flying, training of pilots, or testing the CF104 during its time in the Royal Canadian Air Force / Air Command. This chapter also provides illustrations of the badges of these units and formations, some of them rarely seen outside of unpublished documentation.

A different sort of technical matter is the subject of the fifth chapter, specifically colour schemes and markings for the CF104. Likely of particular interest to the aircraft modeller, this information is also well placed in the context of the CF104's operations within the Canadian military. Of special note is the explanation of some of the unique or eccentric paint schemes ("Tiger", "Checkerboard", etc.) used on the aircraft at various times.

The sixth chapter deals with the armament and weapons configurations used for the CF104 while in Canadian service. This information and historical context leads directly into the seventh, and final, chapter, dealing briefly with the CF104 in the context of aircraft modelling.

All in all, this is a very interesting and extremely detailed examination of the CF104 Starfighter. It would seem that this type of book is intended primarily either for the aircraft modeller or the specific aircraft buff, but it certainly does not fail to uphold the historical side of the aircraft's career as well. In a format where historical context could easily slip beneath the wings of technical detail, Stachiw and Tattersall deliver a very useful story of this part of Canada's material heritage.

24 May 2007

13th Annual Air Force Historical Conference

The press release for the 13th Annual Air Force Historical Conference, 3-5 July 2007, at the Canadian Forces College, 215 Yonge Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, has been released. Sponsored by the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre (www.airforce.forces.gc.ca/cfawc/cdd/historical_conference/hist_conf_e.asp) and supported by the Officer of Air Force Heritage and History, 1 Canadian Air Division Headquarters, Winnipeg, Manitoba, the theme of this year's conference is "Flea Hunting: The Historical Dimension of Air Power and Counterinsurgency Warfare". As the release notes:

"With the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare is very much a 'hot' topic of discussion within defence circles. There is a growing body of literature devoted not only to current theatres of combat, but also predicting that COIN-type operations will dominate warfare in the near future. If true, air power practitioners will need to explore COIN warfare in all of its dimensions: past, present and future. The rigorous study of air power as it applies to COIN was never a constant priority for the air power community; it waxed or waned depending on the current war or organizational goals. Perhaps the only constant has been that whenever air power was available, it was employed, or misemployed, in COIN conflicts throughout history. It is doubtful that this will change in the future; therefore, the onus is on us to learn from the past."

Speakers for the conference include several experts from the Canada, the United States and Great Britain. For registation or additional information, visit the conference website or contact either Major Bill March (tel 613-392-3811 ext 4656 or march.wa@forces.gc.ca) or Captain Lynn Lacroix (tel 613-392-2811 ext 4387 or lacroix.lv@forces.gc.ca).

Latest issue of Legion Magazine

The May/June 2007 issue of Legion Magazine (www.legionmagazine.com) is out and contains several items of interest with respect to Canadian military history, including: David L. Bashow, "Defending Bomber Command"; Harry Bruce, "My Father's Museum" (on Ross Munro); Terry Copp, "Winning the Streets of Ortona"; Adam Day, "Historians Review the Bomber Command Display"; Hugh A. Halliday, "Flyboys on the Ground"; and Marc Milner, "Fattening the Fleet".

19 May 2007

The New Brunswick Military Heritage Project

I was reminded, at the recent Laurier military history conference, of the existence of The New Brunswick Military Heritage Project. I remember running across this website previously in my online travels, but for some reason never got around to posting an entry about it. Well, here's my shot at rectifying that. This project, co-directed by Dr. Marc Milner and Brent Wilson, both academics at the University of New Brunswick, consists of publications, a website, and a database - all with the goal of encouraging the discovery and dissemination of New Brunswick's military history from the 18th Century to present. For example, as the pamphlet for the the project notes about the website, it "is a clearinghouse for information on New Brunswick military history: background material on the project, the database, supplementary information on the books we publish, hot links to other sites, past and upcoming lectures and special events (such as the clearing of the Red Head Battery site in Saint John), and in time, a chat room and e-publishing." The project also strongly encourages French-language input: "Malheureusement, en ce moment, le projet sur le patrimoine militaire du Nouveau-Brunswick n'est pas disponsible en français. Nous esperons que dans l'avenir proche toutes les informations seront disponible en français." All in all, a very interesting looking project, which has already accomplished a lot. I'd love to see other provincially-based projects similar to this started up.

15 May 2007

Latest issue of the War of 1812 Magazine

The latest issue (No. 6, April 2007) of the War of 1812 Magazine is now online and includes many very interesting discussions of the subject, such as: "The Western Theatre in the War of 1812" by Sandy Antal; "The Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada and Its Famous Medal" by Carl Benn; "The Duke of Wellington, the Peninsular War and the War of 1812 Part II: Reinforcements, Views of the War and Command in North America" by John Grodzinski; "Order of the Bath Stall Plates - An Underappreciated Napoleonic Collectable" bu Jay Medves; "Military Heritage of the War of 1812: an Update on the Infantry Regiments of the British Army", compiled by Donald E. Graves; "A Painting by George Jones, RA, of the Rescue of Captain John Wilson after the Battle of Chippawa" by John R. Grodzinski; as well as a few other items. Many thanks to the magazine's editor, John R. Grodzinski (grodzinski-j@rmc.ca), for the announcement of this latest issue.

Expansion of The Royal Canadian Regiment museum

The London Free Press reported on 13 May 2007 under the title "We must preserve our heritage" that the regimental museum of The Royal Canadian Regiment - located in Wolseley Barracks, in London, Ontario - has begun a campaign to expand its facilities. The "Building For The Future" campaign is attempting to raise $2.3 million in the next year or so and the Ontario provincial government has already granted $240,000 towards that goal. The proposed expansion would add approximately 6,000 square feet to the museum, providing additional display space, a new entrance and a "current campaigns" exhibit, the latter including material from the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

14 May 2007

Latest issue of the Canadian Military Journal

The latest issue of the Canadian Military Journal / Revue militaire canadienne (www.journal.forces.gc.ca) (vol.7, no.4, winter/hiver 2006/2007) has been out for some time, but I'm only now getting around to drafting a post about it. Like every other issue, this one has interesting Canadian military history content, including: "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" by Eric Wagner; "The Evolution of Canadian Civil-Military Cooperation" / "L'evolution de la coopération civilo-militaire au Canada" by Major Graham M. Longhurst; "Leonard Birchall and the Japanese Raid on Colombo" / "Leonard Birchall et le raid japonais sur Colombo" by Rob Stuart; "Henri Bourassa and Conscription: Traitor or Saviour?" / "Henri Bourassa et la conscription : traître ou sauveur?" by Doctor Béatrice Richard; "In Defence of 'Tommy' Burns" / "à la défense de << Tommy >> Burns" by Second Lieutenant Will Lofgren; as well as several military history book reviews.

Latest issue of The Canadian Army Journal

The latest issue of The Canadian Army Journal / Le Journal de l'Armée du Canada (www.army.forces.gc.ca/caj) (volume 10, no.1, winter/hiver 2007) is out and, as usual, it contains items of interest to Canadian military history, including: "The Road to Hell Part 1: Canada in Vietnam, 1954-1973" / "Le chemin de l'enfer, 1re partie : le Canada au Vietnam, 1954-1973" by Lieutenant-Colonel Shane B. Schreiber and several book reviews of historical publications.

10 May 2007

British First World War military personnel records online

As an historian with a particular interest - both at work and in my own projects - on Canada's participation in the First World War, I'm still elated at the fact that Library and Archives Canada has digitized many (unfortunately, not all) of the attestation or enlistment papers (one to two pages each) of the members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Can you imagine if LAC was able to digitize and post the entire personnel files for all the members of the CEF? I'm drooling at the sheer thought of it. But, for the moment, if you're lucky enough to be in Ottawa you can only sit down with the paper files to get the rest of the personnel information or, if you're not in Ottawa, you can only order photocopies.

However, it seems that the British may have broken the mold. Well, sort of. Computeractive, a British website, reported in late February on a joint venture between the Ancestry.co.uk website and The National Archives "to make service and pension records of soldiers who served in the British Army between 1914 and 1920 available online." This data has been mined from more than 8,000 microfilm reels held by The National Archives. Just like their Canadian counterparts, these personnel files provide information on the individual's occupation, physical characteristics, movements, postings, next of kin, etc. Officially, the records to be made available are part of WO 363 (British Army Service Records) and WO 364 (British Army Pension Records).

Unfortunately, the project will only ever be able to provide only part of the story. Although about five million soldiers from Great Britain fought during the war, German bombing in the Second World War seems to have destroyed 60 per cent of the service records from the First World War, and severely damaged many others. This project will be carried out in stages, beginning with pension documents for approximately 100,000 soldiers. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

The records will be available for searching on the ancestry.co.uk website - either through a subscription or pay-per-view - for 10 Pounds per month or 80 Pounds per year.

07 May 2007

The Canadian Great War Project

I'm just back from the 18th annual Military History Colloquium hosted by The Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies (www.canadianmilitaryhistory.com) at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. This was an excellent few days of papers delivered on a wide range of topics in Canadian military history, discussions amongst the attendees, and a dangerous (to the wallet) selection of books for sale. The 19th annual conference will held on 2-3 May 2008 at the University of Waterloo. More details to follow.

A while back I came across the Canadian Great War Project (www.canadiangreatwarproject.com), a website and project run by Marc Leroux. As the site notes:

"The Canadian Great War Project is intended to promote interest in Canada's participation in World War 1, commonly referred to as the Great War, to research the Canadians who participated in the Great War 1914-1919 or other nationalities who served in the CEF. The content is primarily database driven to facilitate searches for information. The site is, and will continue to be, a work in progress; there are currently over 73,000 entries of individual soldiers, and has become a collaborative effort among those interested in researching Canada and the Great War."

The options on the site are pretty straightforward and include "feedback", "searches", "war diaries", "Canada in the war", "books and media", "statistics", "from the front", "memorials", "rolls and awards", "images", links and more. At present, the site contains more than 6,500 war diary entries, 380 transcripted letters and newspaper articles, 530 images and 380 book and media descriptions. All in all, a very interesting and commendable project.

02 May 2007

MA Theses and PhD Dissertations - Part 4

As previously, Renald Fortier, Curator of Aviation History at the Canada Aviation Museum in Ottawa, has again kindly sent me a long list of Canadian military history MA theses and PhD dissertations for my ongoing list. Again, many thanks Renald and sorry for the delay in posting these! The material is as follows:

Berg, Glen, "Scrambling for Dollars: Resource Allocation and the Politics of Canadian Fighter Aircraft Procurement, 1943-1983", MA thesis, Royal Military College of Canada, 1994;

Blazanovic, Nick N., "The Rebirth of North American Air Defence", MA thesis, University of Manitoba, 1994;

Bristman, Barry, "In the Strategic Interests of Canada: Canadian Arms Sales to Israel and Other Middle East States, 1949-1956", MA thesis, University of Calgary, 1992;

Cafferky, Michael Shawn, "Towards the Balanced Fleet: A History of the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service, 1943-1945", MA thesis, University of Victoria, 1990;

Davison, Janet Frances, "We shall remember: Canadian Indians and World War II", MA thesis, Trent University, 1993;

Endicott, Valerie, "Woman's place (was) everywhere: A Study of Women who Worked in Aircraft Production in Toronto during the Second World War", MA thesis, University of Toronto, 1991;

English, Allan Douglas, "The cream of the crop: A Study of Selection, Training, and Policies governing Lack of Moral Fibre in Aircrew of the Royal Canadian Air Force, 1939-1945", Doctoral dissertation, Queen's University, 1994;

Gingrich, S.K., "Defence Production Sharing and Canada and the United States, 1957-1967", MA thesis, University of Victoria, 1991;

Hards, Danielle, "We are the girls behind the boys behind the guns: Military Women and the Canadian Forces", MA thesis, Carleton University, 1994;

Machabée, Ghislaine, "Vie et mort du Livre blanc sur la défense de 1987: autopsie d'une politique", MSc thèse, Université de Montréal, 1992;

Marmura, Stephen, "Covering Desert Storm: Canadian Media Commentary and the War in the Gulf", MA thesis, University of Guelph, 1993;

Van Meenen, Mary Ann, "The Canadian Intervention in Siberia, 1918-1919", MA thesis, Dalhousie University, 1990;

Nuttall, Leslie, "Canadianization and the No. 6 Bomber Group R.C.A.F.", Doctoral dissertation, University of Calgary, 1990;

Quinn, Robert James, "This is our battle, too!: Canadian Servicewomen and the Second World War", MA thesis, Dalhousie University, 1994; and

Robitaille, Éric, "Militaires et Inuit dans l'Est de l'Artique canadien, 1942-1965", MA thèse, Université Laval, 1987.

01 May 2007

Latest from University of Toronto Press

The Fall/Winter 2007 catalogue from University of Toronto Press is out, and contains the following new item of interest:

Paul Douglas Dickson, a strategic analyst and military historian with the Centre for Operational Research and Analysis, Department of National Defence, has published A Thoroughly Canadian General: A Biography of General H.D.G. Crerar. As the catalogue notes:
General H.D.G. 'Harry' Crerar (1888-1965) was involved in or directly responsible for many of the defining moments of Canadian military history in the twentieth century. In the First World War, Crerar was nearly killed at the second battle of Ypres, was a gunner who helped to secure victory at Vimy Ridge, and was a senior staff officer during the pivotal battles of the last Hundred Days. During the Second World War, he occupied and and often defined the Canadian army's senior staff and operational appointments, including his tenure as commander of First Canadian Army through the northwest European campaign.
Despite his pivotal role in shaping the Canadian army, however, General Crerar has been long overlooked as a subject of biography. In A Thoroughly Canadian General, Paul Dickson examines the man and his controversial place in Canadian military history, arguing that Crerar was a nationalist who saw the army as an instrument to promote Canadian identity and civic responsibility. From his days as a student at the Royal Military College in Kingston, to his role as primary architect of First Canaidan Army, the career of H.D.G. Crerar is thoroughly examined with a view to considering and reinforcing his place in the history of Canada and its armed forces.