Category Archives: Legion Magazine

Artificial intelligence: Transforming the battlefield

From the Legion Magazine.

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Artificial intelligence: Transforming the battlefield

Artificial intelligence:
Transforming the battlefield

Story by Stephen J. Thorne

Artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on militaries around the world, and Canada is ideally positioned to wage the evolving wars of tomorrow, says the head of the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command. In an interview with Legion Magazine ahead of a Canadian Military Intelligence Association conference on the subject in Ottawa on Oct. 23, Rear Admiral Scott Bishop said Canadians have been studying AI for decades and now stand at the technology’s forefront.


Military Milestones
Korean War - Military Minute

October 17, 1952
Taking back Hill 355

Hill 355, about 40 kilometres south of Seoul, South Korea, was so named by the United Nations military coalition during the Korean War because it was 355 metres above sea level. The troops called it Little Gibraltar because, like the British fortress for which it was named, it commanded the highest ground overlooking supply lines. Whoever controlled it had the upper hand in the sector.

Canadians saw a lot of action on and around Hill 355, defending the front lines and pushing back heavy enemy assaults. Every Canadian battalion saw service there at some point.

Following heavy bombardment in November 1951, the Chinese wrested control from American troops. The Chinese “shelled for a long, long time,” recalled Gunner Noel Knockwood in a Heroes Remember video. The Royal 22nd Regiment held its defensive position under the hill despite being surrounded, until the Americans could get it back.

The counterattack began with bombardment.

“I remember I was called back to my gun (a 105 mm howitzer), and we began counter-fire onto the enemy. After that, when we would meet up with the infantry boys…they told us that ‘If it weren’t for the artillery, we wouldn’t be here today,” recalled Knockwood.

Sixteen Canadians were killed, 44 wounded and three taken prisoner. More bitter attacks were to come.

Bombardment at the beginning of October 1952 signalled that the Chinese were preparing another major strike.

On Oct. 17, the Royal Canadian Regiment came under heavy artillery attack. By Oct. 22, defences were badly damaged, telephone wires were cut and ammunition storage pits were caved in.

An attack was expected, so all night, one man stood watch in each fighting slit, according to an account written by the Canadian Army Historical Section.

The Chinese launched an attack Oct. 23 which was so fierce that some Canadians were forced to withdraw. “The last troops to leave the position were not the Chinese,” said the account. Men from two platoons “had held out to the traditional ‘last round,’ and then played dead.”

Allied tank and mortar fire was ordered up to pepper Hill 355 as well as the area to the west and the valley to the north.

A counterattack was called at about midnight, and the Hill was retaken on Oct. 24, at a cost of 18 Canadian dead, 43 wounded and 14 taken prisoner.

The Chinese attacked again several times in November, but no ground was yielded.

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This week in history
This Week in History

October 19, 1814

The Americans defeat the British in the Battle of Cook’s Mills, the penultimate engagement fought on Canadian soil during the War of 1812. The victory is short-lived, however, as the Americans eventually withdraw back to the United States.


Hearing Life


From the Legion Magazine.

Policing the Medak Pocket

From the Legion Magazine.

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Policing the Medak Pocket

Policing the Medak Pocket

Story by Stephen J. Thorne

It was the autumn of 1993 and in the aftermath of the bloody confrontation in Croatia’s Medak Pocket, RCMP Inspector Bob Munro and his team of international police officers were looking for evidence of war crimes. The two sides—Croatians and Serbians—claimed they only killed combatants after Yugoslavia broke up, but the evidence proved otherwise. As he pored through forensic photos, it was clear to Munro that many of the dead were unarmed civilians, all execution victims.


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Military Milestones

October 11, 1918
Wallace Algie’s sacrifice

After occupying Cambrai, France, Canadian troops continued the Hundred Days Offensive, engaging in the attack on Iwuy, eight kilometres to the northeast, on Oct. 11, 1918.

German machine gunners laid down heavy fire from secure positions atop a railway embankment and behind groups of houses in the town.

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie of Toronto saw more machine guns being brought to bear on the Canadian position. Collecting nine volunteers, he charged a gun post, killed the gunner, and turned the weapon on the enemy, allowing his men to cross the railway embankment.

Then he rushed a second machine gun, killed its crew, captured an officer and 10 men and cleared his end of the village. After showing the volunteers how to use the captured guns, Algie went back for reinforcements. While running ahead of these men toward the houses sheltering the German gunners, Algie was shot. It was the beginning of a counterattack.

Algie’s men held their position, despite an attack by four tanks, until the 27th Battalion was able to seize the village and rout the enemy.

Algie was awarded the Victoria Cross “for most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice…. His valour and personal initiative in the face of intense fire saved many lives and enabled the position to be held,” says the extract from the London Gazette in January 1919.

He was given a battlefield burial, and later moved to a Commonwealth War Grave in the Niagara Cemetery at Iwuy.

Newspaper accounts of the day bring life to his profile. Algie, a bank employee before the war, was of Scottish descent and as a boy loved tales of military exploits, particularly of the Indian Mutiny and Crimean War.

While on leave, he visited the ancestral home of the Algies in Scotland and saw the monument to Covenanter martyrs James Algie and Thomas Park. The pair was tried and executed in 1685, in a period known as the Killing Times, for refusing to take an oath not to take arms against King Charles II. Covenanters were Presbyterians upset by the monarch reneging on his 1650 Oath of Covenant. It was an agreement to establish Presbyterianism as the Scottish national religion and recognize the church’s authority in English civil law, in exchange for support during the civil war and restoration of the monarchy, which had been suspended after the execution of King Charles I in 1649.

More than 200 years later, Wallace Algie also gave up his life for a cause he believed in.

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This week in history
This Week in History

October 13, 1812

British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock is killed at the Battle of Queenston Heights.



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How an ordinary seaman became a rallying cry in the War of 1812

From the Legion Magazine.

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How an ordinary seaman became a rallying cry in the War of 1812

How an ordinary seaman became a
rallying cry in the War of 1812

Story by Stephen J. Thorne

It had to be the worst of all bad ideas. Saturday, March 7, 1807. HMS Halifax, a Royal Navy sloop, lies off Hampton Roads, Va. The Napoleonic Wars are in full swing, and the British are in Chesapeake Bay, blockading two French warships that had made port seeking refuge and repair after a storm. About 6 p.m., First Lieutenant Thomas Warren Carter orders Midshipman Robert Turner and five crew into a jolly boat (a small dory) to weigh anchor. Out of this simple task grows one of the contributing incidents to the War of 1812.


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Military Milestones

October 3, 1916
Victory over a Zeppelin

On Oct. 3, 1916, dozens of people flocked to a farmer’s field just north of London at a place called Potters Bar to see the grisly spectacle of the crash site of a Zeppelin airship.

For nearly two years, Britain suffered helpless outrage as German airships, particularly Zeppelins, rained destruction on city targets, killing more than 100 citizens and injuring hundreds more. The Germans called airship pilots Knights of the Air—the British called them baby-killers.

Airships were part of Germany’s plan to destroy war factories and break the spirit of the British through strategic bombing. Zeppelin raids destroyed an estimated one-sixth of British munitions output to 1916.

Planes of the day took a long time to climb to the high-altitude realm of the airship—so long that the airships had time to unload their bombs and sail away through the night sky.

But by the fall of 1916, the British had developed some defences, chief among which was dispatching aircraft to make the long climb to effective range before the airships arrived.

On Oct. 1, thousands of Londoners watched two aircraft spotlighted against the deepening sky, a Bleriot Experimental Craft piloted by Second Lieutenant Wulstan Tempest, a farmer from Saskatchewan, and a Zeppelin piloted by Germany’s most successful airship commander Heinrich Mathy.

Hit by newly developed incendiary bullets, the airship lit up “like an enormous Chinese lantern,” reported Tempest. As the flaming airship fell, its pilot jumped to his death.

Below, “a shout of mingled execration, triumph and joy…rising from all parts of the metropolis, ever increasing in force and intensity” came from the thousands watching the Zeppelin’s demise, reported Michael MacDonagh.

Tempest was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and later flew 34 bombing missions, also earning a Military Cross. After the war, he returned to Canada.

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This week in history
This Week in History

October 3, 1914

More than 30,000 men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force depart
en route to Europe, the largest convoy ever to sail from Canada.


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93-year-old veteran Ross Mitchell: A sniper from the farm

From the Legion Magazine.

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Ross Mitchell: A sniper from the farm

Ross Mitchell: A sniper from the farm

Story by Stephen J. Thorne

Ross Mitchell of Douglas, Man., was just 18 when he began infantry training with the Canadian army in 1943. Told he would not be sent overseas until he was 19, he decided to give the airborne a try. He was with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, moving from reserve to active duty in England in February 1945. He made his first and only combat jump behind enemy lines into Wesel, Germany, on March 24. His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jeff Nicklin of Winnipeg, a two-time Grey Cup champion and Canadian Football League all-star who’d played six seasons at half-back for the Blue Bombers, never made it out of his chute.


Twenty-Five Great Canadian Aviators
Military Milestones

September 29, 1962
Canada in the Space Age

Canada was the third country to have a satellite in space, Alouette 1, launched on Sept. 29, 1962. With the launch of Anik A1 in 1972, it became the first to establish its own geostationary communication satellite network, completed in 1973 with the launch of Anik A3.

But it took 11 more years before a Canadian astronaut, Marc Garneau, took leave of the atmosphere. Eight Canadian astronauts have participated in 16 space missions, so far.

Currently, Canada has four active astronauts, Jeremy Hansen, David Saint-Jacques, Joshua Kutryk and Jennifer Sidey. In November, Saint-Jacques is slated to become the 10th Canadian in space, on a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Number nine? He was a Canadian space tourist. Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, who reportedly paid $35 million in 2009 for a 12-day trip to the ISS. While aboard, he advocated for water conservation. He said the experience was more than worth the price tag.

In 2016, the Canadian Space Agency chose the latest two recruits, Kutryk and Sidey, from 3,772 applicants. They are training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Canadian Space Agency’s list of astronaut missions:

Marc Garneau Oct. 5-13, 1984

Roberta Bondar Jan. 22-30, 1992

Steve MacLean Oct. 22- Nov. 1, 1992

Chris Hadfield Nov. 12-20, 1995

Marc Garneau May 19-29, 1996

Bob Thirsk June 20-July 7, 1996

Bjarni Tryggvason Aug. 7-19, 1997

Dave Williams April 17-May 3, 1998

Julie Payette May 27-June 6, 1999

Marc Garneau Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2000

Chris Hadfield April 19-May 1, 2001

Steve MacLean Sept. 9-21, 2006

Dave Williams Aug. 8-21, 2007

Julie Payette July 15-31, 2009

Robert Thirsk May 27-Dec. 1, 2009

Chris Hadfield Dec. 19, 2012-May 13, 2013

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This week in history
This Week in History

September 29, 1927

The Hudson Strait Expedition begins, leading the RCAF
to explore the eastern Arctic and establish radio stations.


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