Thursday, November 08, 2012

Veterans' Week 2012: 7 Interesting Facts

Veterans' Week November 5 to 11. A young boy placing a poppy on a grave.

While reading the various articles on the Veterans’ Affairs Canada website, I was surprised to learn a few things I didn’t know about Canada in times of war and peace. Here are some of those interesting facts. Phrases and sentences in quotation marks are taken directly from the VAC website and are sourced at the end of my text.

Did you know that:

• The first occasion that Canadian women served with the military overseas occurred during the South African War (1899-1902) when “12 Nursing Sisters helping the sick and wounded in South Africa”. [1]

Nursing sister First Canadian Contigent South African War
Nursing sister, First Canadian Contigent, South African War.

(Photo source: Library and Archives Canada / C-028733 / MIKAN no. 3191871.) 

• Animals played a part in World War I and World War II. Besides horses and carrier pigeons, there were canaries and mice (“they could detect poison gas in tunnels”) and even glow worms (soldiers could “read messages and maps because they give off a soft blue-green light”). [2] Cats and dogs also did their bit by serving as messengers (they carried “information in containers around their necks in dangerous war zones”). [3]

• An American woman named Moina Michael from Athens, Georgia “read the McCrae poem [In Flanders’ Fields] and was inspired to wear a poppy year-round in memory of the war dead” in 1918. [4]

• Teenage boys as young as 17, 18 and 19 signed up to fight. During World War II, there were “approximately 700,000 Canadians under the age of 21 [who] served in uniform”. [5]

• Besides the usual rationing of food items and gasoline during World War II, the Canadian government  wanted to save fabric and buttons for uniforms by forbidding “many 'extras' on manufactured clothing, such as cuffs on pants, any hem in excess of two inches, double-breasted jackets, flap pockets, and more than nine buttons on a dress”. [6]

• During and after World War II (1942-1947), almost all “of the 48,000 young women who had married Canadian servicemen, and their 22,000 children” came to Canada. As well, a few Canadian servicewomen married British husbands (“male war brides”). [7]

• Canada has the only national memorial dedicated to peace support efforts. It’s called Reconciliation, our “salute to peacekeepers”, and can be seen on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. Canada also created National Peacekeepers’ Day. We celebrate it on August 9. The date is significant: “it was on this day in 1974 that a Canadian Forces transport plane was shot down in the Middle East, killing nine Canadian peacekeepers—our country’s largest single-day loss of life in a peace support operation”. [8]

Lt-Col John McCrae and his dog Bonneau
Lt.-Col. John McCrae and his dog Bonneau

(Photo source: Library and Archives Canada / C-046284 / MIKAN no. 3192003.)

Sources:

1. “The South African War”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/south-africa/sheet : accessed 4 November 2012), “The Legacy”.

2. “Tales of Animals in the War”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/activities/kidszone/tales_animals/2011 : accessed 4 November 2012), “Archway of Remembrance”.

3. “Tales of Animals in the War”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/activities/kidszone/tales_animals/2011/news : accessed 4 November 2012), “Delivering the News”.

4. “The Poppy”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/teach_resources/poppy : accessed 4 November 2012), “Poppy Facts”.

5. “Canadian Youth – Growing up in Wartime”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/history/secondwar/fact_sheets/youth  : accessed 4 November 2012), “The ‘Boys’ in Uniform”.

6. “Women at War”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada  (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/history/secondwar/fact_sheets/women : accessed 4 November 2012), “Keeping the Home Fires Burning”.

7. “The Second World War”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/history/secondwar/warbrides : accessed 4 November 2012), “Canadian War Brides”.

8. “Canada Remembers Times”, database, Veterans’ Affairs Canada (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/activities/youthcorner/crtimes/2012 : accessed 4 November 2012), “National Peacekeepers’ Day”.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

1 comment:

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