Camp X VE Day 70th Anniversary

Friday, May 8, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to end the Second World War in Europe. Celebrated world-wide, the event was marked by ceremonies across Canada including one held at the site of Camp X, the former top secret spy school and communication facility in Whitby, Ontario.VE-Day-70Not only did Camp X train spies and resistance fighters such as those featured in the recent CBC TV series, X Company. It also had a highly advanced deciphering and communication facility known as Hydra. Hydra handled the bulk of Allied communications in the Western Hemisphere by war’s end – some 40,000 messages daily. One of the messages sent on May 8, 1945 from Bletchley Park, England to Camp X was the historic transmission which let North America know that the war was over. On the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the event was recreated by members of the Bletchley Park Radio Club in England, and the North Shore Amateur Radio Club in Canada. One of those involved was my friend, Jeffery Golde, from Courtice, Ontario. He is featured in the CBC YouTube video which follows.

“It is important that we remember the sacrifices and contributions of Canadians who helped liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny. It is also inspiring that we are here at Camp X. Camp X is a symbol that Canada has always ‘punched above its weight’ and plays an important role in preserving world peace. A new generation of Canadians is beginning to understand this truth.”Dr. Colin Carrie, M.P. – Oshawa

Six Minutes At The Front

The Western Front was the name the Germans gave to a series of trenches that ran more than 700 kilometres from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. To imagine this, think of a ditch deep enough to stand in zigzagging its way alongside the 401 Highway from Toronto to Quebec City, or along the interstates from Boston to Washington DC. Here, where sometimes the trenches were only metres apart, machine-gun and shellfire caused terrible casualties.

Death was a constant companion to those serving in the line, even when no raid or attack was launched or defended against. In busy sectors the constant shellfire directed by the enemy brought random death, whether their victims were lounging in a trench or lying in a dugout (many men were buried as a consequence of such large shell-bursts).

Similarly, novices were cautioned against their natural inclination to peer over the parapet of the trench into No Man’s Land. Many men died on their first day in the trenches as a consequence of a precisely aimed sniper’s bullet. Up to one third of Allied casualties on the Western Front were actually sustained in the trenches. Aside from enemy injuries, disease wrought a heavy toll.

The video that follows provides a glimpse of the Hell that was the Western Front and the memorials, cemeteries and museums that Sonya and I saw as part of the Canadian Battlefields tour in the summer of 2014.

The First and The Last

Row on RowDid you know that, through some remarkable coincidence, the first and last British soldiers to be killed in combat in the First World War are buried within seven paces of each other? There are seven paces, and metaphorically, 886,000 dead British servicemen between them.

Did you know that the last soldier to die in the First World War was a Canadian? Private George Lawrence Price, 25, of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, was shot through the head at 10.57 am, three minutes before the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918.

Finally, did you know that the First World War was the first in history in which efforts were made to give permanent marked graves to dead soldiers? The link below leads to an article from 2013 that explains how this came to be and the story behind the cemeteries on the Western Front.

Click HERE for the full story.


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