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.Not 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
After lunching in Dieppe we headed for the picturesque port town of Honfleur, a journey of about 100 km. Along the way, thankfully, the sky cleared, and the sun came out. Soon we were passing Le Havre and crossing Le Pont de Normandie, a huge bridge which spans the Seine Continue Reading →
The YouTube video below, from History Television’s “Turning Points in History” series, is one of the best documentaries that I’ve come across about the Dieppe raid. If you are interested in learning about the raid first hand from Canadians who were there, this is a “must watch”.
Note: This was produced before many secret documents were released regarding the German Enigma machine at Dieppe and the British Bletchley Park code-breaking project. David O’Keefe in his book “One Day In August” claims that the real intent of the almost suicidal mission was as cover for a secret commando mission to gather intelligence in Dieppe that they hoped would crack the Enigma machine.
Sunday Morning, July 13, 2014. Today we left the First World War’s Western Front behind and travelled west from Amiens to the English Channel port of Dieppe, France, a distance of about 100 km. New town, new war. Dieppe, of course, was the site of the disastrous landings by Allied Continue Reading →
For me, one of the most interesting things to do when I visit a historic site is to imagine what it was like there when history was being made. The video below makes this easy because it provides then and now pictures taken along the Western Front. Many of these spots Sonya and I visited as part of the Canadian Battlefields tour during the summer of 2014.
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.
Late Afternoon/Evening, Saturday, July 12, 2014. It wasn’t far from the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux into Amiens and we arrived shortly before 6:00 p.m. That gave us about an hour to see the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Amiens. The UNESCO world heritage site closes to tourists at 7:00 p.m., Continue Reading →