The Italian Campaign
Canada’s longest Second World War army campaign was in Italy.
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Canada’s longest Second World War army campaign was in Italy.
The Battle of Courcelette, or the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, was part of the Somme offensive during the First World War. The Battle of Courcelette was fought from 15 to 22 September 1916. It resulted in thousands of battlefield casualties, but also signalled the start of new thinking in military tactics that would eventually solve the riddle of the trenches and help turn the tide of the war. Tanks were used in battle for the first time during the Battle of Courcelette as well as the creeping artillery barrage.
In the early 20th Century, the Ross rifle, a Canadian-made infantry weapon, was produced as an alternative to the British-made Lee-Enfield rifle.
The Canadian Corps, a force of 100,000 soldiers by late 1916, fought for the entire war on the Western Front, along a static trench system that ran 700 kilometres from Switzerland to the North Sea.
Canadians are not normally accustomed to outward displays of patriotic pride over their fallen warriors. Since 1948, more than 100 Canadians have lost their lives nobly in peacekeeping missions around the world, their passing hardly noted beyond their immediate families and regiments.
In December 1943, as part of the Allied advance through Italy during the Second World War, Canadian forces fought one of their toughest battles of the war in a bid to capture the town of Ortona. The month-long campaign — first at the Moro River outside Ortona, then with vicious street fighting in the town itself — cost more than 2,300 Canadian casualties, but eventually won Ortona for the Allies.
The Victoria Cross (VC), instituted in 1856 by Queen Victoria, is the Commonwealth's premier military decoration for gallantry. It is awarded in recognition of the most exceptional bravery displayed in the presence of the enemy, although in rare instances the decoration has been given to mark other courageous acts. In total, there have been 99 Canadian recipients of the Victoria Cross. In 1993, Canada adopted its own national version of the Victoria Cross. The Canadian VC has not yet been awarded.
The capture of Hill 70 in France was an important Canadian victory during the First World War, and the first major action fought by the Canadian Corps under a Canadian commander. The battle, in August 1917, gave the Allied forces a crucial strategic position overlooking the occupied city of Lens.
In 1993, during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, Canadian peacekeepers with the United Nations (UN) advanced into disputed territory in Croatia with orders to implement the Medak Pocket ceasefire agreement between the Croatian Army and Serbian irregular forces. Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (2 PPCLI), came under Croatian attack for more than 15 hours. In the firefight that ensued – the most significant combat experienced by Canadians since the Korean War – 2 PPCLI held its ground and preserved the UN protected zone. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said the Canadian soldiers brought credit to their profession, saved lives, and enhanced the credibility of UN peacekeeping forces.
The 1944 Battle of Normandy — from the D-Day landings on 6 June through to the encirclement of the German army at Falaise on 21 August — was one of the pivotal events of the Second World War and the scene of some of Canada's greatest feats of arms. Canadian sailors, soldiers and airmen played a critical role in the Allied invasion of Normandy, also called Operation Overlord, beginning the bloody campaign to liberate Western Europe from Nazi occupation. Nearly 150,000 Allied troops landed or parachuted into the invasion area on D-Day, including 14,000 Canadians at Juno Beach. The Royal Canadian Navy contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors and the RCAF contributed 15 fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons to the assault. Total Allied casualties on D-Day reached more than 10,000, including 1,074 Canadians, of whom 359 were killed. By the end of the Battle of Normandy, the Allies had suffered 209,000 casualties, including more than 18,700 Canadians. Over 5,000 Canadian soldiers died.
Since its inception in 1924, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has served Canadians in peace and war.
The Battle of the Somme, also known as the Somme Offensive, was fought during the First World War from 1 July to 18 November 1916. In the summer of 1916 the British launched the largest battle of the war on the Western Front, against German lines. The offensive was one of the bloodiest in human history. Over the course of five months, approximately 1.2 million men were killed or wounded at the Somme. The Canadian Corps (see Canadian Expeditionary Force) was involved in the final three months of fighting. On the first day of the offensive, the First Newfoundland Regiment, which was not part of the Canadian forces, was nearly annihilated at Beaumont-Hamel. The Battle of the Somme produced little gains and has long been an example of senseless slaughter and the futility of trench warfare (see also The Somme).
The Korean War began 25 June 1950, when North Korean armed forces invaded South Korea. The war’s combat phase lasted until an armistice was signed 27 July 1953. As part of a United Nations (UN) force consisting of 16 countries, 26,791 Canadian military personnel served in the Korean War, during both the combat phase and as peacekeepers afterward. The last Canadian soldiers left Korea in 1957. After the two world wars, Korea remains Canada’s third-bloodiest overseas conflict, taking the lives of 516 Canadians and wounding more than 1,200. The two Koreas remain technically at war today.
How does memory speak to us? Each November, over 13 million poppies blossom on the jackets, dresses and hats of Canadians.
The First World War of 1914–1918 was the bloodiest conflict in Canadian history, taking the lives of more than 60,000 Canadians.
The Battle of Britain (10 July to 31 October 1940) stopped the German air force from dominating the skies over England early in the Second World War, preventing a planned invasion by Germany. Hundreds of Canadian air and ground crew participated in the battle.
The Conquest (La Conquête) is a term used to describe the acquisition of Canada by Great Britain during the Seven Years’ War. It also refers to the resulting conditions experienced by Canada’s 60,000 to 70,000 French-speaking inhabitants and numerous Indigenous groups. French forces at Quebec City surrendered to British forces on 18 September 1759, a few days after the crucial Battle of the Plains of Abraham. French resistance ended in 1760 with the capitulation of Montreal. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris surrendered New France to Britain. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 introduced assimilative policies that ultimately failed. They were replaced by the provisions of the Quebec Act of 1774. Although it helped spark the American Revolutionary War (1775–83), the Act also granted Canadians enviable conditions that resulted in generations of relative stability.
The North American heartland, linked by rivers running from the north, west, and south and flowing eastwards via the St Lawrence River, saw intense fighting during the War of 1812.
In 1992–93, Canada contributed military forces to UNITAF, a United Nations–backed humanitarian mission in the African nation of Somalia. The mission was hampered by the fact that some of the warring factions in the Somalia conflict attacked the international forces that were trying to restore order and deliver food to a starving population. The Canadian effort was also clouded by the murder of a Somali teenager by Canadian troops. The crime — and alleged cover-up by Defence officials in Ottawa — became one of the most infamous scandals in Canadian history.
A regiment is a body of troops composed of squadrons, batteries or companies, and often divided into battalions for military operations. A single-battalion regiment numbers 300-1000. In Canada the meaning of the term "regiment" is complex.