THE DAM BUSTERS ~ THE CANADIAN CONNECTION

As mentioned in my previous post, Canadians played a major role in the Dams Raid.  “Of the 133 airmen involved in the raid, 30 were Canadian.  Fourteen were killed during the raid; one became a prisoner of war.  Exactly 50% of the Canadians who took off didn’t return. Four who survived were later killed in action during the war.” (Bomber Command Museum).  I’m sharing just two of the many stories in this post.     One of the most well known of the Canadian group was not Canadian by birth.  This was Joe McCarthy.  Born in New York, he tried unsuccessfully tried to join the Army Air Corps. In May 1941, Joe’s friend Don Curtin, suggested they head to Canada to join the Royal Canadian Air Force.  They were sent to the Manning Depot in Toronto.  Joe trained in Goderich and Brantford, then received his commission in December 1941. After Christmas, he sailed from Halifax; eleven days later, he and his fellow aircrew arrived in Liverpool.  Further training took place with the No. 12 Advanced Flying Unit and the No. 14 Operational Training Unit.  In September of 1942, he was assigned to No. 97 Squadron RAF; it was here that he met W/C Gibson.  Just as McCarthy was completing his tour, he received a call from Gibson telling him that a new squadron was being formed and that he was inviting Joe and his crew to join.  They made their first flight with the new squadron in March of 1943.  After weeks of intensive and low level training, he and his crew almost failed to get airborne in the...

NOW IN OUR LIBRARY ~ THE DAM BUSTERS

  Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out May 16 and 17, 1943 by the RAF Squadron No. 617; the squadron was later referred to as the “Dam Busters”.           Before WWII, the British Air Ministry had identified Germany’s industrialized the Ruhr Valley and specifically its dams as important strategic targets.  As well as providing hydro-electric power and pure water needed for steel making, the dams supplied drinking water and water for the canal transport system.  The methods chosen to attack the dams had been carefully selected.  Calculations indicated that repeated air strikes with large bombs could be effective, but this required a degree of accuracy Bomber Command had yet been unable to attain. A specially developed “bouncing bomb” that had been invented by Barnes Wallis was used for the attacks.  His idea was to use a drum-shaped bomb (a specially designed heavy depth charge).  It would spin backwards and would be dropped at a low altitude for the correct speed and release point, skipping for a distance over the surface of the water in a series of bounces before reaching the dam wall.  The residual spin would run the bomb down the side of the dam toward its underwater base.  Using a hydrostatic fuse, an accurate drop would bypass the dam’s defences, then enable the bomb to explode against the dam some distance below the surface of the water:         The Squadron was divided into 3 formations to attack. Formation No. 1’s mission was to attack the Mohne and then the Eder.  Following a successful attack on the Mohne,...
NOW IN OUR LIBRARY ~ THE RCAF MARINE SECTION: A BRIEF HISTORY

NOW IN OUR LIBRARY ~ THE RCAF MARINE SECTION: A BRIEF HISTORY

  Following WWI and prior to 1939, most of the RCAF aircraft were amphibious.  In order to service these aircraft, small boats of different sizes and shapes were used.  These were manned and maintained by personnel who became the RCAF Marine Section.         Between 1918 and 1935, some of the work done by the Air Force included air photography, reconnaissance, and forestry patrol.  Because this was accomplished mainly by sea planes, it was necessary to set up small marine sub-sections at various places across the country in order to service the aircraft.  Though there were small sections, the major marine establishments were located at Ottawa (Rockcliffe), Trenton, as well as Jericho Beach.   A school was formed in Trenton in 1935 to train marine crewmen.  In the same year, the RCAF acquired its first crash boats, 37 feet in length and built in England. They arrived at Halifax aboard a civilian freighter; one of the launches stayed at Halifax (assigned to No. 4 Flying Boat Squadron).  The other was transported by rail to Jericho Beach, Vancouver (assigned to No. 5 Flying Boat Squadron).   The design of the boats proved to be quite successful, and as a result, in 1937, a 38 foot boat of the same type was ordered, this time from a Canadian firm.  As well as the three crash boats, the Air Board also ordered three power dinghies from Canadian builders.  Eighteen feet long, powered with a 56 h.p. engine, and operating at a maximum speed of 18 knots, they were used for aircraft tending and bomb loading. The personnel strength of the...
THIS MONTH IN OUR LIBRARY ~ VIMY ~ THE INVENTION OF THE TANK

THIS MONTH IN OUR LIBRARY ~ VIMY ~ THE INVENTION OF THE TANK

Military leaders during WW 1 have been labelled as mindless butchers, incapable of original thought, who led soldiers to useless deaths. It is true that the tremendous increases in firing rate and accuracy of both artillery and small arms created extreme lethality, which led to casualties and stalemate, not victory. The truth is actually a little more complex: the crucible of WW 1 was actually a period of great invention and innovation, so much so that it created “A Revolution in Military Affairs”, one that shaped 20th century warfare. No weapons system symbolizes that more than the creation of the tank. Combat in WW1 began in August 1914. Initially consisting of vast armies maneuvering by railway and on foot, the lethality of modern weapons forced the armies to create 450 miles of parallel trenches stretching from the Swiss border to the English Channel. There were no flanks: all attacks had to be head-on. As early as October 1914, after a month of trench warfare, military leaders were already seeking solutions to the stalemate. A LCol Swinton envisaged the need for a machine to cross trenches, barbed wire, and mud to attack the enemy. The basic idea was to take machine guns and heavier guns and place them in a steel box to protect them from defenders’ fire. Powering this machine would be the recently invented (1884) gasoline-fuelled internal combustion engine. An effective continuous track, patented in 1901, would propel them across the shell torn muddy landscape and be able to cross trenches. This unique combination of firepower, protection and mobility was christened the “tank”, a vague term that provided...
THIS MONTH IN OUR LIBRARY ~ VIMY ~ WWI MILITARY COMBAT INNOVATIONS

THIS MONTH IN OUR LIBRARY ~ VIMY ~ WWI MILITARY COMBAT INNOVATIONS

Military Combat Innovations of WW1:  a Revolution in Military Affairs   WW1 quickly proved the lethality of modern weapons: their extended range, accuracy, ease of use, and unprecedented volume created huge casualties and stalemate. WW1 created the need for new technologies and tactics, and they were remarkable in their number. A brief list follows.  Land Power The following new weapons were invented: tracer bullets, incendiary bullets, light machine guns, flamethrowers, effective hand grenades, poison gas, and the tank.   New fire techniques were invented: artillery would fire a “creeping barrage” going forward just ahead of attacking soldiers. Artillery and machine guns would fire for long periods on the same area “suppressing” enemy action. At the same time innovative ways to locate the enemy’s guns, including the use of microphones were invented.       Sea Power WW1 saw the start of using unrestricted submarine warfare to cut sea lines of communication. Inventions to counter the new submarine threat included: sonar, hydrophones, and depth charges all had to be invented. The birth of air power meant that naval forces needed it as well, so aircraft carriers were invented.    Air Power Tethered balloons already existed, but real air power using fixed wing aircraft, both single and crewed, as well as dirigibles were fielded in large numbers and most air power missions were invented in WW1. Air power saw the invention of effective large scale aircrew training, interrupter gear (to enable safely shooting through one’s propeller), bombsights, bombs, autopilots, airborne radios, air traffic control, pilotless bombs/drones etc.   Conclusion 20th century warfare was dominated by armoured land battle, submarine blockades and the...
THIS MONTH IN OUR LIBRARY ~ VIMY

THIS MONTH IN OUR LIBRARY ~ VIMY

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge.  Our Programme Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, Jon Ambler has created an interesting display in our Museum Library for those of you who are able to visit the Comox Air Force Museum.  Included is an informative narrative.  I thought you might like to read it here on our website.  Thanks to Jon for the work he’s done to educate us! Background The Battle of Vimy Ridge is Canada’s most celebrated military victory. The four divisions of the Canadian Corps, fighting together for the first time, attacked the ridge from 9 to 12 April, 1917 and captured it. Vimy Ridge itself is a seven kilometer-long hill rising amid the open countryside north of Arras, France. To the east of the ridge was German occupied territory on the Douai plain; to the west were the British lines. German forces were entrenched on the ridge, having held it for much of the war. More than 100,000 Allied soldiers had already been killed and wounded in previous efforts to dislodge the Germans from the ridge. Easter Monday 1917 After a week of intense Allied bombardment, the Canadian Corps attacked the ridge at 5:30 am on 9 April, Easter Monday. Timing and co-ordination were critical — the troops moved up the long western slope of the ridge, just behind a rolling artillery barrage designed to keep the Germans hidden in their bunkers and away from their machine guns as long as possible. In wind, sleet and snow, an initial wave of more than 15,000 Canadians stormed the ridge and captured most of the German positions by...

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