Monday, January 31, 2011


 Sir Roger Casement,
executed for treason in 1916.

Expert researchers have authenticated the notorious diaries of Irish rebel Sir Roger Casement which record his homosexual activities and perhaps contributed to his execution for high treason in 1916.

Some of Casement's supporters have contended the so-called "black diaries" were forged to smear his character during his trial. Since they were made available for study in 1959, there has been a reluctantly growing acceptance they might in fact be authentic, and now experts have declared the diaries be genuine.

Casement, born in 1864, was a formerly respected British civil servant knighted for his crusading accounts of Belgian exploitation of natives in the Congo and by rubber-plantations in South America. Disillusioned with Britain's refusal to grant independence for Ireland, he travelled by U-boat to Germany during the First World War to seek funding and weapons for an Irish uprising. He also visited several prisoner-of-war camps in Germany in vain attempts to recruit Irish soldiers to change sides and fight against England.

Casement was captured by British soldiers after he sailed back to Ireland aboard a trawler carrying 20,000 German rifles. The subsequent Easter Rising in Dublin failed and seven commanders were shot by firing squad. Casement was taken to London, where Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and his cabinet debated his fate. He was tried at the Old Bailey Court on charges of high treason and hanged in 1916.

During his trial, Casement's personal diaries were introduced into evidence. The handwritten diaries recorded graphic details of Casement picking up young men and teenaged boys for sex in Africa and Ireland. Documents released in 1995 showed British authorities in 1916 used the diaries to smear Casement. At the time, sodomy was considered to be gross indecency, and a criminal offence. "I see not the slightest objection to hanging Casement and afterwards giving as much publicity to the contents of his diary as decency permits," wrote Sir Ernley Blackwell, undersecretary at the Home Office.

Now, the diaries have been subjected to handwriting analysis, ultraviolet light, and electrostatic detection tests, said forensic scientist Prof. Bill McCormack of Goldsmiths College, University of London. "The inescapable conclusion is that they are authentic," he said. "I am very confident, because of the scale of this operation."

Whether the diaries made a difference in Casement's fate remains debatable. "I am not a professional historian, but my educated guess, is that he would have been reprieved in the absence of the diaries," McCormack said.

Seamus Osiochain, a biographer of Casement, disagrees. "His trial happened at the same time as the Battle of the Somme was raging, and he had conspired with the Germans," Osiochain said. "I don't think it [the diaries]would have swung the outcome either way."

Saturday, January 29, 2011



by Sidney Allinson. 

Joan Kennedy was the first Canadian woman
to receive an Army commission

Canadian women who now rightly enjoy full equality in every walk of life may not realize how much they owe to an almost forgotten housewife who was instrumental in forming the Canadian Women's Army Corps [CWAC] early in World War Two.
More than half a century ago, Joan Kennedy assumed command of the Cana­dian Women's Army Corps that was formed by her personal initiative, despite official short-sightedness and gender prejudice. From local beginnings as leader of a group of volunteers, she went on to spearhead the national formation of the CWAC, in which women became part of the Canadian army for the first time.
She was born Joan Barbara Fensham in Middlesex, England, in 1908, daughter of an immigrant banker who became an Alber­ta farmer. Having contracted malaria dur­ing the First World War, Harry Fensham re­settled his family in the gentler climate of Victoria. After matriculation from high­school, Joan worked as a telephone switch­board operator, then became an accountant with the B.C. Bond Corporation.
Described as "a slim, vivacious girl with short wavy hair and blue eyes, fond of a good time," she married Norman R. Kennedy, a B.C. government engineer in 1929. The bride dutifully quit her employ­ment, as was then expected of women upon getting married. The change to being "Mrs. Norman Kennedy, attractive young house­wife and club-woman," cannot have fully suited her energetic temperament. Still, she occupied herself with vigorous fund-rais­ing for Tiny Tim Cots in Victoria hospitals.
   Evidently, she was also a shrewd observer of world affairs and the    growing threat of war with Nazi Germany. Early in 1939. Joan Kennedy joined with other like-­minded women to form the British Columbia Women's Service Corps,' and became its commandant. Without any government' support, members of the BCWSC made their own military-style blue uniforms and trained themselves in practical skills likely to be needed in a war.
The British Columbia women were first, then similar groups formed in other provinces across Canada. Each proved their foresightedness and value after the Second World War was declared in September, 1939. Few, if any, women in Canada at the time expressed the slightest desire to go into front-line combat. Nevertheless. they held strong patriotic feelings. and were determined to serve in any vital support roles opened to them.
The aptitude of women to perform a variety of military jobs caught Kennedy's imagination. Almost single-handedly, she began a determined campaign to persuade the Dominion government to co-ordinate various women's voluntary organizations into a national army unit. For more than two years, she faced total indifference from politicians and downright hostility from military headquarters. Calmly, she kept' pointing out the successful example of half a million women already serving in the British armed forces. But hide-bound atti­tudes and well-entrenched prejudice towards women prevailed in Canada in those days. One brass-hat spluttered to her, "A petticoat army madness!"
After being turned down by three suc­cessive ministers of defence, Joan Kennedy's persistent lobbying finally paid off. On Aug. 13, 1941, the Hon. John Ral­ston signed an Order-in-Council to autho­rize formation of the Canadian Women's Army Corps. The new unit suddenly gained priority; and Elizabeth Smellie, matron in-­chief of the Canadian Army Nursing Ser­vice, was seconded to organize the CWAC's administration.

 CWACs on parade

Meantime, Joan Kennedv was admitted into the army with the rank of major -- the first Canadian woman to receive an Army commission - and appointed Staff Offi­cer CWAC: Military District 11, head­quartered at Work Point Barracks, Victo­ria. Because of Kennedy’s obvious suitability Chief Matron Smiellie soon recommended her to be appointed as commander of the CWAC, promoted to the rank of lieu­tenant-colonel.
By then, Canada's women had become part of an enormous effort to gear up: the country’s post-Depression industry into a powerful wartime production effort. Previously, the full potential of women had been untapped, relegated to occupations thought of be "suitable women's' work." However, females soon showed their stuff in jobs as welders and lathe-operators, helping build ships and tanks and aircraft.

Even more of a novelty in Canada was the innovative sight of women in military uniform. CWACs were outfitted in well­-cut khaki tunics, shirts, and skirts, plus trousers usually worn only while on such duties as driving trucks. Each individual woman's clothing measurements were forwarded to Army Central Stores in Ottawa, so indi­vidual uniforms were tailor-made. Officers were allowed silk stockings, while other-­rank legs wore lisle, and an allowance was paid for the purchase of civilian lingerie. 
Regulations required female recruits aged between 21 and 40, with a minimum height of five feet, weight no less than 105 pounds, and having no dependents.. They were to have at least Grade 8 education, and be British subjects, as Canadian citizens were at the time.  Basic training consisted of squad drill, marching, physical education, and military, deportment, but without any weapons instruction.
When critics suggested that rigid army life could turn females into masculine indi­viduals, Kennedy snapped, "No, life in the CWAC will never rob a girl of her charm or her womanly qualities! Whatever tasks they undertake, they'll do them in a woman's way:"
She was forthright about what were tasks to be expected. "Any woman who goes into this with the idea of finding glam­our is entirely misled;" she said. "Her job will probably be pounding a typewriter, scrubbing floors, cooking, or something equally commonplace but necessary."
Kennedy's emphasis continued to be on craning women capable of non-combat­ duties to relieve men for front-line service. Early requirements were for clerks, telephonists, cooks, and drivers, out even­tually CWACs were performing scores of demanding military skills, including code-cipher­ing, motor-mechanics; and map-mating.
Whatever their rank, women received only two-thirds the pay of a male soldier. female private got 90 cents per day, com­pared with $1.30 for a man. Lt. Col. Kennedy's daily pay was $6.70. (A man in an equivalent position, commanding an entiire corps, usually held the rank of general.)
In 1943, after some understandable grumbling about inequality of earnings, CWAC pay was raised to 80 percent of a man's rate_
Early on, Kennedy did not see her unit having any revolutionary effect on women's status in society. In 1942, she said, "We are only in for the duration, In post-war years, women will return to the same position they enjoy in the business world. They are the housewives of tomorrow."
Her perception changed rapidly, though, when she saw her womens’ enormous capabilities, and she began to muse publicly about her changed view of the near future. "Canadian women on active service won't be content with a frivolous or idle life after the war is over. A life of teas, bridge, and gossip will be empty, after the important job they're doing now w Most will want to do something more useful in their com­munity.”
 Within a few months of the unit's for­mation. 80 members were sent to Washi­ngton, D.C., working at the British Mili­tary Mission.-They made such an impression in the U.S. capital, a platoon of them were invited to march in a U.S. armed forces parade down Fifth Avenue, New York.

One newspaper gushed, “Those smart Canadian gals in khaki stole the show!"
The first draft of 350 CWACs went overseas in November, 1942, to serve in London, England, and eventually 3000 served overseas. They bravely endured Luftwaffe bombing raids, and in Nothwest Europe, the first female Canadian soldiers to come under fire. Later in the war, 43 CWACs served in Italy, 156 in Northwest Europe, and eventually 4,000 were sta­tioned overseas.  During the war, 25 CWACs died in WWII, as result of accident, injury, or disease. No CWACs were killed by enemy action, but four were wounded by a German V2-missile attack on Antwerp in 1945.

After being posted to Britain for a while in 1944, Lt.-Col. Kennedy returned to Canada to be appointed General Staff Officer in charge of training for the CWAC. Her ability was further recognized by being appointed to an army board to organize formation of the new Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, a highly technical regiment. Having demonstrated her versa­tility yet again, she returned to adminis­tering the CWACs until after war's end in August, 1945.
The competence shown by females in general during the Second World War helped change forever the way in which women were viewed by the military establishment and Canadian civilian society in general. Success of the 21,000 "Kennedy CWACs" not only paved the way to equal status for females in the Canadian Forces. They had an even wider influence on later generations' radically changed perception of women in all career roles.
The CWAC was disbanded in Septem­ber, 1946, then re-formed three years lat­er, including a local Victoria platoon of women in 155 Coy., RCASC, later the 11 (Victoria) Service Battalion. After Canadian unification of the three armed forces in 1968, women blend­ed into the ranks of most units, becoming simply soldiers, sailors, and airforce personnel. Finally, in 1989, the Human Rights Commission ordered that women were to be fully inte­grated into all aspects of the military.
Meanwhile, Joan Kennedy herself had been let go from the army in 1946, She returned to Victoria, obtained a divorce, and quickly adapted to home-town life again. She took mischie­vous fun in telling how previous military comrades of both sexes often passed by without recognizing her in civilian clothes.
The post-war years gradually became more difficult for her. Despite her execu­tive skills, she faced an increasing straggle to make ends meet, and ended up trying to build a small secretarial business.
The whole city was shocked when she died suddenly of a heart attack at her Rock­land Avenue home on Oct.11, 1956. She was only 47 years of age; her early death more than likely the result of strain from overwork during five gruelling years of wartime responsibility.
The only Canadian woman ever to be accorded a funeral with full military hon­ours, her casket was draped with the Union Jack and home on a gun-carriage flanked by six army officers as pallbearers. The pro­cession marched slow­ly; through streets lined by Victorians standing to show their respect. Then Joan Kennedy's ashes were laid to rest in an unmarked grave at Hatley Park Memorial Gardens, Colwood, British Columbia. Forty-three years later, in 1999, a special plaque ded­icated to her was unveiled at the Ashton Garrison Museum, Victoria, BC, where her personal effects are held. It has become the primary museum of the CWAC, which houses a large collection of female uniforms and related artefacts. Other CWAC related materials are held by the Museum of Esquimalt Naval Base, Victoria, BC.
 Further recognition took place in August, 2001, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Canadian Women's Army Corps. A military guard of honour from the II (Victo­ria) Service Battalion paraded for a spe­cial religious ceremony at Lieutenant-Colonel  Joan Kennedy's bur­ial-place, where a suitably inscribed headstone is to be erected to memorialize Canada's first female soldier.
Lt. Col. Joan Kennedy, founding Commandant of the Canadian Woman's Army Corps (CWAC) and staff officer second to assist in the formation of the Royal Canadian Electrical Mechanical Engineers (RCEME), was the first Canadian Woman to receive a full military funeral in 1956. There was no graveside service after Kennedy's funeral, and this pioneer for all Canadian military women was buried in an unmarked grave and largely forgotten.
Many ex-CWACs stayed in close contact with each other for many years after their demobilization in 1946, to keep alive the memory of their service together. One such group of women in Kitchener, Ontario, proudly arranged a statue to their corps.

However, Joan Kennedy herself and her remarkable achievements had not been entirely forgotten. Aware of Kennedy's shamefully unmarked grave, the Ashton Armoury Museum made representation to Veteran's affairs Canada to rectify things, and also worked in partnership with the Last Post Society to provide a suitable headstone, which was erected in June 2001. Following the Remembrance Day Ceremony later that year, 11 (Victoria) Service Battalion, veteran CWAC's and RCEME, the Royal Canadian Legion, the Korean Veteran's Association, a Colour Party, and a large convoy of vintage World War vehicles made a long slow procession to the gravesite. So Lt.-Col Joan Kennedy finally received the long overdue graveside service and historical recognition that a woman of her accomplishments and stature was due.

Movie about Canadian women in military service during WWII:

Monday, January 24, 2011


Many a strange tale – real or imaginary – emerged from the Second World War. One in particular that has always intrigued me was told by my late close friend, ex-Chief Master Sergeant Lucian I. Thomas DFM. Though Virginia-born, he volunteered to serve as an air-gunner with the Royal Canadian Air Force and then the United States Army Air Force throughout WWII.
He shared with me the saga of why there are now so many tail-less cats to be seen in the Flensburg area on the German-Danish border. Lucien swore he had first-hand factual knowledge that their presence is the aftermath of the crash of a Royal Air Force bomber aircraft in the Second World War.

On the night of October 1, 1942, 27 Halifax bombers of 4 Group RAF attacked the U-Boat base at Flensburg, of which 12 planes were shot down. Kurt Peuschel, then a 14-year-old local boy, and some of his school friends, were allowed by German Luftwaffe guards to inspect one of the crashed bombers, believed to be A/C serial number W7717 of 10 Squadron, RAF.
Guards told them that five of its Canadian crew had been captured uninjured and sent to a POW camp. Before leaving, the prisoners asked their captors to look for the crew's pet tomcat that had escaped from the wrecked bomber and fled into the darkness. The RAF flyers were all very fond of their feline mascot, which they had acquired while training on the Isle of Man.
It was a Manx cat, the unique tail-less breed that would be easily identifiable to searchers. Apparently, Kurt and his young friends were enlisted to help search the area for the tail-less cat, but without result.
Kurt later moved away to live in Switzerland, and visited his homeland many years later. While there, he saw a local TV station report commenting on the large number of cats without tails to be seen in the Flensburg area. The report attributed them to the wartime rumour of an RAF mascot survivor that went missing in action.
Kurt told his wartime story to the TV station, and a search for the survivors of the crew was taken up by the Canadian Embassy in Berne, but without success after such a long time has passed. Still, I like to think it is true that many descendants of a mascot Manx cat who fell from the sky long ago still roam the streets of Flensburg

Friday, January 21, 2011

-- Donna Andrew,
Marine Liasion Officer,
Transport Canada.

Kapitan-Leutnant Peter Schrewe was only 23 years of age when ordered by the German navy to take command of his first U-boat. Mission: to establish, in the autumn of 1943, an unmanned automatic weather station in the northern Labrador Territory of Newfoundland. Purpose; to improve western Atlantic weather analysis for the German navy and air force (Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe).

Kapitan-Leutnant Peter Schrewe

I was personally involved in helping solve this little-known mystery, when I embarked in Canada's largest icebreaker, the Louis S. St. Laurent, a Canadian Coast Guard expedition steamed through the frigid waters along the Labrador coast. Off its northernmost point, at Cape Chidley, the expedition found signs of one of the few Nazi operations on North American soil during the Second World War.
The tip-off about the covert operation came from retired German engineer, Franz Selinger. Selinger, who joined J. Y. Clarke, Canadian Coast Guard's fleet director, and Dr. Alec Douglas, official historian for the Department of National Defence, on board the St. Laurent in Dartmouth, N.S., on 12 July 1981.
Herr Selinger brought with him powerful evidence, not then wholly conclusive, that the Germans had landed on what was then the British Crown colony of Labrador, which became the Canadian province of Newfoundland-Labrador in 1949. It was obvious that if Selinger's evidence could be verified, we had a national news story on our hands. So I signed up for the trip.
For Douglas, the story began two years previously, when he received a letter from the Austrian-born Selinger, who is preparing a book on Arctic weather reconnaissance. Selinger wrote to Douglas at the suggestion of Prof. Dr. Rowher, of Germany's Stuttgart library for contemporary history. Rowher and Douglas had met at a maritime conference in Germany some years earlier.
Selinger's 1979 letter asked Douglas for details of two weather installation activities during the war. "There were, as we know," wrote Selinger, "contemporary actions of Germans and Canadian Forces in the same region where weather reconnaissance activities were to be observed." The first was on the German-controlled Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, north of Norway, where a Canadian raiding-force had landed in 1941, destroyed the coal-mines and evacuated the inhabitants to Britain. After the Canadian force left, German troops re-landed and operated a manned weather observation post there between October 1941 and July 1942.
"Later in the war," continued Selinger, "German U-boats landed on the coast of Labrador and established an automatic weather station that was later captured by the forces of your country." In the same letter, Selinger said that he had seen a photograph of such a station and would be "obliged" if Douglas would give him further details of the automatic weather station installed in Labrador.

U-boat crew emplacing Weather Station "Kurt"
on isolated coast of Labrador

Historian Douglas could tell Selinger much about Spitzbergen, but wrote back that he had no knowledge of any Labrador operation. "You get a little weary of unsubstantiated reports 40 years after the fact," explained Douglas. "All kinds of so-called sightings of Germans on Canadian shores during the war had been reported. To the last one, reports have been checked out but none of them has been conclusive: the evidence just never supports the rumor." Douglas suggested to Selinger that the automatic weather station to which he referred was "the one in Greenland, as Canada had certain interests there at the time."
Selinger was not deterred. The paper-chase was on. He wrote Douglas again. "You say there were no landings of German U-boats on the Labrador coast, but I wonder where the enclosed information comes from." In the course of his research, Selinger found and included in his letter to Douglas a photocopied reference to the WFL6 Weather Station Kurt (one of of a series of 21 wetterfunkgerat) established by a U-boat on the Labrador coast. Douglas conducted an exhaustive search. He inspected the files from the Royal Canadian Navy's Flag Officer Newfoundland. Nothing. He checked out resources of the commander in chief Canadian Northwest Atlantic; another dead end. The Eastern Air Command of the Royal Canadian Air Force had no positive authentic evidence. War diaries and military, federal, and archival records -- all were silent on the subject.
"It didn't help my search to discover that all headquarters operational records of naval intelligence had been destroyed in Ottawa five years after the war," said Douglas. "Some overzealous bureaucrat had tossed them -- all of them -- to the shredder."
Selinger, while investigating documents held by the son of a German meteorological scientist, Herr Sommermeyer, had stumbled on a series of photographs of which two in particular showed a German U-boat, and in the background, a different kind of terrain from all the others.
More importantly, there was something peculiar about the U-boat in the two pictures. The U-boat was a type IXC submarine, without the usual 20-mm. quadruple antiaircraft flak gun. [Unknown by Canadians at the time, the AA-guns had been torn off the U-boat by a fierce Atlantic storm during the voyage from Germany.]
These were important clues. First, the photos were definitely not Spitzbergen, Bear Island, or any other eastern Atlantic/Arctic site. Secondly, the type IXC boat suggested a distant operation. Such boats were selected for long-range missions. Thirdly, this boat should be easy to identify. Its armament was distinctive. Selinger thus had fresh evidence. In a search that took him through hundreds of U-boat logs, he found at last the log book of U-537 and the name of its young commander, Peter-Schrewe. There, unmistakably stated in Schrewe's meticulous recording of his 1943 mission was this entry from Kiel:
Sept. 18 1943 Leaving port for first operational cruise
09:00 h Orders are to erect an automatic weather station on Labrador Coast--Canada.
Selinger immediately phoned Douglas in Canada, who called an old friend, Jim Clarke. Captain Clarke, commanding officer of HMCS Athabaskan in the 1960s, knew Douglas as a young naval officer. Both hadd kept in touch over the years. Alec filled me in on the investigative events of the preceding two years. He told me about Franz Selinger, about Peter Schrewe's log book, about the photographs. And above all he told me about Canada's sheer ignorance in face of the facts He also knew that our Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers made routine summer Arctic deployments up the Labrador coast to Lancaster Sound. Would it be possible, he asked, for Selinger to board one of our - icebreakers to chase down this amazing piece of research?"
Clarke became convinced of the incontrovertible evidence held by the German. It was certainly possible for Selinger to take passage in a Coast Guard icebreaker up to Labrador. In addition, said Clarke, it is withinthe mandate of the Coast Guard to assist other government departments on research matters. He would arrange not only for Selinger, but for Douglas and himself, to take the trip into the Arctic. "I had intended to spend time aboard a ship of the fleet this summer," Clarke said. "That we might find a little piece of history on our way was a further incentive."
Clarke, Selinger, Douglas, and I left Dartmouth on July 16, 1983, aboard the Coastguard patrol vessel 'Louis S. St. Laurent', under the command of Captain M. S. Tanner and at 14,000 tonnes the largest icebreaker in the Coast Guard fleet. Destination: Martin Bay, 32 kilometers south of Cape Chidley, due south of Baffin Island on the northern tip of the Labrador coast. On July 21, early in the Arctic morning, the icebreaker dropped anchor16 nautical miles from the rock-bound coast.
With Selinger's wartime photos showing prominent land features, and Peter Schrewe's navigational records, we boarded the St.-Laurent's helicopter and flew towards the coast. Making just a single pass around the mountain, we traced what must have been U-537's path up through the channel between Home and Avayalook Islands,-thence over Martin Bay.
"There it is," cried the chopper's pilot Les Bennetts, "Down there, on-the left." As carefully as a baby put down to sleep, the Bell 206LI set us down on a rocky ledge. Twenty meters away lay the remains of the German weather station.

Cape Chidley, Martin Bay, Labrador.
The discovery has since been widely recorded in the national and international news media. Peter Schrewe had indeed successfully completed, through a navigational nightmare, his mission to erect a weather station in Martin Bay, Labrador.
KaLu Schrewe later died on another U-boat mission, when U-537 was sunk with all hands by torpedoes launched from the American submarine "USS Flounder" off Java in 1944. He could never know that 38 years later the drama and danger of his mission were uncovered by a fellow German. Nor would he ever know that his mission would create international headlines and make him a public name in his homeland.
We found the corroded remains of that station, intact except for the transmitter, parts of the encoding device, and one of the module cannisters. German manufacturers' labels were visible on batteries and assorted devices.
Someone had been there before us, though whoever it was had probably dismissed it as a Canadian relay station. For Peter Schrewe's crew had convincingly carved on one of the weather canister heads the falsified inscription "Canadian Weather Service."
Like the layer upon layer which form the spectacular pack-ice of the Canadian Arctic, this story contains others within it. There is the story that captured international headlines. How a Canadian Coast Guard team located the first known evidence that this Nazi installation had been established on North American shores, 38 years after the event.
There is the story -- a highly technical one -- of how in the early 1940s, Germany held the state-of-the-art technology in radio communications.
There is a jigsaw story to delight any armchair military buff's sense of battle and history. Just how did this automatic station, transmitting weather information for the Germans during the late 1943 and early 1944, affect the timing and events of a most crucial phase of the U-boat war in the Atlantic?
There is a story to authenticate. Who dismantled the station in Martin Bay and when? [Subsequent research established that the radio device had not been dismantled; it simply ceased to transmit weather information only a few months after it was set up.] Did the Germans come back? Was it a casual Inuit hunting party? Was it a Canadian search and destroy team? Why was the transmitter taken? And who left behind a single undated .303 rifle cartridge shell, with the inscription "British Dominion?"
But the real story belongs to Peter Schrewe and Franz Selinger. It is “KaLu” Peter Schrewe, young and green, who guided his large submarine across an enemy-infested ocean and snaked past rocks and shoals to the barren shores of Martin Bay. Unwittingly, he made history in 1943. And it was Selinger, in pursuit of the facts, like a terrier chasing a fox to earth, who brought Canadian history back to Canada.

German Weather Station "Kurt" is now on display
at the Canadian War Mudeum, Ottawa.

Dogs and other innocent animals have been sacrificed by humans in warfare throughout history. One particularly affecting incidence is the use of trained dogs as anti-tank weapons by the Soviet Army to destroy German panzer tanks during the Second World War.
Initial tank-encounters during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 virtually wiped out the pre-war armoured inventory of the USSR tanks of the BT series, the T28 and T35. But soon the Nazi armour faced sterner opposition. Against the German Mark III and Mark IV. Soviet Army employed with great effect its highly-effective new T34 tank, its heavy KVI tank, and of course its land mines. But in addition it devised a new anti-tank weapon -- the mine-carrying dog.

Soviet Army anti-tank dogs. The dogs were kept hungry and trained to crawl under tanks to get their food. In the combat area, they were fitted with a special fabric harness which contained 10-12 kg of high explosive in four pouches. On top of the harness was a spring-loaded trigger pin. When the dog crawled under a tank the trigger pin was depressed setting off a detonator and exploding the charge.

Large contingents of dog-handlers were formed to train hundreds of large dogs to act as “suicide-bombers.” There is evidence that the dog was sent into battle during the 1941 autumn offensive against Moscow, and in South Russia in the areas of Kursk, Rostov, Stalingrad, and the Maikop oilfields.

During the siege of Stalingrad "a squad of tank-destroyer dogs," each carrying a load of high explosives, knocked out a total of thirteen German tanks, according to the book, Anti Tank Warfare, by the USSR's MG G. Biryukov and COL G. Melnikov (Progress Publishers, Moscow.) However, they devote only a scant two paragraphs to this innovative method of antitank defence.
"During the Great Patriotic War," they wrote, "dogs were used to destroy tanks. They usually attacked tanks from a distance of 150-200 metres. As the dog dashed under a tank frontally or at a 45 degree angle, the trigger of the explosive charge caught on the bottom of the tank and detonated with enormous force. In one such incident, in the Glukhova sector of the 160th Infantry Division, six dogs destroyed five enemy panzers within an hour.
"At Stalingrad, in the vicinity of the airfield, a squad of tank destroyer dogs destroyed thirteen tanks. At Kursk, in the zone of the 6th Guards Army, sixteen dogs destroyed twelve tanks that had broken through into the depth of the Soviet defences in the area of Tamarovka, Bykovo, Hill 244.5."
Dennis A. Seguin, of Hibbing, Minn., an expert in military vehicles, described the dog mine in detail in a short article in AFV News of November 1968 (vol. 3, no.. 6), published by the AFV Association. The explosive charge was twenty-six pounds, carried in two canvas pouches. The ignition device was a metal fuse box containing the standard Russian-type fuse, which was coupled to a booster charge and detonating cord. The booster consisted of about 200 grams of explosives. A wooden lever with the aid of a tension spring and safety pin held back the fuse plunger. When the safety pin was removed, the wooden trip lever extended over the dog's head and body. When the dog attempted to crawl under a tank, the lever would strike the hull bottom and ignite the charge so as to breach the tank's armour at its weakest point.
A Soviet dog attack is mentioned in Operation of the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking at Rostov and the Maikop Oilfields (Summer 1942). In describing the division's successful operation near Malye Sali and the Kolmyskaya River, the report stated, "An attack on our tanks by mine-carrying dogs was, thanks to the alertness of our tank crews and infantry, rendered harmless by shooting the dogs." In a short paragraph it explained how the dogs were equipped and how they operated. However, despite this effusive Nazi propaganda, contrary indications are that the self-immolating Russian dogs did destroy numerous enemy tanks in combat.
"Russian Combat Methods in World War II," one of the historical studies in the German Report Series, prepared by the Historical Division, SSUSA, refers briefly to the antitank dogs. This study, published as DA Pamphlet 20-230, with date of November 1950, devotes two paragraphs to the dogs, as follows:
"In the autumn offensive in 1941 against Moscow, the Russians employed so-called mine dogs for destroying German tanks. In the manner of pack animals medium sized dogs carried demolition charges which were connected to a spindle fastened to the dog's back . . . . The dogs were trained to run under approaching tanks. In so doing the animal inadvertently brought the upright spindle, which was about six inches long, into contact with the belly of the tank and set off the charge.

"News of this insidious improvisation caused some alarm in the German panzer units and made them fire at all approaching dogs on sight. So far there is no evidence of any case where a German tank was destroyed by a mine dog. On the other hand, it was reported that several mine dogs fleeing from the fire of German tanks sought protection underneath Russian tanks which promptly blew up. One thing is certain: the spectre of mine dogs ceased just as abruptly as it had begun."
Contrdictary reports by both German and Russian sources mention numerous instances of panzers being destroyed by trained war-dogs bearing explosives. Soviet claims give credit of as many as 300 panzers having destroyed by this method.
As late as 1957, the US Department of the Army's TM 5-223 document, Foreign Mine Warfare Equipment summarizes use of the Soviet dog mine. But the United States was apparently not interested in developing an antitank dog corps of its own. It is pleasant to report that according to William H.. Hanson, the librarian of the U.S. Armor School, Fort Knox., there is no evidence that the American Army ever tested the concept of dog-versus-tank nor even showed any interest in the idea.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Masculine Compensatory Fantasy
The incidence of "wannabes" claiming to be veterans, war heroes, or members of elite military units has reached ridiculous proportions. Just a couple of months ago, I heard of two more cases of exposure of such fraud by men claiming to have been Vietnam-era SEALs; one in Naples, Florida, and the other in Mobile, Alabama. Many SpecOps veterans I have spoken to have their own favorite stories about these phonies, and I have even encountered a few cases myself.

Last summer, my wife and I fell into casual conversation with a young man in a London restaurant, who within minutes proceeded to tell us wildly improbable tales of his purported adventures while serving with Britain's elite Special Air Services Regiment. This pathetic fantasist did not even know that members of the SAS are under orders never to publicly reveal they are even members of the regiment, much less ever reveal details of operations in which they took part. His ignorant naivete is typical of these individuals who in their own rational minds surely must know that their stories will inevitably be disbelieved or challenged, but something in their psyches compels them to continue living their imaginary martial lies.

What kind of psychological make-up causes some individuals to claim to be what they never were? It is all the more puzzling when most of these men are highly respectable in their fields of endeavour. For example, I read of two regular US Navy lieutenants who falsely (and stupidly) wore the SEAL badge in the company of genuine SEAL officers. Similarly, a naval reserve captain, who was successful in civilian life and who commanded a large reserve unit in California, was caught wearing unauthorized SEAL insignia, when challenged, averred that he was entitled to wear it. Only when confronted by his commanding admiral did he finally remove the device.

Such individuals surely must know that their stories will inevitably be challenged, but something in their psyches compels them to continue living their lies. What kind of psychological make-up causes some individuals to claim to be heroic or members of elite units? It is all the more puzzling when most of these men are quite respectable in their real-life fields of endeavour. For example, two regular US Navy lieutenants were exposed as frauds when they stupidly (and falsely) wore the SEAL badge in the company of genuine SEAL officers. Similarly, a naval reserve captain, who was highly successful in civilian life and who commanded a large reserve unit in California, was caught wearing the same badge of the elite to which he was not entitled, and, when challenged, claimed that he was entitled to wear it. Only when confronted by his commanding admiral did he finally remove the insignia. The most tragic example is that of US Navy Admiral Boorda, who foolishly and improperly wore the “V” for Valour badge on his Vietnam Service ribbon. He was inevitably exposed, causing this otherwise splendid officer so much shame that he took his own life.

In my attempt to understand the psychological functioning of individuals who impersonate SEALs or similar special warriors, I read about a clinical psychologist in Maryland who reviewed the psychological and psychiatric literature on the impostor phenomenon. The doctor considered that individuals who impersonate heroic or admirable others can be found suffering from many forms of mental illness. The most disturbed of these are suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and they have a fixed belief that they are somehow someone else greater than themselves.

There are also those who have “bipolar disorder,” a condition in which the individual develops a grandiose sense of self. I also learned that sufferers of narcissistic personality disorders take on the roles of idealized persons to further their sense of superiority. All too often, this occurs in the cases of qualified SpecOps personnel who grossly exaggerate their combat prowess, just to satisfy some deep-rooted longing for recognition.

The doctor also discussed individuals who have personality dysfunction, the most damaging of which is anti-social personality disorder Anyone suffering from this disorder assumes the role of some heroic figure for reasons of personal gain or to exploit somebody for financial or emotional gain. These individuals are the most reprehensible of the phonies.

I learned that a very common theme among impostors is low self-esteem. This disturbance in their sense of self leads them to create ever-more-intricate webs of lies and fantasies in order to make themselves feel more important. This is a condition known as pseudologia fantastica. When the individual takes this web of lies and begins mixing it into reality, e.g., dressing as a Green Beret, Paratrooper wings, or wearing a SEAL badge, it is referred to as the "impostor phenomenon."

Often, especially when it relates to impersonating members of Special Operations Forces, the individual is engaging in a so-called “masculine compensatory fantasy. All SEALs, Special Forces soldiers, Rangers, Commandos, Marines, and similar renowned combat units represent the very epitome of masculinity. This is why SpecOps personnel are the frequent objects of impersonation. For many, these perceived-to-be-elite personnel are the fantasized optimal persons that an impostor wishes to be.

Posturing by false warriors has become so prevalent, it has become the focus of clinical study, revealing how such impersonators tend to feel grossly inadequate. Individuals with very low self-esteem and a lack of sense of identity could easily seduce themselves step-by-step over the course of time into a belief that they are the fantasized superior warriors of our era. Those with low self-esteem, who genuinely need our compassion, are a far cry from those deceitful anti-social individuals who prey on trusting and unsuspecting individuals for the purpose of exploiting them financially and/or emotionally. It is these anti-social personalities who impersonate members of the SpecOps community who do the greatest damage to the trust America and Britain place in that brotherhood.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Recently convicted sex murderer ex-Col. R. Williams is a disgrace to the Canadian Air Force. The official act of burning his uniforms is quite understandable, and without historical precedent. Revocation of medals and decorations is another matter entirely. In the past, there were several incidences of even the Victoria Cross being revoked. That practice was discontinued after the famous case of Pte. James Collis, who had been awarded the VC during the Second Afghan War. His medal was revoked a few years later, because of his conviction for bigamy. When Collis died in 1918, his sister wrote to King George V, pleading for restoration of her brother’s medal. The King was so touched, he intervened to have the medal award restored to Collis, strongly expressing his Royal opinion that: “No matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC recipient to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his medal on the scaffold.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This current furor over censoring "Nigger" from Huckleberry Finn reminds me that the same word recently prevented a planned re-make of the 1955 movie, THE DAM BUSTERS. The movie, based on actual historical events, is about the famous 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, which bombed the German Ruhr dams in WWII. (Mainly British airmen, the squadron also included several Canadians and a few Americans.) Their leader was W/C Guy Gibson VC, whose labrador retriever was named "Nigger," a common name for black dogs then, used without racist intent.

Those being less introspective days, the dog's name was spoken often throughout the film, including the fact that "Nigger" was the code-word radioed back to signal the mission had been carried out successfully.
However, when production started on a re-make of the movie in England in 2008, a PC uproar started against use of the dog's name; historical accuracy be damned. The remake's producers then decided to go ahead by changing the dog's name to "Nidge." Which understandably caused a public uproar the other way, by many British people who still honour the memory of Gibson VC and his dog. So, in the end, THE DAM BUSTERS film was never re-made, all for squabbling over a word.

It is touching how strongly the memory of W/C Gibson's dog lives on. The faithful labrador was run over and killed by a car just an hour before 617 Squadron aircraft took off for the historic raid to breach the Ruhr dams. Saddened, Gibson asked his Flight-Sergeant to bury the dog that same evening at midnight, the exact time the squadron was expected to be over the target in Germany that night. Nigger's grave still remains at RAF Scampton airfield, and his resting-place is visited by hundreds of people every year to this day.

To learn more, here are some film-clips from THE DAM BUSTERS:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

                                                FALL OF THE ARROW

From the breathless reviews of a recently revived stage-play about the demise of Canada’s CF-105 Avro Arrow fighter aircraft 50-odd years ago, it is clear the anti-American revisionists are still rewriting history, and also that media people now have not the slightest idea of what all the fuss was about. As I personally observed the events while they took place, I would like to add a less sensational but more factual account of the real circumstances that led to cancellation of the Arrow.
I well recall that cold Friday afternoon of Feb. 20, 1959, as I trudged among a silent crowd streaming out of the Avro Aircraft plant at Malton, Ontario. Just minutes before, we had been abruptly told over the loudspeakers that our employment was terminated, as of that moment, and all workers were ordered to vacate the buildings immediately. Numbly, we lined up at the chain-link gates to allow unusually subdued security guards to inspect our briefcases and lunch buckets, to prevent any disgruntled ex-employees from smuggling out valuables or documentation.
I remember each man and woman pausing as we left to look one last time at the sleek white fighter plane on the runway. Then we turned our backs and walked away, leaving the Arrow to history.
Soon afterwards, while driving home along Sargent Rd. in Georgetown, I saw little family groups outside every house; mothers with small children. Some were already greeting their man, back early today, confirming shocking TV/radio news of unemployment for virtually everyone in the entire subdivision, mostly inhabited by Avro employees. I spotted two homes that actually had For Sale signs up already.
As I pulled into the driveway of our brand-new semi-detached mortgage, my wife stood holding up our new baby at the kitchen window, our 2-year-old son waving beside them. Word had already reached her, and I threw them a brave grin. Being laid off was worrying for everyone concerned, but I at least knew I was going in for my second interview for an editor’s job I’d already applied for at MacLean-Hunter Publishing a couple of weeks previously -- right after hearing “government reassurance” that the Arrow project was not going to be cancelled. (Incidentally, I did start work on my new job there a week later.)
Still, I can claim that I was among the 14,528 Avro employees who summarily got the chop that unforgettable Black Friday. The ripple effect of the Avro plant closing was far wider – scores of smaller supply companies were also affected nationwide, causing a further 14,000 workers to lose their jobs elsewhere. Yet, for some engineers and technical staff, the massive layoff turned into a doorway to enormously better opportunities. Soon after Avro’s closure, scores of American employee recruiters arrived in Toronto, eager to hire people with aviation expertise. So many ex-Avro engineers and production workers were hired by Boeing Aircraft that Seattle was dubbed “Malton West.”

Left to Right: Robert Lindley, Chief Designer; Jim Floyd, VP of Engineering; Guest Hake, Arrow Project Designer;
                                                                          Jim Chamberlain, Chief Aerodynamisist.

More significantly, the US Air & Space Agency hired some of Canada’s most innovative engineers and designers. On notable example was Jim Chamberlain, Avro’s chief aerodynamicist, who became a senior designer for the American Gemini space programme, and led a contingent of 32 other engineers from Malton to join him down south.
It's astonishing to realize the Arrow shutdown happened over a half-century ago now, the affair now part of Canada's history. Few people now remember how the Arrow had its origin in the early days of the aviation industry in Canada, which became for a while one of the great achievements of this country. At outset of World War Two, the Royal Canadian Air Force had only about 270 aircraft, of which only 40 wore suitable for combat. Worse, there were few airplane factories in the country, employing less than 4,000 people. By 1945, Canada had a massive aircraft industry that had produced almost 11,000 warplanes that helped play a vital role in the air war against the Axis powers. Giant among these firms was Victory Aircraft of Malton, Ontario, which employed 10,000 people and manufactured 430 Lancaster heavy bombers. Soon after war's end, this company became A.V. Roe Canada.
Politics and personalities had a lot to do with the corporation's postwar evolution. There was its main founder, Sir Roy Dobson, a blunt Yorkshire industrialist; production manager Fred Smye; and the Liberal government's hard-driving Minister of Munitions – C.D Howe. Also add a cast of brilliant designers, notably Jim Floyd and Jim Chamberlin. To support them, was a large skilled workforce, many of them immigrants from Britain.
Avro began manufacturing a series of advanced design aircraft. First there came the innovative C-102 Avro Jetliner (a world first) which flew in 1949. Then came the CF-100, a high-performance fighter plane. Finally, work began on the CF-105 Avro Arrow high-altitude fighter, powered by Canadian-designed Orenda engines. The futuristic delta-winged Arrow then seemed like something off the cover of a science fiction magazine. The new plane had its beginnings in 1948, when a new design was sought to meet the Royal Canadian Air Force’s requirement for a high-altitude long-range fighter plane capable of defending Canada’s skies against the threat of Soviet Union bombers.
From the start, it had the support of Howe, a powerful member of the Liberal Party government, and in this lay the seeds of the eventual Arrow disaster. The 1957 general election brought a change in power when the Conservative Party headed by John Diefenbaker was voted into Parliament. I recall Avro employees’ wide amusement when company managers hasty removed icon-like photos of Liberal power-broker C.D. Howe from office walls right after the election. The new government quickly began to harrumph about “Liberal’s rampant overspending” and singled out the Arrow project as a particularly costly example.
Signs that the county’s military policy had quickly changed when Canada signed the NORAD [North American Air Defence] Agreement with the United States in August, 1957, becoming a partner in joint continental air defence. Main element of the plan called for automation by placement of BOMARC nuclear-tipped anti-aircraft missiles. Initial worrying rumours that this meant the Arrow would be discontinued soon died away as assembly-line work busily continued on completing five airframes.

On March 24, 1958, all of Avro’s employees stood on the tarmac at Malton to witness the CF-105’s maiden flight, with test-pilot Jan Zurakowski at its controls. That beautiful bird’s roaring lift-off was a moment none who were there would ever forget. The entire country was uplifted by it, proudly hailed as a magnificent Canadian achievement.

However, strong hints of trouble for the Arrow started within days of the event. Media reports emphasised the lobbying efforts by Ottawa to convince the United States government to buy a fleet of Arrows for the American air force, a massive purchase that would go a long way to financing Avro’s production costs. When these sales-talks fell through, reporters began to speculate about a “conspiracy” by the US Central Intelligence Agency to scupper the deal. That sensationalist myth endures to this day.
At this time, I had been employed by Avro as a writer/editor, and was busily working on a script for a public relations film about the plane. The project was suddenly declared ‘high priority’ so it required a movie-making marathon in which I endured viewing over 30, 000 feet of 16mm. colour film. Working with the Photographic Department, I indexed every single scene in the entire run of film which was a record of the Arrow's development.
This involved listing every action that had been filmed, its place in the Arrow development program, and the photographic quality of each shot. The index provided means of quickly locating any particular scene of film footage needed, from the plane’s early design stages, through assembly-line progress, to the complete airframe, and the plane in flight.
After 15 hours of watching the screen, my bleary eyes had selected scenes totalling 1000 feet of film suitable for use in a half-hour movie aimed at giving the public greater insight of what goes into the design evolution and construction of au ultra-modern fighter aircraft.
All the rush was caused by top management suddenly considering it a high priority for viewing by the public to help increase taxpayer support for the Arrow despite its cost. After I screened a preview of the film to a pleased management committee, one jovial executive asked me what I suggested for its title. Reminded of a popular song of the day, I impishly said, “There’s A Goldmine In The Sky!” Nervous laughter all ‘round, and a baleful glare at me from my immediate boss.
My fly-on-the-wall presence at management discussions let me listen in to senior executives expressing daily concerns about possible government cancellation. More ominously, the Avro plant received a visit from the new Minister of Defence, General [rtd.] George Pearkes, V.C., a highly respected war hero. The distinguished old soldier was sent to make a speech to bolster the assembled Avro workers, bringing the Prime Minister’s personal denial of any rumours of cancellation and assurance that the Arrow project was not going to be cancelled.

I was in the crowd that morning, when Gen. Pearkes’ words sparked memory of the only political advice my father ever gave me: “No rumour is confirmed until it is officially denied.” So I turned to my friend and said quietly, “Okay, that does it – I’m going to look for another job!” And I did, the very next week; just as well for me, as it turned out.
Production of the Arrow was suddenly cancelled just a couple of weeks afterwards. It is fashionable today, for revisionists to ludicrously ascribe the fall of the Arrow to complicated schemes by CIA agents working for American industrialists jealous of the plane’s superior performance. But the real motivation was far different. Very soon after the Conservative Party took power, Canada’s Defence Committee behind closed doors had repeatedly requested cancellation of the project, for mixed reasons of expense and unsuitability.
General Pearke’s explanation was only publicly revealed much later:- “We did not cancel the CF-105 because there was no [Russian] threat, but because there was a lesser threat, and we got the BOMARC in lieu of more aircraft to look after this.” That reasoning also happened to conveniently help the new incumbent Conservative government to discredit the previous Liberal Party administration’s wisdom.
Now, more than a half-century later, it is fashionable for revisionists and conspiracy buffs to ascribe the fall of the Arrow to dark schemes by the American government. But I harbour clear memories of home-grown Canadian party politics being really at the bottom of things. To me and most other ex-Avro people who went on to different careers, the CF-105 Arrow still remains a sad example of a national aviation dream destroyed by the short-sighted squabbles of politicians.
The Arrow project was not only cancelled, Ottawa ordered the senseless destruction of the five airframes that had been built, so that its physical existence disappeared without a trace. One friend who was briefly re-called to the Avro plant to help collect company movies for burning, told me he saw three complete airframes being sliced apart like aluminum bananas. Not only were no samples of the aircraft preserved even for a museum, the process extended to making sure that no blueprints survived as possible rebukes in future years.
But at least a print of one of my movies did survive, complete with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s official march as background music. To my surprise and pride, I stumbled across FLIGHT OF THE ARROW posted on YouTube. If you want to see this superb aircraft in its glory days, here is the link: