Sunday, September 18, 2011

Italian Campaign - 1 Canadian Corps Jeep Platoon

The jeep was a versatile vehicle which aided mobility in a Second World War campaign which was notorious for poor vehicle going.  With high clearance and four-wheel drive, the jeep was able to go places where other vehicles were mired in the Italian muck.  The Canadians in Italy never formed a permanent jeep-equipped unit for supplying troops at the frontlines, but an ad hoc unit was established for use in the Hitler Line that was disbanded during the pursuit, and reincarnated during the Gothic Line attack.  The No. 1 Canadian Corps Jeep Platoon had thirty jeeps and around forty-five soldiers, which was attached directly to the battalion and company headquarters of the infantry.  Arnold Warren wrote his RCASC history that the sections identified with the units they served whilst hauling anti-tank guns, ammunition, and hot rations.  Innovation was no stranger to the group, who placed wet sandbags on the floors of their jeeps to protect the driver from mines.

Personnel of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment filling a jeep with gasoline, San Lorenzo in Monte, Italy, ca. 22 September 1944. Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-177531

An excerpt from the war diary after the breaking of the Gothic Line shows that the group saw no shortage of incoming fire:

"14 Sep 44
...One L/Cpl having to dive for a ditch receives a cut on forehead from heel of boot of a man trying to beat him to it.  Our DR, Pte Sage A., never before under shell fire, leaves his MC in a hurry, dives into ditch to save himself and finds two other men there.  He turns to say it rather hot, but it turns out they are both dead; presto, leaves for more pleasant company.  One man finds it very comfortable to get jeep moving slowly ahead and driving it from the ditch on hands and knees."

Pictures at Library and Archives Canada show that the jeep was a prevalent vehicle in many organizations.

Canadian war correspondents in a jeep, Modica, Italy, 13 July 1943. (L-R): Peter Stursberg, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; Ross Munro, Canadian Press; Captain Dave MacLellan, Public Relations Officer; Lieutenant Al Fraser, Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit. Credit: Capt. Frank Royal / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-204808
The medical corps was another formation which used the manoeuverability of the vehicle offroad to extract casualties under fire.
A jeep ambulance of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (R.C.A.M.C.) bringing in two wounded Canadian soldiers on the Moro River front south of San Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943. Credit: Lieut. Frederick G. Whitcombe / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-180097

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lord Strathcona's Terrifying Eyebrows

Sir Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, Montreal, QC, 1895
Wm. Notman & Son II-110266.0
© McCord Museum
Donald Smith seems to be everywhere in Canadian history.  Notorious for betraying Sir John A Macdonald during the Pacific Scandal, Pierre Berton wrote that "If, in 1878, the Member for Selkirk had risen in the House to support motherhood, it is concievable that Macdonald and his followers would have been strongly tempted to opt for matricide." Getting his start in the Hudson Bay Company, Smith eventually became one of the primary shareholders in the Canadian Pacific Railroad, was accepted into the peerage as Lord Strathcona, and organized a regiment of cavalry for service in the Boer War.  How did he become so powerful?  Perhaps, as Pierre Berton wrote in The National Dream, it was something in his face.

Manitoba Historical Society

"There was something a little frightening about Donald A. Smith. Perhaps it was the eyebrows - those bristling, tangled tufts that jutted out to mask the cold, uncommunicative grey eyes and provide their owner with a perpetual frown. At fifty-eight, his face leathered by the hard glare of the Labrador snows, his sandy locks and flowing beard frosted by the years, Smith had the look of a Biblical patriarch."
Glenbow Museum Archives NA-2597-13
 Lord Strathcona and Father Lacombe, Edmonton, Alberta. September 7, 1909 Photographer/Illustrator: Byron-May Company Limited, Edmonton, Alberta