Canadian infantrymen of the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment examine a captured German cross-Channel gun. Cross-Channel guns were long-range coastal artillery pieces placed on the coast of Pas-de-Calais, France at the point at which England was closest to continental Europe, with which to bombard Allied shipping in the English Channel and towns and military installations. Sangatte, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pas-de-Calais, France. 26 September 1944. Image taken by Donald Grant.
Canadian soldiers in Britain in 1940 stand guard in front of Buckingham palace.
Just over a month later, we found ourselves embroiled in a war that would claim 60 000 Canadian lives and wound 240 000 more.
June 28th 1914: Franz Ferdinand assassinated
On this day in 1914, 100 years ago, Archduke of Austria and heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were killed by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip who was driven to action by Austria’s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. An attempt to blow up the Archduke’s car failed earlier in the day and his assassins had given up until Princip saw his car later in the day and shot the two. His death triggered a chain of events which led to the First World War. Austria-Hungary, in retaliation, declared war on Serbia, which led to the Central Powers (including Germany) joining on Austria’s side, and the Allied powers like Britain and France joining on Serbia’s side. On this day 5 years later in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in Paris, thus officially ending the First World War. On the centenary of this momentous day, one which altered the course of world history, it is important to remember the sacrifices made by the over 16 million who died in the ensuing conflict. One hundred years on, it is not our place to glorify nor belittle what they died for, but to solemnly remember the devastating effect of war.
"Don’t die darling, live for our children"
- His dying words to his wife
First world war memorial at near Vimy in France. Canadian national Vimy memorial.
IMAGE - A rarely viewed photo of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion soldiers crossing the Elbe River in Lauenburg, Germany, enroute to capturing the Baltic seaport of Wismar.
(Photos coutesy Harry Dzeoba)
The Story Of A Canadian Paratrooper, Harry Dzeoba
Harry Dzeoba was just 17 when he joined the Canadian Army in the summer of 1942.
Dzeoba was a part of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, which skimmed the top soldiers from the pool of volunteers beginning in 1942.
“It only existed for three years, from 1942 to ’45,” he said. “I found I had quite an interesting experience with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion because of its rare qualities. It focused on special operations that the military demanded from time to time. All the programs we were asked to perform were successful in every way.”
Still in training, Dzeoba was lucky enough to miss the Battalion’s drop into France in support of the D-Day invasion at Normandy in June of 1944. The battalion succeeded in every objective behind enemy lines despite taking heavy losses.
Dzeoba says he would have been involved in a few minor operations before Varsity, which came on the heels on a punishing winter for both Allied and German Forces in the Ardennes.
On March 24, 1945, Dzeoba and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion dropped into Germany and in just over one month advanced nearly 500 kilometres across Germany’s northern plains to the Baltic seaport of Wismar. Securing Wismar was an urgent matter as Allied Forces wished to facilitate a surrender of German forces in Denmark and Norway, a prospect that would be far less likely should Russian forces advancing from the East get there first.
“There were skirmishes on our way up to Wismar,” said Dzeoba. “We were subject to fire from hidden machine gun nests — usually hidden behind stone fences. We had to be wary of stuff like that. Occasionally my platoon was designated to go with ‘spearhead company’ and that was kind of a challenge in most cases. You had to be cautious.”
Crossing the Elbe and taking Wismar well in advance of the Russians, Dzeoba says he can remember interacting with members of the Red Army as the war in Europe drew to a close in May of 1945.
“We celebrated a little bit,” he said.
IMAGE - Female factory worker posed with finished Sten sub-machinegun, Small Arms Plant, Long Branch, Ontario, Canada, 26 May 1942
Photographer Nicholas Morant
Source Library and Archives Canada
Vimy Ridge before the battle, taken from a observation balloon.(LAC)