Writing

Ortona: Canada’s Mini-Stalingrad

“Everything before Ortona” said the Canadian Divisional commander “was a nursery tale.” Wherever the Canadian infantry tried to advance through the rubble and narrow streets of Ortona in December 1943 they were exposed to murderous crossfire from the well-hidden defenders. Captain Bill Longhurst of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment had an inspiration.

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Papineau: A Divided Soul

While Papineau was the most articulate and powerful spokesman for his party and his people, his message was a tangled skein of conflicting ideas. On October 23rd, 1837 some 5000 people gathered at Saint Charles, Lower Canada. They came to hear their inspiring leader Louis-Joseph Papineau. It was a new phenomenon in the young democracy, an angry crowd demanding political change.

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The Origins of the Olympic Games

Legend dictates that the games of the Olympiad owed their origin to the Theban hero Heracles who staged them to honour his grandfather Pelops. It was said of Heracles that while engaged in his 12 labours he brought back a twig of wild olive from the legendary land of Hyperboreans and planted it in Olympia. This was the tree whose branches served to crown the victors.

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Normandy

Then the order rang out “Down ramp!” The moment the ramp hit the ground heavy machine gun fire broke out over the seawall. On June 6, 1944 Canadian forces took part in the greatest amphibious operation in military history. Over 10,000 Canadian seamen in 110 warships and 21,400 soldiers took part in D-Day. One of five assault beaches, codenamed Juno, was assigned to the 3rd Canadian Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.

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“Radishes and Gooseberries” Change the Course of Canadian History

At some point in the 1650s, two adventurers from New France embarked on a journey that eventually revolutionized the fur trade and changed the course of Canadian history. Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, and his brother-in-law Pierre Esprit Radisson, traveled inland beyond lake Superior, possibly as far as James Bay. Des Groseilliers’ daring had already led him to explorations that were crucial for French territorial claims in North America.

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The Birth of the National Hockey League

The formation of the National Hockey League was not a big deal in the life of Canada in 1917. When a group of owners gathered to arrange it in the Windsor Hotel in Montreal November 22, Elmer Ferguson was the lone reporter sitting waiting for news. The first man to emerge from behind closed doors of the meeting was Frank Calder. Ferguson hollered after him, “Hey Frank, what happened in there?” “Not too much Fergie,” replied Calder.

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“The sweetest music this side of heaven”

What do the words to that song we sing on New Year’s Eve mean, and how did a Canadian bandleader become so inseparable from them? “Auld Lang Syne” has aptly been described as the song that nobody knows, although it is universally the song the English-speaking world uses to bid farewell to the old year and to hail the new.

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Vimy Ridge

“What I want,” Byng declared to his officers, “is the discipline of a well-trained pack of hounds… When I was a boy and my father’s trauma from his service in Holland was raw in his shattered leg, our family mythology was still dominated by his father’s warrior pride. An argumentative man, my grandfather Marsh ended every dispute with a display of his scarred leg and the expletive “Vimy Fucking Ridge!”

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Maisonneuve and the Founding of Montreal

"The story of the founding of Montreal is perhaps unique in history..." Radiant sunshine bathed the Island of Montreal on the morning of May 18th, 1642. The hawthorns and wild cherry trees were in blossom and the meadow, where a group of French colonists had set up an altar, was dotted with trilliums and violets.

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Sir John A. Macdonald

An indispensable “scalawag” is pretty much how many Canadians saw John A. Macdonald, but then Machiavelli said that a good man cannot be great. When in 1887 a Canadian delegation went to Washington to negotiate a treaty with the United States, their hosts treated them to a boat ride on the Potomac. One Canadian delegate arrived early and while waiting for the others struck up a conversation with a lady, the wife of a US senator.

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