The Second World War has left few places in Canada untouched in its wake. That was very easy to see in the numerous casualty lists published in so many newspapers over the war years. There wasn’t a day that went by without at least one story of its trials. The story of the sinking of HMCS Esquimalt, 16 April 1945 was one such example.
This coming 16th of April 2017 marks the 72nd anniversary of HMCS Esquimalt’s loss. It was the last RCN vessel lost to enemy action during the Second World War. Now some 72 years later, it is time to remember HMCS Esquimalt and those who served on her.
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“There is nothing new under the sun” so say the soothsayers of old.
What has been, will be and in those words there are certain truths for there are cycles in nature and man that we can all foresee like the coming of the seasons or the rise and fall in our economies.
Time and again though, we fail to recognize that there are certain principles that should guide us through the cycles of our lives.
The dealings of Canada’s national defence and security needs are neither new nor unique. Really there is nothing new under the sun!
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History is often seen as “peeks” through the rear-view mirror. Its points are viewed along a line in a continuum, but in so doing, we often miss the bigger picture. World War II is such an example. It shaped the Canadian experience. But we often tend to concentrate on the “specific” period of the war without looking back upon it. There is a context of what came before and what followed that is often overlooked. The before and after provides some insight on who and what we are today.
World War II changed the way Canada looked at itself and its values. The War shaped Canada’s future. The story of “opening the flood gates” on public spending during World War II is the story of policy and social change within Canada. The Great Depression was but a very recent memory. Canada’s war investments were used not only to pave the road to victory; they also paved the way ahead for its post war future. Fiscal policy would become an instrument of economic and social change.
“The Crucible For Change, Defence Spending in Debert Nova Scotia During World War II”, originally published in the Royal Canadian Air Force Journal, Winter, 2013, Vol. 2 No. 1, is a history of the scope of Canada’s investment and public spending in Debert, Nova Scotia during the Second World War.
“The Crucible for Change, Defence Spending in Debert Nova Scotia During World War II” was recently reprinted in a special edition of the RCAF Journal concerning the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, Royal Canadian Air Force Journal, Spring, 2016 Vol. 5 No. 2.
The article “For The Good Times” began with a phone call I received from Norma Cooke of Isaac’s Harbour, Guysborough Co., Nova Scotia.
I thought I was completely done with the history of Guysborough County during the Second World War. I was wrong, it had only just begun. Norma Cooke of Isaac’s Harbour has been very supportive of my research efforts. She provided me with a lot of background information that I used throughout the summer. Norma spoke with me back and forth over the summer. Norma knew that there was more out there and wasn’t finished with me yet. She asked “would you be interested in having my files on No 5 Radar Unit at Cole Harbour?”
To be honest by the time she raised the question I was ready for a much needed break for I just started my lost round of fishing trips for the season. I wanted to increase my dismal fishing season and to improve my catch and release numbers. The long and the short of it was Norma sent along her files and the name of a contact, Mary Richard at Cole Harbour. My initial reluctance to pursue any research on the issue was soon replaced with enthusiasm. I read the background information Norma provided and found a wealth of information on No 5 Radar Unit (RCAF) on line. The author of many of the stories was Sgt Mickey Stevens of No 5 Radar Unit (RCAF) Cole Harbour.
Mickey’s stories are in fact valuable historical gems and a time capsule of the life and times of Guysborough County during the day. Mickey’s stories are the Unit’s history and context of their lives that is so often sadly lacking when conducting such research. Sometimes the facts too hard to find and buried so deep in the archives, that a project quickly becomes very discouraging and quickly abandoned. But Mickey’s accounts laid it all out there and were full of history too! Uncharacteristically for a historical record, they are a fun and a humourous read too! More importantly Mickey’s accounts addressed the issue of “Nothing ever happened here in Canada during the war. They do address that assumption head on!
A lot did happen here at home. That story of the war is often overshadowed by what happened overseas. It wasn’t all fun and games in Canada. There was much hardship endured and shared by all. There were both good times and bad. Mickey shared them all. His account is one of a shared experience amongst communities. The experience brought altogether too that bonded both the military and civilian communities in a very close relationship that was very uncharacteristic for wartime Canada. Those nearby communities became very closely attached to No 5 Radar Unit and vice versa.
This humble account retells some of Mickey’s experiences, remembered for the good times. It is also a reminder that something did happen here at home!
The article “Girl On The Wing” is an account of a plane crash that happened in Glenelg, Nova Scotia in 1944. It was written in response to a photo I saw on Facebook showing a young girl sitting on the wing of an airplane. It turns out the young girl, Claire McKeen, was a witness to the the plane crash. I interviewed Claire and another witness, Graham Kirk, in 2015. The article was published as a serial in The GuysBorough Journal in 2015.