Published on 5 Dec 2016
Indy is sitting int he chair of madness again and answers all your questions about the First World War. This week we talk about the Belgians and Hand Grenades.
December 6, 2016
December 4, 2016
Published on 3 Dec 2016
A big thank you to the project team: Archaeological Revival of Memory of World War I: Material Remains of the Life and Death in Trenches of the Eastern Front and the Condition of the Ever-changing Battlescape in the Region of the Rawka and Bzura (1914–2014).
The project is funded by the Polish National Centre of Science and implemented by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences.
This is the first big video from our trip to Poland. In Bolimow, Polish archaeologists are digging in the former trenches of the Eastern Front. Here, the Germans used gas on a big scale for the first time. Polish soldiers were fighting each other on both sides of the front.
Published on Nov 28, 2016
The second installment of the documentary following the build of Canada’s new Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment Ship. Episode 2 follows the journey of Davie, its workers and partners from May to November 2016 as they build the largest ship that will operate in the Royal Canadian Navy fleet.
December 2, 2016
Published on 1 Dec 2016
The fighting at the Somme is over – for now. The numbers of casualties on both sides is staggering and for what? Indy reflects on this epitome of WW1 battles. And at the same time 100 years ago the fighting in Romania was far from over. The four Central Powers were still on the move and it did not look good for Romania which only joined the war a few months ago. The situation in Greece became ever more complicated and increasingly violent too.
December 1, 2016
[Updated, see below] The Canadian government has not been in any way serious about providing sufficient resources to the Canadian Forces since the end of the Louis St. Laurent era, and that state of affairs is not about to change under Justin Trudeau’s leadership. The Royal Canadian Air Force either is (if you believe the Minister of National Defence) or is not (if you believe the Chief of the Defence Staff) in the grip of a “capability gap” that requires the immediate sole-source purchase of 18 new Boeing Super Hornets. Canada’s current fleet of CF-18 Hornets are, despite the minor nomenclature change, very different aircraft than the F-18 Super Hornets (here’s an overview of the differences).
The RCAF is a small air force and does not realistically have the capacity to support too many different types of aircraft at current staffing levels. The CF-18 and the Super Hornets count as different aircraft, so there will need to be duplication of maintenance and training facilities to ensure that the RCAF is able to keep both types operational at all times. Adding in the complication of yet another type of aircraft — the F-35 (most likely) or one of the European offerings (Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, or Dassault Rafale) would require a third set of maintenance and training facilities to support the latest addition to the fleet. The government will not be willing to provide the RCAF with enough funding to do this, based on historical patterns and general apathy toward military spending among the voters.
Michael Den Tandt says that no matter what happens, the government will almost certainly leave “the ‘brave men and women in uniform’ where they’ve always been — last on the list of priorities”:
It’s truly remarkable, given how Liberal and Conservative MPs speak so often and sincerely of their sacred covenant with the “brave men and women in uniform,” that this country’s air force is obsolete and decrepit, and has been so for as long as anyone now living can remember.
You’d think, given the volume of talk in the House of Commons over the past decade on their behalf, that RCAF pilots – one of whom died Monday, tragically, in a training accident in Cold Lake, Alta. – would be flying X-wing fighters out of Star Wars by now, and not a ragtag fleet of 1980s-vintage refurbs that were new when many members of the current parliament were children.
Had the Conservatives dared to quietly grow the RCAF fighter fleet by 23 per cent, at a cost of $65-$70-milion per plane, the Liberals would have called them warmongers and spendthrifts. To be sure, the Liberals may be embarrassed by the very mention of the CF-18 – having made such a to-do about withdrawing them last spring from the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Having beaten swords into ploughshares, they’re now buying more swords. How awkward.
More disingenuous still is the claim that a proper, open fighter competition is impossible in short order. The five possible selections are the F-35, Boeing’s Super Hornet, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen, and Dassault’s Rafale. The specs, per-unit and operating costs of all these aircraft are known. Given an abridged new statement of requirements, a competition could have been run and a new fighter selected in 2017, industry sources tell me.
Follow the Liberal strategy to its conclusion and you end up with this: A mixed fleet, comprising some CF-18s, 18 newish Super Hornets, and years hence, long after the punters have forgotten Campaign 2015, the F-35 – by which time it, too, will likely be obsolete.
It boils down to this: The “brave men and women in uniform” will get the barest minimum the government can get away with providing, until another military crisis on the scale of the Afghan war forces its hand, after which it will buy whatever equipment it can find, in a panic. It’s how we roll, here in Canada.
Update, 2 December: Ted Campbell explains why there are differing opinions on whether there’s a “capability gap”.
Team Trudeau may have found a way to (at least) appear to square the fighter “capability gap” circle. The report quotes RCAF top dog, Lieutenant General Michael Hood as saying that “The government has announced a policy whereby the Royal Canadian Air Force is required to simultaneously meet both our NORAD and NATO commitments,” Hood told senators … [and] … “I am at present unable to do that with the present CF-18 fleet. There aren’t enough aircraft to deliver those commitments simultaneously.”
But, the article goes on to say, quoting General Hood’s testimony, again: “Before the change, while the air force had standing commitments to NORAD and NATO, Hood suggested there was more flexibility to manage the fleet” [but] “That commitment is now a firm commitment with respect to this policy change so we will meet it,” he said [and] “I’ve been told I will be given all the resources I need to increase the numbers available. I’m happy the government is investing in the Royal Canadian Air Force,” he said.” That does solve the problem of General Hood’s previous statement that there was no “capability gap;” the government just changed the rules and created one.
The previous government did not pull that number of 65 completely out of thin air (or some other place where the sun doesn’t shine). You can see some logic to it: 2 squadrons, each of 12 aircraft (24) dedicated to NORAD (only 24 because the F-35 Lightening is very, very much more capable in the NORAD/interceptor role than the CF-18) and 2 more squadrons (24 aircraft for a total, thus far, of 48) in “general” roles ~ available for NORAD or NATO or other tasks, and one squadron (12 aircraft) as an “operational training unit” and 5 aircraft for logistical and maintenance stock. At $9 Billion for that fleet it was seen to be pretty much the top end of the fiscal load that the Canadian taxpayer might be asked to bear.
November 30, 2016
… “What do most ladies have to complain of? Don’t we acknowledge they have souls … They demand equality! Pure madness! Woman is our property … just as the fruit tree belongs to the gardener.” Only inadequate education could make a wife think she was on the same level as her husband. Convinced of “the weakness of the female intellect”, he considered his brother Joseph extraordinary in enjoying the other sex’s company as well as their bodies — “He’s forever shut away with some woman reading Torquato Tasso and Aretino.”
However gracefully phrased, his opinion of adultery revealed utter cynicism. In the end it is “a joke behind a mask … not by any means a rare phenomenon but a very ordinary occurrence on the sofa”. He had surprisingly modern views on women as soldiers. “They are brave, incredibly enthusiastic and capable of the most frightful atrocities … In a real war between men and women the only thing which would handicap women would be pregnancy, since the women of the people are just as strong as most men.” (In this he was far more progressive than the Führer.)
Desmond Seward, Napoleon and Hitler: A comparative biography, 1988.
November 29, 2016
Published on 28 Nov 2016
Sidney Reilly is remembered as the Ace of Spies in popular fiction and Ian Flemming read his files as inspiration for James Bond. But even the best espionage novels are nothing against the life of the real Sidney Reilly who did it all. He worked as a double agent, turned the tide of wars and changed world history more than once.
November 27, 2016
Published on 26 Nov 2016
Another exciting episode of Out of the trenches this time featuring questions about German anti tank tactics, night combat, the detection of enemy aircraft prior to radar and more.
November 26, 2016
Colby Cosh on the way Canadian Forces veterans have been portrayed in the media:
Yesterday the Surgeon General of Canada issued the latest in a series of annual technical reports on Canada’s great soldier suicide crisis. If you occasionally read the newspapers, and particularly if you ever pick up the Globe and Mail, you have probably been left with the impression that it is astonishing anyone who fought in Afghanistan in a Canadian uniform is still alive and sane. There is a tradition in newspapering, admittedly a recent one, of being very cautious and elliptical in reporting on suicides for fear of encouraging imitators. The Globe observed the run-up to Remembrance Day this year by blowing out the sphincter of that tradition, offering intimate details of suicides by a sequence of Canadian Armed Forces veterans left to struggle with the psychic aftereffects of witnessing combat.
The idea was to point an accusing finger at an unfeeling, ignorant state and to awaken the consciences of those who elect representatives to it. We are all to blame, you see: Canadian soldiers come home with nerves shattered by conflicts to which we have dispatched them, and yet at election time we overlook a lengthening trail of dead and a choir of the emotionally tormented. Veterans scarcely ever turn up in the newspaper, as veterans, without the words “suicide” or “PTSD” nipping at their heels. They are stalked by drink, painkillers, nightmares, uncontrollable outbursts of violence, homelessness. Only by the wildest of chances will one turn up in the news as a successful, well-adjusted individual.
So it is with trepidation and nausea that one turns to the Surgeon General’s report, hoping for a careful epidemiological documentation of the crisis. What one quickly finds is that when the overwhelmingly male Canadian Forces are compared to the ordinary male population… there is no crisis. Until very recently, CAF members have had significantly lower rates of suicide than male civilians in the same age brackets. The rates are statistically indistinguishable for the most recent time period in the table, 2010-12, owing to a transitory spike in CAF suicides in 2011.
Soldiers are, by this measure, healthier if anything than the average chap. This is not really surprising if you do not read the newspaper, and you merely hold to the old-fashioned idea that the military is pretty good at taking man-children and giving them purpose, abilities, structure, and a social network.
November 25, 2016
Published on 24 Nov 2016
They year 1916 is slowly coming to a close. This year of battles has seen the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme with well over 2 million casualties alone. And this week 100 years ago, the Battle of the Somme ended with the last push at the Ancre. In Vienna, Emperor Franz Joseph dies after almost 7 decades on the throne and Serbian and French forces take Monastir.
November 22, 2016
Published on 21 Nov 2016
On this day 100 years ago, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary died after 66 years on the thrown. He became emperor in a turbulent time and some say that only his reign held the empire together when the minorities demanded more and more independence.
November 19, 2016
Published on Sep 27, 2016
There are penguins on your doorstep, spectacular scenery, and, of course, a place that’s rich in history. That’s a good side of the unusual British forces posting to the Falkland islands. The bad side is the icy gale-force winds, freezing conditions, and limited roads and connectivity. For more, visit http://frces.tv/B2P3uR.
H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.
November 18, 2016
Published on 17 Nov 2016
The battlefield at the Somme flared into action this week with the same disastrous consequences. The soldiers fighting for the British Army even analysed the problems they were facing in the repeated assaults but to no avail. At the same time, the Serbs, supported by French troops, continued towards their home and fought for Monastir on the Macedonian Front.
November 15, 2016
Published on 14 Nov 2016
Romania is sometimes overlooked when talking about World War 1, but they had their own military tradition. As a smaller player in Europe, equipping the army was even more a challenge than it already was for the world powers.
November 14, 2016
Ted Campbell rounds up much of the recent media wisdom on the state of relations between Canada and the US in the wake of Il Donalduce‘s victory in the presidential election, and summarizes what Justin Trudeau may be forced to do:
It would appear that there is an emerging consensus in the mainstream Canadian media, from left, centre and right, that the election of Donal Trump means that Justin Trudeau, and, indeed, Canada, is backed into an unhappy, uncomfortable, even dangerous corner; dangerous, that is, to our national interests.
In short, in so far as Prime Minister Trudeau’s agenda is concerned, most media commentators seem to agree that it, and by extension Canada, in so far as Canada shares the prime minister’s vision, is:
shouldmust Prime Minister Trudeau do?
First: secure the CAN~USA free trade agreement. Everything on his agenda depends upon revenue and revenue depends upon Canadians having jobs and many, many of those Canadian jobs depend upon access to the gigantic US market. If he wants to do anything except bow out, three years from now, as a miserable failure of a prime minister, then he must secure our free trade deal with the USA. And it’s a deal, which means that in order for us to get what we want and need the Americans have to get what they want and need, too.
Second, and likely consequential to the first priority: increase defence spending ~ double it if that’s what it takes, buy the F-35, strengthen the Canadian contribution to NORAD and NATO, and then make UN peacekeeping support US and Western strategic objectives.
Third: cancel the carbon tax; it will only make Canadians companies less competitive.
Fourth: force pipelines through to tidewater on both coasts. Keystone XL is OK for getting Alberta’s oil to Texas, but we really need to get it, readily, to the whole world. That means pipelines to Canadian ports … no matter what the greenies and first nations might say or do.
Fifth: negotiate free(er) trade deals with others. Start by ratifying the TPP, no matter what. Negotiate deals with the UK, with China, with India and with the Philippines, all as matters of urgency.
Finally, Prime Minister, please do not get into this position …
If Trudeau did all or most of this, he might well be able to appease Trump and retain Canada’s advantageous relationship with the US otherwise intact. The problem is that, as Campbell notes, it will offend and outrage so many parts of the Liberal coalition that it would take such a “Nixon goes to China” level of political audaciousness combined with a Jean Chrétien degree of fiscal austerity that I doubt Trudeau could even get his caucus unified enough to pass the legislation, never mind withstand the inevitable protests in Liberal ridings across the country (and in the domestic media).