The Goods

These military events from Canada's history shaped who we are as a country

Historian Julia Rady on three battles that transformed our nation

Historian Julia Rady on three battles that transformed our nation

A group of Canadians, standing with mugs at a soup kitchen set up on boards "100 yards from Boche lines" during the push on Hill 70. (Source: Imperial War Museum)

Veteran's Week is just around the corner and as Remembrance Day approaches, Canadians take the time to remember the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who risked it all for peace. Historian Julia Rady stopped by The Goods to take a look at some of Canada's military history and how it has shaped our nation. She firmly believes that as Canadians, we can always know more about our own history. Our country's forces have been involved in many missions over the decades, and these are just three that continue to resonate today.

The Battle of Hill 70

A group of Canadians, standing with mugs at a soup kitchen set up on boards "100 yards from Boche lines" during the push on Hill 70. (Source: Imperial War Museum)

The World War I Battle of Hill 70 took place in northern France in August of 1917 between the Canadian Corps and the German 6th Army. Canadian Commander Lt.-Col Arthur Currie led the Canadian Corps to capture this hill in order to relieve pressure on other Allied troops that were fighting near Passchendaele in Flanders. The Canadian troops were tasked with taking this hill which was of tremendous strategic importance.

The Canadians attacked on August 15 and captured many of their objectives, including the high ground. The Canadians held the hill, and for 4 days they repelled 21 German counterattacks. But this brutal battle was incredibly devastating – over 9000 Canadians lost their lives, some of which because of the mustard gas that the Germans were notorious for using during these battles. The Germans lost 20,000 soldiers. Despite this great loss, the Canadians were able to do what they needed to do for the greater Allied Cause, which was keep the Germans occupied so the Allied forces could rebuild and mount a fight.

The Battle of Hill 70 is also an example of how Canadians became known for their dedication to the Allied Cause and 6 Canadian soldiers earned the Victoria Cross for their efforts, the highest award for military valour that can be received.

The Battle of Scheldt

Buffalo amphibious vehicles carrying troops across the Scheldt River to Hooftplaat. 13 Oct 1944. Terneuzen, Belgium (vicinity) (Source: Donald I. Grant, Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada)

This battle took place in Belgium and the Netherlands during the Second World War. The military operation began in September of 1944.

The First Canadian Army was tasked with clearing the Scheldt of German occupiers and trying to push back and repel the German occupied land of the Netherlands. They took the Port of Antwerp which is hugely significant for a couple of reasons; it let the Allied troops have a port of entry into Northern Europe so they could mount attacks against other parts of Occupied Europe from the north and they could start to break up the German forces. Very significantly, it also allowed for rations and aide to finally reach the war-torn country and help the Dutch.

May 5th, 1945 marked the end of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands and some veterans have credited this battle and Germany's surrender as crucial to helping finally end the war in Europe. Ottawa has a tulip festival each year and it's partly in recognition of Canada's aide to the Netherlands because after the War, the Netherlands sent 100,000 tulip bulbs as a gift to Canada as a thank you for its help in the liberation of their country.

Suez Crisis

Two Canadian soldiers scan the Egypt-Israel frontier during a desert patrol. 1962 (Source: Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada)

The Suez Crisis erupted amidst the Cold War on July 26, 1956 when Egyptian leader Abdul Nasser wanted to nationalize the Suez Canal.This upset people in the Middle East and also the United Kingdom and France, who had a lot of control over this critical shipping canal up until this point. The UK and France wanted to send troops and invade Egypt to regain Western control of the Suez Canal and to remove Nasser from power.

Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, and his Minister of External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson recognized that this could set the world on the brink of war amidst the current Cold War tensions. They worked with other governments and the United Nations to help form a peacekeeping group to diffuse tensions, which it did. Pearson was recognized a year later with a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in this peacekeeping force.  

Our country's role in this conflict established Canada as a nation that fights for the common good of all. Since then, Canada's military has helped to diffuse other critical situations in places like Cyprus, Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda, the Congo, and Kosovo to name but a few and as an early Cold War battle, the Suez crisis played a part in the shaping of modern Canada.