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« » February 2017 - Week 10

Sunday

26
1971: Ottawa Ontario - Ottawa starts program to raise Francophone numbers in the Canadian Armed Forces to at least 28%., 1945: VC won by Sgt Aubrey Cosens, The Queens Own Rifles of Canada, Mooshof, Germany (posthumous), 1945: THE HOCHWALD, efective dates for battle honour begin (to 4 Mar 45), 1942: Although the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen had succeeded in escaping from Brest to Germany in the Channel Dash, they remained priority targets. Gneisenau was spotted by reconnaissance aircraft in drydock in Kiel, undergoing repairs to the damage inflicted by a mine during the dash. 49 Bomber Command Wellington, Hampden and Halifax aircraft attacked, and a direct hit was scored on the battlecruiser, in the bows, killing 116 crew and causing such severe damage that she never returned to service. Three bombers failed to return., 1916: During the continuing efforts of the Franco-British naval force at the Dardanelles to destroy the Turkish coastal defences, a small party of seamen was landed under the command of Lieutenant Commander Robinson, to demolish a battery at Kum Kale. They were met with heavy fire, and Robinson feared that the men's white uniforms made them too easy a target. He therefore ordered them to remain under cover, and went forward alone. Despite the enemy fire, he succeeded in reaching a gun whose crew had fled, and laid a demolition charge. That gun destroyed, he returned to his men, collected a further supply of explosives, and returned alone to destroy a second position. He subsequently played a leading role in four operations to clear minefields in the straits, and was awarded the Victoria Cross., 1903: The Kano-Sokoto expedition was mounted to extend British rule thoughout the northern territories of Nigeria, and in particular to suppress the slave trade. On 26 February, a small party of 45 locally recruited soldiers from the Northern Nigerian Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Wright, were attacked by no less than 3,000 tribesmen, including 1,000 cavalry. For two hours, the soldiers beat back repeated attacks, until eventually the tribesmen started to withdraw in good order. Lieutenant Wright then led his men forward in a charge, and succeeded in turning the withdrawal into a rout. He was awarded the Victoria Cross., 1852: The troopship HMS Birkenhead was en route to Cape Town when it hit an uncharted rock during the night, about 3 miles off the South African shore, near Danger Point. The ship is believed to have had 638 passengers and crew aboard including 476 soldiers from a number of different regiments of the British Army, on their way to reinforce the garrison in the Cape Colony, but also 7 women and 13 children. The rock tore open the hull, and about 100 soldiers asleep below were drowned drowned immediately. Everyone else mustered on deck, where it was clear the ship was sinking quickly. Only three lifeboats could be used; all the women and children were placed in these, with a few crew to man them.  The senior army officer aboard, Lieutenant Colonel Seton of the 74th Foot, drew the soldiers up on parade on the deck, and emphasised the need for absolute discipline if the lifeboats were not to be swamped.  Some cavalry horses aboard were freed and driven into the sea in the hope that they might be able to swim themselves ashore.  The soldiers stood firm, even as a mast crashed down around them and the ship split in two.  She sank in less than 25 minutes.  Only 193 people survived the ordeal - although the weather was excellent, sharks claimed many of the men in the water, as well as most of the horses.  The tradition of "Women and children first" is popularly ascribed to have its roots in this incident.

Monday

27
1951: Canada posts army officer to staff of Supreme Allied Commander; first step in providing Canadian ground troops in Europe for NATO, 1943: British commandos raid heavy-water plant in Norway, 1942: Start of the Battle of the Java Sea; 13 US warships sunk, 2 Japanese., 1942: OPERATION BITING - BRUNEVAL - No. 12 Commando, 1900: Surrender of Cronje at Paardeburg, 1900: Nineteen years later, during the Boer War, troops from the West Yorkshire Regiment attacked up the northern slope of Terrace Hill, near Tugela in Natal. Their advance was met with a barrage of fire, and faltered. Captain Mansel-Jones braved the enemy fire to remuster his men, and, despite suffering a very serious wound, led them once more up the hill in a charge which took the Boer position. He received the Victoria Cross., 1881: During an action with Boers, Lance Corporal Farmer, a medical orderly, stood exposed to enemy fire, holding a white flag over a group of wounded men, in an effort to spare them further attack. The Boers kept up their fire, and Farmer was badly wounded in the arm holding in the flag. However, he rose again to his feet, and continued to hold high the flag with his other arm, until he was shot in that limb as well. His efforts to protect the men, at great personal risk, was recognised with the award of the Victoria Cross., 1814: Whilst British troops under Lieutenant-General Hope beseiged Bayonne, Wellington led his main force against the main French field forces in the south of France, commanded by Marshal Soult. Wellington launched his attack with 44,000 men against Soult's 36,000 men drawn up on a ridgeline at Orthes. Sir Rowland Hill led the right wing in a diversionary attack, whilst Sir William Beresford and Sir Thomas Picton led the main assaults on the left and in the centre. After initial successes, both Beresford and Picton's attacks stalled, but Wellington spotted an opening in the disjointed French lines, and himself led three battalions to exploit the weakness. The French defeat was completed by Hill, who had managed to get behind Soult and force him to run for a bridge before his escape route was totally cut. Wellington's victory secured the British presence on French soil, and opened up routes to Bordeaux, which promptly surrendered, and Toulouse.

Tuesday

28
1991: US and allied forces cease fire at 8 am Kuwait time, after 42 days of the Gulf War; Iraq tells its army to stop fighting., 1944: German counter-attack against Anzio beachhead, 1943: Nine Norwegian commandos sabotage German heavy water installations near Ryukan; part of German A-Bomb research, 1942: Japanese Navy sinks two more Allied ships on the second day of the Battle of Java Sea; Japanese land on the island of Java, the last Allied bastion in the Dutch East Indies., 1933: Emergency decree suspends civil liberties in Germany, 1915: Troops from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry engage in one of the war's first trench raids. One hundred of the Patricias set out in the hours before dawn to capture and destroy a German sap trench. They suffer 20 casualties for this effort, but the enemy trench is destroyed. As the war progresses the Canadians will become particularly adept at the trench raid., 1900: Relief of Ladysmith, 1847: US defeats Mexico in battle of Sacramento., 1838: Robert Nelson 1794-1873 raids Lower Canada from Vermont with Cyrille Côté proclaims republic; stopped by militia., 1712: Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm-Grozon (de Saint-Véran) 1712-1759, 1704: Indians from Canada attack Deerfield, killing 40, and kidnapping 100., 1579: Francis Drake, on his extended raiding circumnavigation of the world in the Golden Hind, captured the Spanish Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion off the Ecuadorian coast, carrying 26 tons of silver., 1337: Sir Andrew Murray, the Guardian of Scotland, took advantage of Edward III's distraction by the French threat to his Gascon possessions, and spent the month of February eliminating English garrisons in northern Scotland. The last day of the month saw St Andrews fall after a three-week siege, which had seen its walls assailed by "Buster", a formidable siege engine.

Wednesday

1
1954: Medical Company 63rd Infantry Regiment Fort Ord, California, 1945: VC won by Maj Frederick Albert Tilston, The Essex Scottish Regiment, The Hochwald, Germany, 1945: In an infantry attack at Kervenheim in the Rhineland, soldiers from the King's Shropshire Light Infantry were pinned down by heavy machine-gun fire from a farmhouse. Private Stokes dashed forward alone and, despite being wounded, broke into the building, emerging shortly afterwards with twelve prisoners. He refused medical attention and attacked a second building, where he took five more prisoners. Although by now seriously weakened, he insisted on taking part in a third attack, but was killed twenty yards short of his objective. Private Stokes were awarded the Victoria Cross., 1943: Founding of the Canadian Women's Army Corps as part of the Canadian forces; CWACs have full military titles and hold commissions., 1943: Dawson Creek BC - Work begins on the Alaska highway., 1943: 302 aircraft of Bomber Command mounted a successful raid on Berlin, causing significant damage, including to twenty factories. Some 22 acres of the large railway repair workshops at Tempelhof were destroyed., 1942: The cruiser HMS Exeter, famed for her role in the defeat of the Graf Spee at the River Plate in 1939, and damaged two days earlier at the Battle of the Java Sea, attempted to escape through the Sunda Strait, escorted by the destroyers HMS Encounter and the USS John D Pope. Not far ahead of them, the Dutch destroyer Evertsen, also making a run for the Strait, was spotted at dawn by Japanese ships and sunk. Daylight allowed Japanese aircraft to spot Exeter and her consorts, and two Japanese heavy cruiser squadrons were tasked to deal with them. The already damaged Exeter fought back for over an hour in a most unequal fight, whilst her escorts did their best to protect he with a smoke-screen. Exeter finally went down at 1130, followed shortly afterwards by Encounter. John D Pope survived a little longer by hiding in a sudden squall, before she too was destroyed by the heavy cruisers., 1896: 80,000 Ethiopians defeat 20,000 Italians at the Battle of Adowa; end of Italian hopes of building an African empire., 1858: During the Indian Mutiny, Lieutenant Aikman, commanding a force of 100 infantry, was alerted to the presence of some 700 mutineers, including cavalry and artillery. Notwithstanding the odds, nor the fire coming from an enemy fort close by, Aikman led his men in an immediate attack, and comprehensively routed his opponents, capturing their artillery. In the process, Aikman received a severe sword wound to the face, but survived to receive the Victoria Cross., 1815: Disbanding of Lower Canada militia after War of 1812., 1755: Jean-Armand Dieskau 1701-1767 appointed commander of the French regular troops in Canada., 1596: Following the failure to take the Panamanian Isthmus, and the deaths of Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake, the remnants of the previous year's expedition to the West Indies was headed home under the command of Sir Thomas Baskerville when it was caught by a Spanish fleet off the north-west coast of Cuba near the Isle of Pines. Thus occurred the only fleet engagement of the Anglo-Spanish war, other than the Armada battles of 1588. The English ships enjoyed the advantage of the wind, but had to fight through the Spanish in order to get away, past a headland. They succeeded in this, and after a desultory pursuit by the Spaniards, finally got clear and eventually reached England without further mishap in May.

Thursday

2
1951: National Defence publish first Canadian casualty list from Korea; six soldiers killed., 1945: Naik (Corporal) Fazal Din of the 10th Baluch Regiment conducted a lone attack on a Japanese bunker, which was pinning down his section. Having eliminated its defenders, he then attacked a second, from which six Japanese charged forth. A Japanese officer ran his sword through Fazal Din's chest, but as he pulled the blade out, the mortally wounded Naik wrestled it from his grip, and killed the officer with his own sword. He then killed a second Japanese soldier with the sword, as his men advanced to capture the bunker. Fazal Din managed to stagger back to report the success of the attack, before dying from his injuries. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross., 1945: In Burma, Gian Singh, a Naik of the 15th Punjab Regiment, single-handedly attacked a series of Japanese positions. Despite being wounded, he cleared a series of trenches and a concealed anti-tank gun, then led his section forward to complete the reduction of the enemy position. He received the Victoria Cross., 1944: The frigates of the Royal Navy's First Escort Group brought the longest continuous U-boat hunt to a successful conclusion, destroying U-358, but losing HMS Gould. The hunt started on 29 February, and HM Ships Affleck, Gould, Gore and Garlies dropped some 104 depth charges over the following two days. Gore and Garlies had to withdraw to Gibraltar for fuel, but Affleck and Gould continued the attack. U-358 succeeded in torpedoing Gould, but was then forced to the surface and finished off by Affleck's gunfire., 1943: New Guinea - Battle of the Bismark Sea rages; Allied planes sink 12 Japanese ships carrying reinforcements to New Guinea, killing nearly 4,000., 1916: Lord Derby speaks in the House of Lords on recruiting: "stronger methods are needed to get men, women must take the place of men..."

Friday

3
2005: 4 RCMP officers slain while raiding a grow-op in Mayerthorpe, Alberta., 1976: Mozambique closes border with Rhodesia, after Rhodesian raids on rebel bases., 1945: US wins Battle of the Bismarck Sea over Japan., 1945: US & Philippines forces recapture island fortress of Corregidor., 1945: Manila falls to US and Filipino troops, British Indian forces take Meiktila, Burma, 1945: During an attack by the Green Howards on Japanese bunkers in Burma, Lieutenant Weston distinguished himself leading the charge on a number of strongpoints. In the attack on the last and most difficult bunker, Weston fell wounded in the entrance. He deliberately pulled the pin from one of his grenades, and blew up himself and the bunker. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross., 1942: First combat flight of the Canadian-built Avro Lancaster bomber, 1942: Bomber Command launches its largest raid so far of the war, conducting night low-level precision bombing against the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris. This was an important source of German military trucks. 235 bombers attacked in a previously unprecedented concentration over the target (121 per hour) which demonstrated that the risk of collision at night was lower than feared, no accidents being suffered. The raid dropped 300 bombs on the factory, causing an estimated loss of production of 2,300 trucks and destroyed 40% of the factory. 367 French civilians 367 were killed., 1918: Russia withdraws from WW I, signing Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany and its allies., 1901: Lieutenant Dugdale, 5th Royal Irish Lancers, earned the Victoria Cross for his rescue under fire of two wounded and unhorsed troopers during a Boer War skirmish. He dismounted and put one of the men in his own saddle, then caught one of the riderless horses, mounted it and pulled the second casualty up behind him. He then took both horses and the wounded back to the British lines., 1899: George Dewey appointed first US Admiral of the Navy., 1895: On the North West Frontier, word was brought to the garrison at Chitral Fort that an officer had been badly wounded some 1.5 miles distant. Surgeon-Captain Whitchurch immediately set out with a rescue party. They reached the wounded officer, but as they were carrying him back, they came under very heavy fire. Three of the stretcher bearers were killed, whereupon Whitchurch hoisted the officer onto his back, and carried him the remainder of the way to the fort, all the time under fire. Sadly, the officer's wounds proved fatal, but Whitchurch was awarded the Victoria Cross., 1895: Birthday of Matthew Ridgway, General, Commander of the U.S. 8th Army in Korea (1951); Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (1952); US Army Chief of Staff., 1878: Russians and Turks sign Treaty of San Stefano, ending Russo-Turkish War; Serbia gains independence., 1838: John Maitland routs Van Rensselaer and supporters of Upper Canadian rebels who captured Pelee Island on February 2; routed by regulars of 32nd and 83rd Regiments and the Essex Militia.

Saturday

4
1991: Saddam Hussein releases 6 US, 3 British and 1 Italian POW., 1944: Soviet offensive on Belorussian front begins, 1944: First major USAAF raid on Berlin, 1943: HMC Ships ST. CROIX and SHEDIAC team up to attack and sink U-87 200 miles west of Portugal. This is the same submarine that was attacked by shore based aircraft after being spotted on the surface in the approaches to Halifax harbour boldly just a few months before., 1942: The submarine HMS Torbay, under Commander Miers, followed an Axis convoy and succeeded in penetrating the heavily defended anchorage at Corfu. Torbay proceeded to fire torpedoes at two large transports and a destroyer - both transports were reported sunk - then retreated out to sea under very heavy depth charge attack. Torbay escaped successfully, and Miers was awarded the Victoria Cross for the exploit., 1941: British naval raid on German-occupied Lofoten Islands off Norway sinks eleven German ships, 1814: Americans defeat British at Battle of Longwoods; between London and Thamesville., 1747: Born on this date Count Casimir Pulaski, soldier, American Revolutionary War general.