Operation Nanook

This past August I was a guest of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and allowed a close-up look at a portion of this year’s Operation Nanook in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, For those who don’t know, Rankin Inlet is a forward operating location (FOL) of the CAF located about 470 km north of Churchill, Manitoba, on the north north-west shore of Hudson Bay. Operation Nanook is an annual operation that takes place in Canada’s north to assert sovereignty and provide rigourous training for CAF personnel. This year, Op Nanook was divided into two locations: Labrador which held sovereignty operations, and Rankin Inlet which held northern training ops and an emergency preparedness exercise. It is the second, Rankin Inlet, to which I was given a quick overview during 23rd & 24th August as part of a media excursion and on behalf of Esprit de Corps magazine.

Now, Esprit de Corps is printing my observations over two issues of the magazine (the first in Vol. 24 Issue 9 just out, the second in the following issue) so I would suggest you pick up a copy and have a read. However, do to space limitations there has been some limited editing in the magazine which, while not required for regular readers of the magazine, may be of interest to those who don’t know what Joint Task Force North is or does or may need some more detailed explanation of some of the things I saw. To that end, I’m making available the entire story here or use this link http://www.richardlawrencephotography.ca/operation-nanook-2017/

To just see all the pictures I took, CLICK HERE
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Canada – Russia
Hockey Summit

Once again two great hockey powers came together to determine hockey supremacy reminiscent of that great Canada-Russia series of 1972, forty-five years ago. This time, however, it was the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ottawa against an Esprit de Corps Commandos team. The Russian team, known as the “Red Machine”, not able to field an entire team within its own staff, augmented their roster with quality players from Toronto, an A level team known as the “Kremlin”, as well as a couple of players from south of the border. The Commandos, facing a similar problem, gathered players from where they could, including some from the General Officers/Flag Officers (GOFOs) team from the Department of National Defence, their longtime nemesis. I guess the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

This was a quality game with good skaters and puck handlers on both teams, albeit the Russians having more depth on their bench. The crowd was large for this type of game and was clearly Russian in the majority. The Commandos opened the scoring but it was soon evened up by the end of the first. By the end of the second period, the Russians were ahead 2 to 1 as the players got a rest and the ice got resurfaced. Within the first minute of the third period, the Commandos evened the score and with 10 minutes to go, got the go ahead marker. It came down to the wire when in the last minute the Russians pulled their goalie but it was for naught as the Commandos put in an empty netter to put the game out of reach. Final score – 4-2 for the Esprit de Corps Commandos.

The Russian Embassy hosted a reception following the game with lots of food and drink and His Excellency Alexander Darchiev, Ambassador of Russia, addressed the attendees extolling the virtues of this great rematch and proposed to make it a semi-annual affair. Most Valuable Players were named from each team with Commandos goalie being selected by the Russians as the Commandos MVP and #13 from the Russian team (Petrenko I think) being selected by the Commandos as Russia’s best. LGen. Al Meinzinger accepted the game trophy from the Ambassador on behalf of the Commandos.

To see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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Team Canada Departs
for Invictus Games

This morning a small crowd gathered at Ottawa’s Via Rail Station to wish athletes from Team Canada well for their upcoming trials at the Invictus Games in Toronto. Among those attending were Jody Mitic, ex-serviceman, double leg amputee, and current Ottawa city councillor, Walt Natyncyzk ,ex-Chief of Defence Staff now Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs, MP Karen McCrimmon (ex-service), Marc Garneau, ex-service now Minister of Transport, Ottawa-South MP John Fraser, and hosting the event, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, CEO of Via Rail (also Honoury LCol of the Régiment de Maisonneuve).

In addressing the departing athletes, Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano noted that he was,

“… specifically inspired by the resilience and continue courage and determination that you have to represent Canada after that [military] service. And, therefore, I hope you all realize how you continue to be an inspiration, someone to look up to, heroes of Canada.”

Speaking to the group, Team Canada co-captain, MCpl (ret’d) Natacha Dupuis reminded everyone that,

”… what we need to remember is within our recovery there is hard times but together remember that there is hope and when you get the strength to keep on going there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

After well wishes from MP John Fraser, Minister Marc Garneau, and Councillor Jody Mitic, everyone continued to finish off the pastries and coffee supplied by Via Rail for the reception prior to boarding the train for Toronto.

To see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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Battle of Britain
Parade – 2017

The day started off with a fog that only gave a few yards of vision but as the morning drew on the sun managed to burn off the moisture revealing a sunny and hot day for the 2017 Battle of Britain Ceremony held at the Vintage Wings of Canada (WVoC) hanger at the Gatineau Executive Airport. This was the first year for the ceremony to be held at this venue, having been at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum for the past many years. It is appropriate, however, to have it at VWoC as they have a stellar collection of flying WWII aircraft the fits in nicely with the sentiment of the day.

Among the distinguished guests were Ms. Tanya Sefolo, representing the High Commissioner of South Africa, Senator Joseph Day, Honourary Colonel of the RCAF, Ms. Loreena McKennett, along with local members of Parliament and local city councillors. The dignitaries included the Commander of the RCN VAdm. Ron Lloyd, Acting VCDS LGen. Parent, the British High Commissioner to Canada, Her Excellency Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque, and the Commander of the RCAF, LGen. Michael Hood as the Reviewing Officer.

As mentioned earlier, it was a beautiful, sunny day, but also warm and it took its toll on the parade members. Several of the airmen and cadets took a knee indicating that they didn’t feel well enough to continue so were helped off the parade to shade and water. Other than that, the parade continued as most do with the lament, rouse, commitment to remember, and the laying of wreaths. After the laying of wreaths, H.E. d’Allegeershecque addressed the parade remarking that:

“It is often said that the UK stood alone during the summer of 1940. But of course that isn’t true. The United Kingdom stood with its friends and allies from 15 countries across the world who believed in the cause of freedom. During this time we had no greater friend than Canada.”

She also mentioned Canada’s contribution, not only in manpower for the fighter squadrons, but for our training of aircrew and our manufacturing of war goods, so that “… the RAF … ended the battle stronger than it went into it”.

In his address, LGen. Hood asked everyone to:

“… remember all of our airmen and airwomen, past and present, who served Canada and Canadians, at home and around the world, in the cause of freedom and security.”.

After the march-off of veterans and troops, the Snowbirds, who had just completed a flypast, put on a show for the hundreds of people in attendance.

to see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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CAFSAC 2017

Marksman from around the world gathered at the Connaught Ranges today for the 25 shooting matches of the annual Canadian Armed Forces Small Arms Concentration (CAFSAC). Participants came from the CAF, (including regular, reserves and the Canadian Rangers Patrol Group), the United States, United Kingdom, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Of all the matches, the most prestigious was the Queen’s Medal for Champion Shot (match M15) which is a series of five relays starting at the 500 metre mark with fixed targets and then racing down to 400 metres for a mixture of static and moving targets and so on through 300 metres, 200 metres and 100 metres, all while carrying 30 kilograms of kit, not including ammunition. There was a mix of weaponry from the 70 year old Lee Enfield Mk4 used by the Rangers to the C-7 used by CAF personnel as well as rifles from the other countries.

At the end of the day, Private Johnathan Sobczak won the Queen’s Medal for Champion Shot for top Regular Force shooter, Corporal David Ferguson won the Queen’s Medal for Champion Shot for top Reserve Force shooter, and Master Corporal Samuel Coquyt won the Shannon Wills trophy for top Canadian Ranger Shooter.

However, all the competition was not just running and shooting down the ranges and the use of rifles. There were also competitions for light machine guns, pistols, and combinations thereof as well as competitions utilizing urban environment ranges (simulated housing/street environments), complete with static, pop-up, and robotic targets. Each of the three urban ranges is built new each year by local staff so returning participants won’t know what to expect. Of particular interest was the third urban environment range (P3) which is 2-way dynamic range where the targets shoot back at the participants.

At the P3 range the participants get to use their own personal weapon and only have to change out the breech block to shoot the simulated ammunition. The simulated ammunition is standard 5.56 mm cartridge but instead of having a metal bullet in the cartridge, it has a bullet shaped paintball that is fired. The simulated ammo breechblock is blue and will only fire simulation rounds, not real rounds, and the real breechblock will only fire real ammunition, not simulation rounds so, no accidents.

In the 2-way urban range (match M26), the participants are put through a timed event where they work through the range shooting targets and receive time penalties for not hitting a target in the proper spot, missing a target altogether (failure to neutralize), hitting a non-threat (i.e. civilian), as well as tactical and procedural errors. These penalties are added to their time through the course to give an aggregate time on which they are judged against others.

However, new to the Canadian Army is the Defense Sentinel Unit Mk1 (DSU Mk1) from Shaank Systems which is a paintball gun on a robotic base connected to video tracking camera and computer and programmed to protect a given area (think Phalanx only smaller). If the participant strays into the area of coverage, they are continuously fired upon and if hit, are disqualified from the competition. This, of course, means that the tactics used against static targets are no longer valid and the participant must think on their feet and use cover where appropriate. To neutralize the DSU, the participant must hit the man-sized target attached to the DSU twice (a.k.a. a double-tap) at which point the target falls down.

Canada is the first country in the world to use the DSU Mk1 and it shows great promise for added interactivity in training and seeing how soldiers react under fire. As stated by LCol. Mark Popov, Director of CAFSAC, this will force troops to “… think on their feet … make the right decision … in a time constrained environment.”.

All in all, there are worse ways to spend a beautiful summer day than being on a range blowing off a few rounds. Congratulations to the winners of all the matches for your commitment to excellence.

to see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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10th Anniversary
National Military Cemetery

Ten years ago, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), National Defence (DND), and Beechwood Cemetery, came together to amalgamate the four veterans sections within Beechwood Cemetery to create the National Military Cemetery. These sections include the Last Post Field of Honour (sec. #19), Commonwealth War Graves (sec. #29), the Field of Honour (sec. #27), and the National Military Cemetery (sec. #103), and are now collectively known as the National Military Cemetery. It is that amalgamation that was celebrated today, 13th Sept., 2017, at the Beechwood Cemetery Sacred Space.

The ceremony was divided into two parts: the first being addresses and a concert in the Sacred Space and the second a walking tour of the four sections with stops at notable graves along the way. BGen. (ret’d) Gerald Peddle hosted the event and introduced LGen. Charles Lamarre, Commander – Military Personnel Command, MP (Ottawa-Vanier) Mona Fortier, and BGen. (ret’d) David Kettle, Secretary General – Commonwealth War Graves Commission Canadian Agency, all who addressed the small audience. Following the addresses, a 40 minutes concert of music and song from the wars and interwar years was given by Andrew Ager (pianist/composer), Joan Fearnley (soprano) and Ian MacPherson (tenor).

The tour portion of the event was a bit of a walk but it was a beautiful day so no-one really minded. In section 103 it was noted that it had been opened in 2001 and that the central monument was unveiled by Governor-General Clarkson on 28th June, 2001, and is open to any Canadian Military personnel whether the individual died in uniform or natural causes. Also in sec. 103 is the Tri-Service monument with a poem inscribed on each of the three sides, one for each service.

Interestingly, there is no separate area for officers or generals as plots are assigned as they are needed and all headstones are the same except for crests and religious symbols. All the headstones also face east so they may be kissed by the first light of the day.

The Field of Honour (sec. #27) is reserved for veterans from the 20th and 21st century conflicts and was purchased from the Crown in 1944 but is now overseen by VAC and the CWGC. It contains over 2400 graves and is designed to be a hollow square: a military formation in which four sides of a square are formed, guns facing outward, so that every soldier knows that his back is covered by a mate, and the general and colours are protected in the center.

In the center of this section stands the Cross of Sacrifice, one of 26 such crosses in Canadian military cemeteries and designated in 1918 to stand in cemeteries hosting 40 or more graves. In one corner stands a Sherman Tank and in two other corners are cannons.

The other two sections, although small, did have notable people resting there. BGen. Kettle did note that some of the headstones differed from others in that those killed in battle had their service emblem (i.e. fouled anchor, CAF Maple Leaf) as the top element of the headstone whereas those who died of natural causes had a religious symbol (i.e. cross, Star of David) as their top element.

Following the tour, and stops for BGen. Cruikshank, Gen. Foulkes, Gen. Crerar, and Gen. McNaughton, everyone went back to the main building for a look at the Hall of Colours and then on to the reception.

to see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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Dragons & Spiders, Oh my

La Machine descended on Ottawa this weekend with two robotic/animatronic creations: Kumo the spider, and Long Ma, the dragon-horse. The story is that that Kumo has stolen the wings of Long Ma and Long Ma will fight Kumo to get his wings back. This takes place on the streets of Ottawa as the two robots walk about, fight each other, and eventually ends with Long Ma regaining its’ wings It is a four day affair with the robots starting and stopping in various places in the city during three performances per day.

It started on Thursday with Kumo asleep between the spires of Basilica Notre-Dame and Long Ma asleep in front of Ottawa City Hall. On Friday morning, Long Ma awakened and moved through the city to the street beside the Basilica and Kumo had awakened, moved down the Basilica and across the street to the National Art Gallery. In the afternoon, Long Ma woke again and moved through the streets, sighting Kumo, and then moved in to attack the spider. A battle ensued and then the dragon-horse withdrew with the spider in pursuit for an hour long trip through the Byward Market area, eventually winding up at the Shaw Centre (Kumo) and City Hall (Long Ma). In trail during this excursion were four elevated platforms of musicians playing more “modern” music. So, in fact, you had a traveling roadshow through downtown Ottawa.

At 8 pm, Long Ma again awoke at City Hall and started eastward down Laurier Avenue and turning to cross the Mackenzie Bridge. On the bridge, Long Ma was surprised by Kumo who was waiting on the road below and was raised up to do battle at the bridge level. Once the battle was over, they withdrew to their sleeping quarters for the evening. There are two more days of this so there is lots of time for everyone to go out and see this event.

There are some things to be aware of: street closures and crowd size. On my viewing, it was estimated that the crowd size was between 40 – 50 thousand people, and this was a Friday afternoon/evening. I can only imagine that the crowds will be larger on the weekend. It does mean that once you pick a spot to watch the spectacle it will not be easy to move to another position to view other parts of the show. This is what happened to me at the evening performance as I saw the awakening and movement of Long Ma but was unable to get closer to see the confrontation later on at the bridge site.

For me, the street closures didn’t really bother us other than we had to find an alternate route to the parking arcade but it wasn’t difficult if you know your way around the city and parking was surprisingly available and even getting out of the parkade afterwards turned out to be simple and quick. I would not use my experience as a gauge as these things typically go badly in Ottawa.

It’s on for another two days, the weather could not be more perfect, so I’d recommend you go have a look.

to see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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Nijmegen Departure Parade

It is the 65th time the Canadian Armed Forces is sending a contingent to the Nijmegen Marches in the Netherlands since 1952 and the 20th time that the Nijmegen Departure Parade has been held at the Canadian War Museum. Leading the contingent of 13 eleven person teams was Col. Geoff Abthorpe and the reviewing officer was Commodore Hadyn Edmundson, Chief of Staff for Milirary Personnel Command.

The Nijmegen Marches was originally a way for the Dutch infantry to increase their long-distance marching and weight-carrying capabilities and has evolved into an international four day event where 47,000 participants, civilian and military from 50 countries, march the route of the Allied troops in WWII by covering 160 km in 4 days carrying rucksacks of at least 10 kg. During this journey they often stop at military cemeteries to pay respects. It is expected that at least 1,000,000 Dutch people will line the routes to cheer on the participants.

The Departure Ceremony started with the march on of the team who were then reviewed by the official party, including Commodore Edmundson, representatives from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Stephen Quick of the War Museum and the Royal Canadian Legion. Addresses were then given and three wreaths from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Canadian War Museum, were presented to the Contingent Commander to be taken to the Netherlands and laid at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery.

In conjunction with the departure parade, a pair of miniature wooden shoes was presented to the Canadian War Museum by the family of James McGinnis, a member of the RCASC during WWII and who served in the Netherlands. These shoes, known as “Liberation Shoes” were a way to express gratitude to the Canadian Soldiers who liberated their country. The shoes were donated by McGinnis’s daughter, Doreen, and son-in-law, Simon Beekhuizen, who was 8 years old and living in the Netherlands at the time of the liberation.

After the presentation and march-off of the contingent, a reception was held in the Lebreton Gallery of the museum.

to see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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Osgoode Medieval Festival

The Kingdom of Osgoode opened its’ doors today to host its’ 10th annual Medieval Festival, complete with fools, crafts, food, and, most importantly, warriors on foot and on mount. To start, the Kingdom is a trading space where local artisans come to sell their wares to anyone walking by and that is exactly what you would expect. But, in all fairness to them, that’s not why I came.

I came to see the death sport of jousting and men being men in the fighting arena. And I wasn’t disappointed. To start, the fighting arena hosted men AND WOMEN in armour, both plate and mail, using a variety of weapons from swords, pikes, spears, and knives, right down to fists and feet. They gave a good demonstration of how things were done in medieval times and it is to be wondered at as to how they can work so hard for a hobby. To begin with, they are using real armour, between 120 and 140 pounds of heavy metal, heavy weapons, and having to move like a ninja to stay alive. Kudos for just attempting this but to do it with this regard for authenticity deserves special mention. As well as the knights, there was a contingent of Vikings who also put on a fierce demonstration of their fighting methods to awe the crowd.

There were several other demonstrations but the most notable was by the Canadian Raptor Conservancy who brought a Harris Hawk who free flew, a small Horned Owl, a Kestral (smallest raptor in North American), and a Bald Eagle. Great looking birds.

The point of the day, however, was the jousting. This is not for kids as this is full contact jousting where the blunted tip can deliver 5000 pounds per square inch of force from an 11 foot long douglas fir lance. Each of the three jousters wore between 120 and 140 pounds of armour and commanded a 2,000 pound Percheron horse into battle. Of the jousters themselves, one was a lady, Jaclyn Ziemniak, called Lady Jaclyn, one from the United States (Kyran Fairchild), and Tyler Bekolay, originally from Ottawa but currently from 15 Wing RCAF (Moose Jaw), named Lord Tiberius. The spectators are warned that there is a very real possibility of pieces of wood flying into the stands so one should be ready to move or put someone between oneself and the incoming shard of wood.

The competition started with a skills contest where the riders rode down the list at full speed with a spear, blunt end forward, to try and capture rings held aloft by squires. Once they had attempted to capture the rings, still moving, they reversed the spear and drove it into a target on a bale of hay. After that, they showed power by attacking a Quintain where they had to hit a shield on a spinning arm and be by before the arm spun to the other side and from which hung a bag of rocks which would hit them if they were too slow. In the afternoon competition, they forewent the quintain and took a squire, put a helmet on her head, and then put an apple on top of the helmet. The trick now was to ride full speed down the list and strike the apple, not the squire, and leave a piece of apple for the next knight to try and hit. First down did very well as split the apple leaving about 1/3 on the squire. The second knight (Tiberius) missed this tidbit and Lady Jaclyn hit the head of the squire before getting the apple. No injuries were reported.

The jousting competition followed the skills contests and consisted of three rounds of jousts where points were awards as a single point for a hit on the chest target, 5 points for a shattered lance, and 10 points for unhorsing a rider. The winner of the round then went on against the champion in the same manner. I must say that I enjoyed the jousting and there is a great skill in handling an 11 foot, 40 pound, piece of lumber on a thundering mount. Not just holding the thing but actually being able to put the tip on a point of another moving target. Several times the knights failed to couch the lance (get is secured under the arm in its holder) and had to toss the lance aside. My guess is that they toss the lance so as to not gut a horse if the point goes low. On most passes, a lance was shattered (1800 psi to do that) and on more than one occasion a knight was unhorsed. And it takes a moment for a knight to get up from an unhorsing as they have just absorbed a tremendous hit as well as hit the ground with their own weight and that of the armour.

Overall, it was an entertaining day and the weather, although forecast to be iffy to bad, was perfect. I’d recommend this event for anyone looking for something different for the day. And, as a note, all the horses save one are rescue horses and are treated like royalty themselves.

To see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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64th Korean Armistice

Sunday the 25th saw the Remembrance of the 64th Anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice and the day was marked by three separate, albeit connected, events in Ottawa, all hosted by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea.

The day started with a bright blue sky and slightly below normal temperatures, just perfect for this type of event. The first remembrance was held at the Monument to the Canadian Fallen where a small ceremony was to take place before the main ceremony at the National War Memorial (NWM). However, as time closed in on the start, suddenly the Korean contingent arrived, along with the Korean Ambassador, the piper and bugler from the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Padre, and the KVA Ch. 7 Colour Party. Although this became larger than originally proposed, it was over quickly with the only two wreaths laid: one by the Korean Ambassador, Shin Maeng-ho, accompanied by the Korean Defence Attaché, Col. Yoon, and the other by Mr. Bill Black, from the Korean Veterans Association Ch. 7, along with CFSU(O) CWO Dany Dubuc. The ceremony completed, everyone hustled up the street to the NWM for the larger ceremony marking the day.

At the NWM, the day was still bright but light clouds had started to gather. VIPs/veterans were seated on the east side with others seated on the west. The Veterans were marched onto the Esplanade, were reviewed by the reviewing party which included Senator Yonah Martin, Ambassador Shin, and MGen. Joyce. Once reviewed, the veterans took their chairs and the ceremony rolled along with its’ program of Commitment to Remember, prayer, lament, silence, rouse, and the laying of wreaths. There was a good contingent of Defence Attachés laying wreaths on behalf of their nations as well as several veterans’ groups representing their constituents. Once completed, the veterans did a march past and the ceremony was completed.

Now, during this event, the periods of sun were giving away to cloud, some dark. People lined up to take pictures with the veterans and the wreaths but a couple of drops of rain could be felt so most people made a quick exit to the Chateau Laurier to get under cover and get to the reception. For those who stayed for a couple of last minute pictures, there was retribution because the skies opened up and the rain came down in sheets. However, it did hold off for the ceremony so there is solace in that.

At the reception, the Ambassador, his wife, the defence attaché and his wife and others greeted guests in national costumes and looked colourful and lovely in them. The food was plentiful and varied so it promised to be a good reception. The Ambassador opened with remarks thanking Canadians for their sacrifices in a land far away with a foreign culture and was followed by Senator Martin who told the story of her parents who left Korea at that time. MGen Joyce proposed the toast to the veterans to which Mr. Bill Black responded and received letters written by Korean children addressed to the Korean veterans. Of note, and I hope I heard this correctly, Mr. Black said that Canadians never fought the North Koreans but only had combat against the Chinese. I found this interesting but I may not have heard it correctly so it needs to be confirmed.

The veterans then made a presentation to the Korean Ambassador and, with the official part of the program over, everyone headed for the steam table and the food. A little later there was a presentation of Korean dancing by children dancers whose expertise and colourful outfits captured the attention of the guests.

To see all the pictures, CLICK HERE


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