Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Military Picture of the Week: Odd Man Out

One of those three Grenadier Guardsmen is actually a cake, which may be the strangest thing I’ve ever written on this blog.



The cake is to celebrate the start of the British Legion’s annual Poppy Campaign.  More info here.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Canada Gets Back Up

This image from today’s Halifax Chronicle Herald captures how I and many Canadians are feeling today.   In the four days since I posted a picture of my visit to the Ottawa War Memorial, there have been two attacks on Canadian Armed Forces personnel.   On Monday a Regular Force RCAF Warrant Officer was killed in a Montreal parking lot by a by would be jihadist who mowed him down with his car, and yesterday an Army Reservist was shot and mortally wounded while part of the ceremonial guard mount at one of our country’s most honoured (and, in a secular sense of the word) sacred places.   The gunman then went on to Parliament Hill, and in a video that I still find surreal, died in a gun battle, shot by our Parliament’s Sergeant of Arms, an ex-RCMP officer, who is today an undisputed national hero.  

What to make of this?   It’s too early to say, but members of the Canadian Armed Forces, still enjoying the public approval from their role in Afghanistan, will be struggling (as I am) with the perceived loss of pride and identity in being told not to wear their uniforms in public.   Hopefully that order will be lifted by Remembrance Day, and we can pay our respects to the old and newly fallen as we should, but we now have to think about security issues in our own country.  In that sense, while there is some in his piece yesterday that I disagree with, journalist Glenn Greenwald does make a good point.  Canada has been at war for thirteen years, ever since our troops first went to Tora Bora in Afghanistan, and while we’ve refurbished our military prestige and pride following the dark years and moral failures of the 1990s, we have been complacent.  We never thought that our enemies would strike us here.  We assumed that either we were too small to be an important target to Bin Laden and his followers, or that if homegrown extremists tried, then our security services would catch them, because they all seemed pretty inept.   Now, in three days, we can’t afford those misguided assumptions.  

I hope we don’t slide into a security state mentality like our southern neighbours have.   Their post 9/11 habit of replacing that lovely and historic word of liberty, “America”, with “Homeland”, which to my mind hearkens back to 19th century European “blood and volk" nationalism, is unfortunate, but that’s just my opinion.   I hope that Parliament will reopen to visitors soon, although I suspect that visitors will have to go through metal detectors and other security measures.  It’s still our Parliament, and should remain so.   The National War Memorial will take on a new significance, to be sure, and there will be new resolve to fight against ISIS and forces like it, even if it’s still unclear whether these attacks of the last tree days were jihadist ordered, jihadist inspired, or just copycat violence by mentally fragile and angry loners.  As a former Commanding Officer of mine said yesterday, if we were complacent and ambiguous about the Syria deployment last week, now Canadians will be resolved, and military history shows that when we are angry, we punch above our weight.   

The most encouraging thing for me yesterday was hearing that the Ottawa Police, with parts of the capital still in lockdown, sent this message out to the city’s Muslim community.  If you feel unsafe, or threatened, let us know and we’ll protect you.   If that virtue of Canadian solidarity and tolerance makes it through the days to come unscathed, then we’ll be alright.

God bless and protect all those who serve and protect our country, whatever uniform they wear.





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Military Picture Of The Week

I took these two pictures at the National War Memorial on a chilly noon in Ottawa this last Sunday.   As part of the anniversary of the start of the First World War, the three branches of the Canadian Armed Forces are mounting a guard there during (I believe) daylight hours.   When I visited it was the Army’s turn.   These young soldiers were standing guard at the front of the memorial, facing down Elgin Street, and on the far side, facing Parliament Hill, a piper was playing.   The turnout of these lads was immaculate and their bearing was every inch the soldier.   If you find yourself in Ottawa in November it’s worth a visit.




Friday, October 17, 2014

How Do You Like Them Apples?


Kay and I just returned from the Berkeley Springs region of West Virginia, where we spent a week with her siblings. Since we were the advance party, we got to sample some local culture, including the kickoff parade of the local Apple Butter Festival.   Who knew there were so many apples?  Extra marks for identifying the types of apples represented here.

I have some more photos to post when I get back from a conference happening this weekend.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Notable Quotable: "I Couldn't Care Less If Jackie Was Technicolor"

Yesterday’s New York Times carried the obituary of George Shuba, the man shown below shaking the hand of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in professional baseball, when they both played for the Montreal Royals .  The Royals were the farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers.   

On April 18, 1946, Robinson hit a home run in the Royals’ season opener against the Jersey Giants.   Shuba went to the plate to shake Robinson’s hand as he finished rounding the bases.   Sixty years later, Shuba would say:  “I couldn’t care less if Jackie was Technicolor.   As far as I was concerned, he was a great ballplayer - our best.   I had no problem going to the plate to shake his hand instead of waiting for him to come by me in the on-deck circle."

 Shuba and Robsinon both went on to the major leagues, where Shuba had a respectable performance before returning to his home town of Yougstown, Ohio, where he worked as a postal clerk.  He would probably have been forgotten to history had it not been for this picture, but I’d have to say that he was, in his own way, one of the greats.

Sadly this moment occurred at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City.  It would have been a great Canadian moment had it occurred in Montreal, a time in Robinson’s career that was sadly overlooked in the recent biopic “42”.


Monday, September 29, 2014

A Great Weekend By A Great Lake


Kay and I took Appa the Volksbison, our ’85 VW Vanagaon camper, down to Lake Erie this past weekend.    On the plus side, I had recently discovered that our camper’s onboard fridge was actually functional.   I had ordered a kit to convert the space to extra shelving and storage, but had been procrastinating about taking the fridge out and junking it.   However, on our last outing, I was startled to discover that some of the items stored in the fridge space were cold to the touch!   Evidently I had it set so that it ran off the battery while the van was in motion, and I realized that the fridge was working.   A little tinkering with it this summer, and some YouTube research, taught me how to run it off an external power cord while parked, to get it properly chilled, and then how to get the pilot lit so that it could run on propane once we reached our destination.   This meant that we had all the VW’s original systems working:  the propane stove, the fridge, and the water tan/sink/tap.   Excited, we searched for a destination and settled on Wheatley Provincial Park, down on Lake Erie.  Wheatley is not far from Point Pelee, which is the southernmost point in Canada, on a latitude with Northern California.

We made it.  Appa is old and slow and somewhat prone to overheating, so I kept a close eye on the temperature gauge, but we made it there and back without much incident.  We were blessed with a perfect early fall weekend and a campsite by the water.

If you peer into the side door, you’ll see Kay celebrating our arrival.


Walkway to the beachfront along Lake Erie.



 Some of the park’s many denizens.  We got up before sunrise on Saturday morning and were treated to the unforgettable sight of stars reflected on the water.    I wish I could have captured that in a photo, but some things are best saved for memories.  I may never see starlight reflected on water again, but I’ll never forget the sight.




I tried going for my morning run along this beach.   It wasn’t my fastest run.   In fact, it was like one of those dreams when you’re trying to run away from monsters but caught in quicksand.


 Church by the lake.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

With The Royal Highland Fusiliers Of Canada

My friend Padre Neil is away this month at the Canadian Forces Leadership School in St. Jean, QC, getting the official training and qualifications to set the seal on his pre-existing awesomeness as a padre.   Unfortunately his absence left his reserve unit, the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, in a bit of a lurch, as they wanted him to offer a prayer and blessing at their parade this past Saturday.   I was happy to fill in.

The RHFC are one of the many colourful Reserve regiments of Canada’s Army.  As you can see below, their ceremonial dress uniform is a Highland variation of the less glamorous, plain green DEU (Distinctive Environmental Uniform) worn by most Regular Force army units. I felt quite plain standing next to them.  The Fusiliers have a proud history, with their roots in the various militia regiments formed in the Waterloo Region of SW Ontario since the mid 1800s.  In World War 1, a rather confusing period in the lineage of Canadian regiments, the RHFC’s ancestors  included the 108th Battalion CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force), the 111th CEF, and the 29th Waterloo Regiment, Highland Light Infantry of Canada (HLI). During World War Two the HLI earned a distinguished reputation in places such as Normandy and Holland, and claimed to be the only Canadian regiment never to have given up a prisoner or man missing, or to have yielded its ground to the enemy.  In 1965 the HLI was amalgamated with another local militia regiment, the Highland Fusiliers of Canada, thus becoming the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada.   Many members of the RHFC deployed to Afghanistan in the last decade as augments to Reg Force regiments, and so the RHFC will soon receive a new Battle Honour, Afghanistan, for its colours.



It was a perfect day for a parade.  September has been cool and wet, but the sun came out on cue.  In this photo, the Colour Guards stand before the Commanding Officer,  preparing to lay the colours on the regimental drums during a short parade at the cenotaph in Cambridge.   The Pipe Sergeant Major is standing on the cenotaph.   My role in the service was to offer this short prayer, and since I couldn’t find a specific prayer for the RHFC,  I adapted from the Regimental Collect of the British Army’s Royal Highland Fusiliers, which are allied to Canada’s RHFC.  Padre Neil, your homework is to see if there is in fact a proper prayer for yur regiment, and if so, to make it more visible for future use.

Gracious and loving God, look with favour on the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada.   Keep us all mindful of their legacy of heroism, sacrifice, and service.  Abide with them, in all the places where they may be called to serve, and strengthen them to resist to the uttermost all assaults of evil.   To their leaders, give wisdom, and to all ranks, give valour.  Inspire them to serve in their day and generation so that they may worthily uphold the trust that has been handed down to them, and give them we pray your continued blessing.  Amen.

To my chaplain friends, there is a useful resource on Collects of the British Army here.   Someone should compile a similar list for the Canadian Army.   


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Plug For The Great War Blog

I discovered this blog the other day, and I recommend it.  Each day covers a different aspect of World War One.   It’s well written and researched, and worth the time of anybody interested in this period.

This image from today’s post explores the links between the Edwardian ethos of masculine values, amateur athletics, muscular Christianity and recruiting.


Monday, September 8, 2014

A Good Day At Church

Kay and I took church with us to Rockwood Conservation Area this weekend.

The traffic on the way to church was light and there was lots of parking.

 We decided we would sit right in front of the altar rather than as far back in the church as humanly possible.  

Safely home thanks to Appa the Volksbison.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Military Picture Of The Week


This picture comes from the Foreign Policy website’s Photos of the Week feature and shows Afghan National Army personnel praying at a graduation ceremony at the ANA Training Centre in Kabul on 24 August.  These are the faces of the army that NATO members, including friends of mine, have been labouring to train and guide for the last few years.  They face a difficult future, with a government still paralyzed by deadlock after a recent national election that shows the country’s ethnic fault lines and distrust, and an undefeated Taliban insurgency.  Good luck to them.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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