Sunday, 18 March 2018

Wanda the Cat

Entering password that Danny left in his desk; upload picture of my incredibly adorable face, aww… and there!

Wanda the Cat
HI HUMANS! DANG! Stupid CAPS lock key! Note to computer manufacturers, move the CAPS and NUM lock keys to the back of the computer, under a key-operated door! You know, like a nuclear missile launch button! Oh, not that *I* know what those things look like of course. That would be Kim Jong-un’s cat Hwan, who is the dumbest and meanest animal on the planet – the cat, not Kim - although, his little sister is kind of cute – in both cases :). But I digress. Holy crap! Talk about virtual dust! Does he EVER post on here? Hi humans! I’m Wanda Natasha (because I am mysterious – like Russian spy) Earhart (as in Amelia, because I’m an adventurous kitty - okay, and because sometimes I get lost on my way to the litter box, but hey, I’m about the same age in cat years as my human, so give me a break!).

I thought I’d introduce myself before Danny starts posting cutesy pictures of me online, and you guys get the wrong impression. I adopted him as a rescue human (and did he EVER need rescuing!), and I think we’re going to get along great. I checked the place out on arrival: apartment clean and tidy, check (REALLY clean and tidy – he’s a bit OCD, I think). Nice size litter box properly filled, check. Water dish and hard and soft food, check. Oh, Purina Fancy Feast! He splurged for the GOOD STUFF! Double check! He made a cute little ‘cat house’ for me out of a cardboard box (I doubt he even realizes there’s another meaning to the term), check! Huh…he has a stuffed Alf the alien toy. No doubt for me to tear apart the first time I’m left alone. Anyway, I feel a ‘cat’ nap coming on – get it? ‘Cat’ nap? Okay, maybe you people are into dogs or something. Anyway, see the above picture to see what a cat nap looks like. Oh wait! One last thing – in case you’re wondering why I have a first and second name, go look at this site. It’s important to cats, and you’ll learn something.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas Eve & Is That Santa?

It is an incredibly beautiful Christmas Eve morning here in Halifax, Nova Scotia. See that short line at the top of the image? Nope, it's not Santa. That is a massive Airbus A380 of Etihad Airlines (Flight EY 103) flying at flight level 400 (40,000 feet) on the last leg of an eleven thousand kilometer flight from Abu Dhabi to New York City. You can imagine that some of the passengers may be excited about returning home for the holidays, or perhaps there is someone about to start a career in the new year. I'm sure all of them are happy that the lengthy flight is almost over. I wonder if any of the passengers seated on the right side of the aircraft are looking down on Nova Scotia and wondering what we're doing this morning?

Merry Christmas to everyone at FlightRadar24, and thanks for allowing us all to learn more about who's flying over us! FlightRadar24 is an online Air Traffic Control app for your computer or cell phone where you can actually watch civilian flights all over the world as they make their way between airports. Combine this app with any of the radio scanner apps available, and you can be watching the aircraft on the 'radar' screen while listening to air traffic control communications. That's pretty heady stuff compared to the old multi-band radios we once used and still infinitely better than a programmable scanner. One can only wonder what is coming next in the way of technology. #HalifaxAuthor #Halifax #writer #amwriting #author #daniellloydlittle #airbus #a380 #etihad #etihadairways #christmaseve #christmas #merrychristmas #airline #flightradar24 #novascotia #atc #airtrafficcontrol

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Royal Canadian Air Force Will Have to Make Do With Government Surplus Jets

There are days I find it impossible to understand how any Canadian signs up to wear a uniform in defense of this country, simply because the most dangerous enemy they will face are our own politicians. This particular government has a history of kicking the men and women of Canada’s Armed Forces in the teeth over the past few decades. Sunny ways? Royal Canadian Air Force pilot’s better hope there are no bad guys coming at them out of that ‘sun’, because what they’ll be flying is way past its ‘best before’ date. The recent announcement that the government is going to buy old, used, rusty (yes rusty!) F-18 Hornets from Australia should be enough to send any Canadian fighter pilot checking his retirement options.

This item below is right from the Public Services and Procurement Canada website:

“How can you be confident these planes will be reliable, safe and effective?

  • Ensuring the safety and security of our women and men in uniform is our top priority
  • The Australian aircraft are similar in age to Canada’s CF-18 fleet”

I know what you’re thinking. If our aircraft are so old and worn out, on what planet does it make sense to replace them with – the EXACT same thing! This isn’t like the old CF-101 Voodoos that were traded in for airframes with much less time on them and upgraded to modern standards. Nope. This is Australian government surplus. You know; the kind of stuff that junk yards bid on for scrap, or you pick up cheap at the local Army/Navy store.

Keep in mind. The ‘Classic’ F-18s (the originals as opposed to the upgraded Super Hornets) are not the current Royal Australian Air Force fighters. No, like we had done, the Aussies opted to purchase the F-35, BUT, knowing the F-18s they currently had were not really suitable for current operations, they bought a bunch of F-18 SUPER Hornets to hold them over until the new Lightning IIs arrived. Yes, that right. We’re not buying the aircraft the Australians will be phasing out soon. No, we’re buying their old, already replaced by a plane that is about to be replaced by another plane, planes. Make sense? I sure hope not!

Don’t get me wrong. The McDonnell Douglas CF-18 (or 188 for the purists out there) Hornet was a great fighter when originally purchased. I remember at the time, being impressed that Canada’s air force would have a front line fighter capable of taking on anything else in the sky. Now, that was 1980. After thirty-plus years of operations, fighter aircraft are supposed to be put out to pasture, or used as targets, or sent to Arizona to bask in the sun.

The previous government, after weighing all the options available and speaking with the people who would be sent in harm’s way, came up with a plan to purchase the only available fifth generation aircraft they could - the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II. It is arguably the most advanced fighter aircraft available to Canada, made clear by the fact that many NATO countries who do not have their own aircraft industry opted to go with the nimble little stealth fighter – including of course, Australia.

When the current government was elected, they SWORE that there was no way the F-35 would be chosen for the RCAF replacement fighter. Of course, that party has a history of this kind of playing around with the lives on the men and women defending Canada. The last time they were elected, they immediately cancelled purchase plans for a new anti-submarine warfare helicopter, paying massive cancellation fines (IE Tax dollars), just because that’s how their ego rolls.

What is wrong with these people? They may have to send young men and women into battle where the quality of the equipment they have will mean the difference between LIFE AND DEATH! That’s death! D – e – a – t – h! How do you tell a grieving family member that their son or daughter, or mom or dad, are dead because of nothing but pure government ego? The F-35 deal had already been made and there is a ton of economic stimulus attached to the purchase, so what more does this government want? They claim to want an open and fair bidding process. Sure! That’s great! IF you’re buying note pads, pens, or replacement light bulbs. But when it comes to a military procurement; I’m sorry, the cheapest is just not going to cut it. If that were the case, they’d bite their tongues and buy a pile of Super Hornets. Cheap and fairly reliable, if you don’t mind buying old technology. The F-35 is the ONLY fifth generation (fully modern) aircraft available to us. The rest are either from Russia or China, or still on the drawing boards.

Many of our allies will be flying the F-35, and unlike previous aircraft, it’s not just a plane they’re buying, it’s a combat system. Every media source – left AND right – are questioning the sanity of this government’s decision. That should be an indication to the party’s supporters that ‘Ottawa, we have a problem’. How Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan can make this announcement, as someone who has been in combat himself, and STILL remain in the party is beyond me.

As a writer, I appreciate that the fragile freedoms I enjoy as a Canadian can disappear in the blink of an eye, and I want those men and women protecting me and my freedoms to have the very best equipment we can afford, not something from the equivalent of Honest Ed’s Used Car Lot.

By Daniel L Little -

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Rest in Peace Crew of ARA San Juan (S-42)

It has been a sad few weeks for submariners everywhere. The diesel-electric submarine, ARA San Juan (S-42), of the Argentine Navy went missing after communicating on November 15th, 2017 that there water had entered the boat around the snorkel, but that the leak had been repaired and the submarine was headed back to base. That was the last heard from the submarine and Argentine authorities disclosed on the 23rd that a seismic event had been detected on the day the submarine went missing that was consistent with an explosion. It would appear that the submarine suffered some kind of catastrophic failure and was lost at that time. Now, almost a month later, the search continues for the submarine's wreckage, and hopefully she will be found soon, allowing some sense of closure for the families and friends of the crew. 

If anything positive has come out of this tragic event, it is how the world's navies, and especially the Royal Navy, set aside their differences and rushed to the aid of the missing crew. The boat was a TR-1700 class diesel-electric submarine (SSK) in service with the Argentine Navy as part of the Argentine Submarine Force. The submarine was built in West Germany and had entered service on November 19th, 1985. San Juan had undergone a mid-life refit that was completed in 2013. My thoughts and prayers go out to the boat's crew, their families and friends. For more information about the ARA San Juan, visit the Wikipedia page here -
#HalifaxAuthor #Halifax #HMCS #royalcanadiannavy #rcn #cfbhalifax #novascotia #writer #amwriting #author #daniellloydlittle #argentina #argentinenavy #ssk #submarine #boat #ara #sanjuan #arasanjuan #sublost

Friday, 8 December 2017

Warning! Rant Ahead!

Okay, those of you who know me, know I avoid rants on social media, because let's face it, everyone has their own opinion about everything, and I respect that. However, SHAME on you CBC and CTV for not having uninterrupted coverage of the ceremony from Halifax marking the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. This was a cataclysmic event when the largest non-nuclear, man-made explosion in history killed nearly 2000 people, injured thousands more, and virtually destroyed a huge part of the city. That same day saw a huge snowstorm move in, and I'm sure most of you can imagine what that scene had to be like. This event was responsible for the creation of so many things we take for granted today, such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, because so many people who had rushed to their windows to see what was happening were blinded by flying glass.

From CTV's Ben Mulroney announcing that their reporter in Halifax was 'alive' - that's probably a good thing, to that reporter going on about how someone kept sending a message warning an incoming train to stop, and how SHE kept sending and how an ancestor of HER's was there today. I mean seriously. One of my favourite complaints is how journalism today is all about a talking head covered in make-up, but surely they can read a history book before going on air 'live'.

Any hope of watching the ceremony was soon put to waste as the networks kept throwing in the usual commercial breaks at all the wrong times, and coming back to pick up speakers without explaining what the speaker was talking about. I shut the TV off when the CBC reporter kept yapping right through the beginning of the moment of silence. Since we could see on the split screen that everyone was bowing their heads, couldn't someone in the studio have whispered into his earpiece to shut the %#$@ up!

I would comment on how our photo-op savvy Prime Minister couldn't be bothered to arrange his schedule to be here, but hey, it's pouring rain in Halifax this morning; not exactly prime selfie conditions. There, I feel a bit better now. I'm sorry and hope this doesn't offend anyone, and I know there are journalists out there who take their jobs seriously. Sadly, there were none to be found this morning. #halifaxauthor #halifaxexplosion #Halifax #firstworldwar #royalcanadiannavy #rcn #canadianarmy 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Lance Corporal Alphonse Joseph Leger - A Canadian Hero

Private Alphonse Joseph Leger
This is a brief history of my Great Uncle Alphonse Joseph Leger’s service in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. Having researched various archives and military history sources for information about his and his unit’s actions, I was able to piece together a short summery of his service in both the armoured and infantry corps.

There is little information available as to the specific role he played in the various actions, except for when he was injured so I’ve only included operations the records indicate he was a part of. Although the events below are sometimes described in a single paragraph, let your imagination fill in the details. The anxiety, the fear, the far too few breaks in between combat, and of course the all-prevailing hope that you survive to see tomorrow, while watching those around you who don't.

Although the story-line is a ‘bit’ over-the-top, the recent movie Fury, does give a good idea of what fighting from within the confines of a Sherman medium tank might have been like. The Shermans were a decent tank, but they did have a fatal flaw. Being gasoline powered (as opposed to the German diesel-powered vehicles) they often burst into flames when hit.  

Below the post, I’ve included a few links to more information about the units Alphonse served with, and the battles my great uncle took part in.

Any errors or emissions are solely mine.

I never knew my great-uncle. The only memory I have of him was from stories my mother told me, along with a photograph that sat for years on a table in our living room. I recall her telling me that he had received burns while serving in a tank during the Second World War, and that was all she knew. After my mom passed away, letters he had sent to her from overseas were given to me which peaked my interest and resulted in what you read below.

Alphonse Joseph Leger was born on March 25th, 1919 in the Acadian town of Barachois, New Brunswick, a small community south-east of Shediac. He had two brothers and three sisters and besides fishing with his father and brothers, he drove tractor trailers and buses, and was not surprisingly, a good mechanic. Alphonse was interested in various sports and loved playing baseball and hockey. Besides being a professional boxer for two years, he was also an avid reader of fiction. A note on his service record indicates that he exhibited an above average intelligence.

It must have been a hard decision for the married (wife Doris) father of two children to sign up for active duty and leaving his family behind, but the young Acadian knew it was what he had to do.

Alphonse took the Oath February 2nd, 1943 at Number 7 Manning Depot in Moncton, New Brunswick and not long afterwards on April 15th, he was sent to Camp Borden for basic training, where due to his experience as a truck driver and mechanic, he was found to be a natural for the armoured corps. On June 18th, Alphonse acquired his Class III Driver (Tracked) qualification which cemented his future with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps and tank warfare. His abilities recommended a position as ‘driver in command’ of a tank.

With his basic training completed, he was transferred to Number 1Transit Camp in Windsor, Nova Scotia on August 9th, 1943, to await transport across the Atlantic Ocean to England. On August 27th, Alphonse embarked at Halifax, Nova Scotia for the trip ‘over there’ and disembarked in Great Britain on September 1st. The speed of the crossing would indicate passage aboard one of the ‘Queens’; the liners RMS Queen Elizabeth or Queen Mary, ships so fast, they often sailed on their own without escort. There is a good possibility that he may have had a famous shipmate on this voyage, as Prime Minister Winston Churchill also departed Halifax aboard the Queen Mary on August 27, heading to Gourock, Scotland, along with 15,116 troops.

On September 2nd, 1943, Trooper Alphonse J. Leger reported for duty with #2 CACRU (Canadian Armoured Corps Reinforcement Unit) where he continued his training.

On June 10th, 1944, after intensive training in armoured warfare, Alphonse was assigned to the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars) ‘B’ Squadron. ‘B’ Squadron was equipped with the Sherman Firefly tank, a deadly medium tank mounting a quick firing 17 pounder gun, as well as the Mk III Sherman, a slightly less armoured version armed with a 75mm gun. The Regimental Record reports that the 6th received twenty new tanks with inexperienced crews, which would have included Alphonse, on that day and the more experienced troopers were mixed in with the new men to balance out the teams.

Trooper Leger’s baptism of fire came quickly when the regiment was informed that it would be going into action the very next day with little time to inform everyone of the plans. They would be trying to take Le Mesnil-Patry, as part of the on-going attempt to capture the French city of Caen, which has eluded British General Bernard Montgomery since D-Day. There was concern in regards to the number of new troopers within the regiment, but as is often the case in war, nothing could be done about that. In spite of heavy fighting, and being fired upon by allied forces, the operation was a success and Alphonse came through it unscathed.

Letter to my mom
After a few weeks of rest and a chance to integrate the new men with those with more experience, the regiment was ready for its next task—Operation Charnwood. On July 8th, 1944, the move forward into Caen began and by the end of the day, the regiment had destroyed nine enemy tanks, losing two of their own. The enemy retreated, and on the 10th, the regiment captured an intact German Panther tank, driving it back to be examined by army technicians.

On July 18th, 1944, after a period of repair, rest, and training, the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment was in battle again, moving south of the city. At one point in the battle, the regiment supplied support to the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment—a unit that would play a part in Alphonse’s future. The fighting continue through until July 22nd, with continual shelling and mortar fire from the German positions. At this time, the regiment pulled back for more rest and repairs.

While preparing for an attack on July 26th, the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) made a heavy attack on the regimental area using anti-personnel bombs and leaving quite a few casualties in their wake. The attack on the 26th still began as scheduled and quickly encountered stiff opposition, including the regiment’s first encounter with the German Army’s Ferdinand, a monster anti-tank vehicle armed with a deadly 88mm gun. Rounds that did the enemy tank, simply bounced off to the chagrin of the Canadians.

88mm gun @ Canadian War Museum
The German 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41 gun was used throughout the Second World War by various units of the German Army and Air Force. Originally designed as an anti-aircraft weapon, it was soon developed into a deadly anti-tank weapon as well, and became the main armament of the feared German Tiger heavy tank. Probably one of the most well-known Nazi weapons, along with the U-Boat, the gun could be completely set up for use in less than three minutes.

After a few more days of intense combat, the regiment pulled back into reserve. Although still close to the front lines where they received daily attention from the Luftwaffe, this was an opportunity for the men to rest and make any necessary repairs to their Shermans. Unfortunately, casualties were suffered during this period when the regiment was accidentally bombed by American aircraft.

On August 9th, ‘A’ and ‘B’ Squadrons moved on Bretteville-sur-Laize in support of Canadian infantry. ‘C’ Squadron was brought up as a backup when the attack bogged down and not only succeeded in stabilizing the situation, but also captured nearly 300 enemy soldiers.

August 14th, 1944, saw the unit go on the offensive as part of Operation Tullulah, soon renamed Tractable, which was part of the overall Operation Totalize. With an objective of closing the northern pincer of the Falaise Gap, this action became one of the most controversial battles in Europe during the Second World War. Within the 'gap', a large body of German men, tanks and equipment had found themselves nearly surrounded by the American Army to the South, and British, Canadian and American units to the north. The goal was to seal off the gap and therefore trap the enemy. The fighting during this battle was some of the fiercest during the war, and although the Allies fought through desperate enemy opposition, many of the Germans managed to escape and fight another day.

August 14th also saw Trooper Alphonse Leger seriously injured when his Sherman was hit by an 88mm shell. This was the third tank of his to be hit during battle, but in this case the Sherman caught fire, trapping the co-driver who would have been seated next to him at the front of the vehicle. Alphonse repeatedly tried to rescue his friend, trying to pull him through the hatch directly above the other driver's position and sustaining serious burns in the process. Unfortunately, in spite of his heroic efforts, he was unable to pull the other man out of the tank to safety.

After finally being moved to #22 Canadian General Hospital, two days later (remember, this is in the middle of a major battle), his condition was quickly deemed serious enough to transfer him from the field hospital to the Roman Way Convalescence Hospital in England. There, doctors and nurses trained in the care of badly injured and burned soldiers slowly repaired his battered body. The report below is verbatim from one of the doctors there, where he advises against Alphonse returning to active duty.

“1 Sep 44 This man is not physically visibly shaken but tells vivid story of being hit in 3 different tanks, finally last tank hit by 88 and ammo burned. Driver wounded and trapped inside. Soldier (Alphonse) attempted to rescue him but friends feet on fire and German's machine gunning burning tank. Cries and screams of trapped driver affected man's outlook and he has had no chance to recuperate from experiences which are still vivid in his mind. Unlikely to be satisfactory material for combat again. Suitable for consideration for upgrading to Motor Mech (t) if mind settled satisfactorily.”
(H.D.N. Doughty Capt.

It is hard to imagine what the young soldier must have gone through. The horrible pain of burns compounded by the emotional pain of watching his friend die and being unable to save him. The war surely should have been over for Alphonse at this point as he had certainly done more than his fair share.

After months of recuperation and surgery however, Trooper Leger wanted to return to the fray. He may have been motivated by the need for revenge, or just the same sense of duty that had caused him to sign up in the first place.

Whatever the reason, after upgrade training for the regular army—no one could blame him for not wanting to return to tanks, he was flown from England, back to the continent on February 12th, 1945. There he joined the North Shore (NB) Regiment of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division on March 2nd, 1945.

Alphonse joined the storied regiment at about the time it landed in Germany after a river amphibious assault. The North Shores had been in action since D-Day and after many successes, tempered by great losses, it appeared to them that the war would soon be over. At this same time, the people of Holland were under severe distress between atrocities being committed by the German army, who by this time could see the writing on the wall, and equally as dangerous, starvation.

In what had to be a logistical nightmare, the North Shore Regiment reversed direction from east to west, and prepared to attack and liberate the Dutch city of Zutphen. Along the way, they met furious opposition from hardened German veterans of previous battles, and worse, fanatical Hitler Youth who seemed to have no fear of dying. 

The following is an excerpt from Canadian Battlefield Tours:

“April 4-7- Because of fanatical resistance from 361st Infantry Div. and 3rd Para. it becomes necessary to commit the entire 3rd CDN Div. to liberate Zutphen. Participants included Regina Rifles, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars, Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry Highlanders, Highland Light Infantry, North Nova Scotia Highlanders, North Shore Regiment (had 20 killed here), Regiment de la Chaudiere & Sherbrooke Fusiliers.”

One of those ‘20 killed’ was Lance Corporal Alphonse Joseph Leger. He was killed in action in the town of Almen, Holland, just to the east of Zutphen on April 5th, 1945. Rest in Peace Alphonse, and know you are not forgotten.

The medals awarded to my great uncle, include the 1939-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Clasp, and the War Medal 1939-45.