What do peasant footwear in Georgia, the Canadian Senate and women’s frustrations with men have in common? They all were suggestions to my Tweet asking what to write about. Which reminded me how various, seemingly unrelated things can be connected. Two people I have great respect and admiration for are James Burke and Alan Cross. I was delighted to find out they have worked together on a podcast. The ground breaking TV series by James Burke called Connections and his other series have shaped my view of the world, science and history. The radio series by Alan Cross have opened me up to some great music and appreciation of artists.
For sometime I have had this idea or perhaps theory forming in my head. So long in fact I don’t really remember how it got there in the first place. Apologies if I am borrowing from someone else’s work without credit. It is unintentional and a link in the comments would be appreciated. So why is Brantford Ontario Canada key to victory? Or at least key to understanding how victory was achieved?
The most famous person from Brantford people know today is Wayne Gretzky. The Great One is a legend in his own time and one of the great athletes of all time. Hockey is part of Canada’s national fabric and has been long before Walter Gretzky had a son. The roots of the indoor game start in Montreal with a rugby team waiting for winter to be over so they could return to the pitch. Hockey had the same rules as rugby back then in that forward passes were not permitted, when that rule was dropped the game opened up. At least that how it is explained in hockey a people’s history.
Hockey, rugby, lacrosse or any sports team needs to work as a team. Sports teams need to have different talents and skills complimenting each other in order to succeed. Hockey to be entertaining needs to be fast, offensive and skilled. It takes a lot of training and dedication to perfect the skills and teamwork needed to win a Stanley Cup. Heinz Guderian in Auctung Panzer! referred to Canadian soldiers in World War One as ‘offensively minded’, the ‘storm tactics’ Canadian infantry developed in the trenches were based on hockey’s lessons. Different tools, skills and training were used to help break the stalemate even when tanks were unavailable or unreliable.
By World War Two most armies in the world had reorganized their infantry in some ways like the Canadian Expeditionary Force did in 1916. Canadian developed tactics were the infantry component to Blitz Krieg. German soldiers practiced those tactics before the war leading to the early victories. The Allies also perfected those tactics and took them further to achieve victory. Stalemate is rare in hockey because the fluid nature of the game allows for playing the puck deep. Stalemate was rare in World War Two because the mobility of tanks or paratroopers also allowed to get deep in the enemy area.
One of the new tools the Allies had during the war to help make the battlefield more like a hockey game also has its roots in Brantford. Claimed by Scotland, Canada and the United States Alexander Graham Bell is best known for the telephone. The telephone was invented in Boston yet Brantford is the Telephone City because the idea came to Bell while he was teaching in Brantford. Bell invented more than just the telephone, teaching aids for the def, more efficient means to write in Braille for example. After Guglielmo Marconi proved the ability of wireless Bell and Marconi worked to marry their two inventions. The radio telephone was essential for co-ordinating Allied units.
With the work of Alfred J Groos and others the radio telephone shrank so it could be used by an infantry soldier. This allowed Allied privates to call upon more artillery, naval bombardment or airstrikes than a German or Japanese general. Allied commanders could get real-time information about what was happening with their units and adjust to the changing conditions.
Alexander Graham Bell wasn’t just interested in communications technology and teaching aids. He and his team developed the first hydrofoil and tested it on the Nova Scotia lake Bras D’Or, which gave its name to one of the fastest warships ever built, the hydrofoil HMCS Bras D’Or. When the lake was frozen in 1909 another of Bell’s teams lifted of in the Silver Dart, the first flight in the British Empire. Within a year Winston Churchill had created the Royal Navy Flying Service and Sir Wilfred Laurier had created the Canadian Flying Service. The Canadian Flying Service would be sacrificed to budget cuts before the start of World War One but would be succeeded by the Royal Canadian Airforce after the war.
Brantford has long been a regional hub for road and rail traffic and a good location for training establishments for the war effort. Brantford would be one of hundreds of Commonwealth Air Training Program locations throughout Canada. The Commonwealth Air Training Program prepared pilots form around the world to fly in the war. Under the command of Air Marshal Billy Bishop it was a system of interconnected bases each specializing in some aspect of flight crew training. The model was adapted to American needs when they entered the war. Today the Commonwealth Air Training Program is the bases for the Allied Air Training Program that NATO uses to train pilots in Canada.
Even before Gretzky or Bell Brantford contributed to the world. The founder of the town was Sir Joseph Brant, Thayendanegea as the Mohawks called him. As a leader of the Mohawks who fought for Britain in the American Revolution he and his followers were granted the Grand River Valley in Ontario to compensate for the loss of their lands in New York. After the war he would help found the Six Nations of the Grand River.
Mohawks consider themselves a People of the Longhouse or Iroquois. Throughout history various nations around the Great Lakes would form confederacies to meet defence or economic needs. These confederations were the inspiration for the Constitution of the United States and the British North America Act or Constitution Act 1867. In fact North America has three federated nations that were part of the war effort. Mexico may not have sent its armed forces to fight but it did supply oil, food and other materials that aided the victory.
Winston Churchill called the United States the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ and Franklin Roosevelt called Canada the ‘Aerodrome of Democracy’. These nations, loosely based on First Nation confederacies, were key in the Allied victory over the Axis. No one nation could defeat the Axis, it required a team of nations each bringing its own skills, technologies and resources. Africans, North Americans, South Americans, Asians, Australians, New Zealanders and Europeans all worked together for victory. Brantford is a key to understanding the global team effort it took, after all the Great One would not be a legend without someone to pass to or receive the puck from.
Corrections, criticisms et cetera can go in the comments.