This painting is a depiction of a fictional scene representative
of an aspect of the Canadian military experience in Holland in 1944-45.
In the painting a hockey game is taking place between a Canadian Army
team from the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and a team of Canadian
airmen from a local allied airfield.
The game venue
is a frozen canal in a newly liberated Dutch town. Spectators include
Canadian soldiers and Dutch civilians enjoying the free entertainment.
Depicted in the foreground are two soldiers of the division in a Universal
(Bren) carrier, the workhorse of Commonwealth armies during WWII.
The Bren carrier was a principal means of transportation for the army
providing some protection and firepower to frontline troops as they
advanced. Behind the carrier is a Canadian Military Pattern (CMP)
truck, variants of which were produced in the thousands in support
of the war effort by Canadian industry.
The game is buzzed
by an unexpected spectator in the form of a Canadian crewed B-25 Mitchell
bomber returning to the airfield from a mission. Many Canadians flew
as aircrew with the 2nd Tactical Air Force, a formation of the Royal
Air Force composed of squadrons and aircrew drawn from many Commonwealth
and allied nations. The B-25 Mitchell squadrons supported the allied
armies from the D- Day landings in Normandy through their advance
in Northwestern Europe and the liberation of countries such as the
Netherlands from the yolk of the Third Reich.
Bomber crews of this era
typically decorated the noses of their aircraft with jaunty illustrations
as good luck talisman’s that reflected the symbolic attachment
of the crew to their aircraft. Often these illustrations, known as
“nose art”, personalized the aircraft and represented
as aspect of the personality and character of its human occupants.
In this case, as it is a Canadian crew, a Beaver caricature brandishing
a hockey stick and stick handling a bomb while dressed in the colours
of the RCAF Flyers hockey team adorns the nose of the aircraft. The
sudden a very low level appearance of the bomber over the game constitutes
an airborne tactical assist as the Air Force teams advances on the
army net, hence the painting’s title.
Oil on canvas, 24x36
Display: Displayed as part of the Okanagan Military
Museum's Memorial Cup 2004 display entitled "Drafted!! - Hockey
in the Canadian Forces".
note:The history of the game of hockey is intertwined with
our military history. Some of the first images of the winter sport that
became a Canadian icon and some might venture an obsession; depict players
in military uniforms cavorting on the ice ponds of eastern Canada.
The Canadian national
character has been greatly influenced by the sport and so too has the
character of the Canadian military. The tradition of sporting competition
has long been associated with military forces, dating back to the origin
of the Olympics as a contest of martial skills between the Greek city-states
and to the polo fields that served as training grounds for British cavalry
regiments. The Canadian equivalent has been the regimental, squadron,
base and ship’s hockey teams that have competed with each other
or represented Canada in international competitions.
have served they have taken their skates and sticks and found the time
to play the game they loved since their youth in cities, towns and farms
across the country. During the First World War Canadian troops played
in their training camps both in Canada and on the Salisbury Plains of
England were they trained before going to the frontlines on the continent.
During the inter-war
period Canada’s soldiers, sailors and airmen played on bases and
military camps throughout Canada. When the depression hit the country
Canadians serving in relief work camps set up by the Canadian Army in
the hinterland endured the regime of hard work aided by the regular
hockey games held at the camps.
With Canada again
at war during the Second World War the hundreds of thousands of Canadians
who joined the Armed Services brought their enthusiasm for hockey with
them to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan airfields, Army training
camps and naval bases in Canada and then overseas as they carried the
Allied war effort throughout the globe to final victory.
the game with the same vigour, determination and spirit that they used
to establish Canada’s enviable military record of achievement
within the allied forces. Canadians could be seen playing hockey beside
their barracks in England while training for their role in the liberation
of Europe or beside their bomber and fighter aircraft on airfields that
took the war to the skies over the Third Reich. After D-Day and in the
winter of 1944-45 they played beside tanks in newly liberated Holland
and from airfields in Belgium on the way to the final overthrow of the
Nazi regime. In Canada, Axis POWs even took up the game and many returned
to Canada to settle after the war making their contribution to the distinct
and diverse post-war society that we have come to know.
After the war the
Canadians stationed in Europe and Germany carried forth their love of
the sport as ambassadors for peace and reconstruction in the war-ravaged
continent and in the development of lasting friendships with the people
around the Canadian bases in Germany. In 1948, the Royal Canadian Air
Force team, The RCAF Flyers, won the Olympic Gold Medal for Canada at
the St. Moritz winter games.
At home the game
continued to be a part of life in the Canadian Forces on bases, stations
and training establishments. The Royal Military College in Kingston
continued what has become the longest standing international competition
in the history of the game with their annual challenge to the West Point
Military Academy in the United States. Indeed, some of the first documented
hockey games in Canada took place in Kingston and involved Royal Military
to be a part of the Canadian military today and it is carried with our
forces wherever they serve in the world. From Bosnia-Herzegovina and
Afghanistan, to unlikely hockey venues in the desert climates of places
like Eritrea and the Arabian Gulf, Canadian Forces members can be seen
indulging in their national sport during off-duty hours with either
a hockey stick in hand or watching taped games on TVs set up in their
recreation tents and messes. In the process they continue to represent
our national ideals throughout the world both at work, in their efforts
to bring peace and stability to nations in turmoil, and at play in the
universal language of sport.