In the 1965 Hollywood epic The Agony and the Ecstasy, there
are some classic lines of dialogue between Michelangelo, played
by Charlton Heston, and Pope Julius II, played by Rex Harrison.
After commissioning Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of
the Sistine Chapel in 1508, the pope becomes impatient with the
artists progress and repeatedly asks: When will you
make an end?
Michelangelos continuous and somewhat impertinent reply
was: When I'm finished.
I only mention this great exchange because I'm reminded of
it every time a fellow collector asks me when the second edition
of my patriotic postcard handbook is going to be ready.
You see, I've been working on it for almost nine years now
and this happens to be five years longer than Michelangelo took
to paint his famous ceiling.
Whats taking me so long? Well, there's a seemingly
endless supply of Canadian patriotic postcards to record and
more and more keep turning up every day.
For collectors, as you can imagine, this is great news, but
for cataloguers - yikes.
For example, just when I thought I could wrap up the section
on Second World War cards, my postcard buddy Wayne Curtis introduced
me to an absolutely outstanding series of postcards showing Canadian
army generals. And whats more, they were issued free at
Sometime after the D-Day invasion in 1944, the Union Oil
Company of Canada, which at the time was a subsidiary of the
Union Oil Company of California (Union 76), introduced a patriotic
postcard series called Photo-Biographies of Canadas Generals.
For those eager to collect them all, the cards in this scarce
The military exploits
of Lieutenant-General E.L.M (Tommy) Burns, from Westmount,
Quebec, actually go back to the First World War.
In 1916, as a young signaller, he was awarded the Military
Cross (MC) for laying and repairing communication wires while
under enemy fire, during which he was twice wounded.
In the spring of 1944, Burns took command of the Canadian
Corps in Italy where his leadership during the Italian campaign
earned him the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), the Croix de
Guerre and French Legion of Honour.
His military exploits continued well after World War Two.
When the Suez Crisis resulted in war in the Middle East in 1956,
Burns was given command of the United Nations Emergency Force
(UNEF). On the Juno Beach Centre website, it states: Tommy
Burns was a brilliant man, one of the brightest Canadian officers
of his generation . . .
Need I write anything more.
Rodney (Rod) Keller was a native of Kelowna, B.C.
At the outbreak of World War Two, Keller was given command
of the famous Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry
(PPCLI). In 1941, he was promoted to brigadier, and in September
1942 he was promoted to major-general and given command of the
3rd Canadian Division.
Keller was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by
King George VI in June 1944 for his part in the planning of the
D-Day invasion. This famous invasion eventually led to the defeat
of the Nazis and liberation of Europe.
On D-Day, Keller led the charge of the 3rd Division on the
beaches of Normandy.
Christopher (Chris) Vokes was six years old when his family
brought him to Canada from Armagh, Ireland in 1910.
Joining the Royal Canadian Engineers after graduating from
McGill University, he sailed for England in 1939 as a major and
three years into the war was promoted to brigadier-general.
Leading the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade during the Sicily
Campaign, Vokes was awarded the DSO. In 1944, promoted to major-general
and given command of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division during
the Italian Campaign, he was made an Officer of the British Empire
Vokes was also awarded the Legion of Honour and Croix de
Guerre from the French that same year.
After the war ended in 1945, he was given command of the
Canadian Army Occupation Force (CAOF).
Vokes published his memoirs in 1985 under the title: Vokes,
Of all the Canadian
generals portrayed in the Union Oil Company of Canada series,
Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds was the most familiar to
me because of the amount of exposure he received in my high school
Simonds was born in England in 1903 and immigrated with his
family to British Columbia when he was nine.
From 1921 to 1925, he attended the Royal Military College
of Canada in Kingston, where he placed second academically and
graduated as a junior officer in the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.
Promotions came quickly to this highly intelligent officer.
In 1943, at age 40, he was a major-general commanding the 2nd
Canadian Infantry Division during the Invasion of Sicily.
By 1944 he was a lieutenant-general leading the First Canadian
Army to victory at the Battle of the Scheldt, where the strategic
port of Antwerp, Belgium was taken from the Germans.
Simonds' good looks, intelligence and leadership skills made
him one of Canadas most popular Second World War commanders.
During the war King George VI awarded him the Order Commander
of the Bath (CB) and CBE. After the war, Simonds spent a term
as commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada, and in
1951 he moved to Ottawa as a result of his well-deserved promotion
to chief of the general staff (CGS).
Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds was nicknamed Admiral
Simonds because of the amphibious landings he commanded
during the taking of Antwerp, Belgium.
It must have rankled
the Germans when Canadian officers of German descent kicked their
behinds all over Europe, but thats just what Major-General
Bertram (Bert) Hoffmeister did.
Hoffmeister was born in Vancouver in 1907 and after joining
the Seaforth Cadets at age 12, he stayed active in the Canadian
Army Reserves right up until the start of the war.
He was sent to England in 1939 as a major commanding a company
of his beloved Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. By 1942, he was
a lieutenant-colonel and won a DSO during the Sicily Campaign.
In 1943, Hoffmeister was promoted to brigadier-general and
led the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade in the Italian Campaign,
where he was awarded a bar (additional decoration) to his DSO.
In 1944, he was promoted to major-general and put in command
of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, which stormed and overran
the vaunted Hitler Line in Italy. For this he received a second
bar to his DSO.
After the defeat of Germany he was made a Grand Officer in
the Order of Orange-Nassau with swords (an important Dutch decoration),
as well as a CBE and CB.
In 1947, the Vancouver-born soldier was made a Commander
of the Legion of Merit (a U.S. decoration).
To think he accomplished all this by age 40 - no wonder they
call this our greatest generation.
Michael J. (Mike) Smith is an RMC graduate (Class of '77)
and ex-naval officer who has been an avid collector of Canadiana
for most of his life. His current passion is collecting and writing
about Canadian antique postcards. He is currently working on
his eighth postcard handbook. Visit postcard-directory.com/mikesmithbooks