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Glossary

Select a letter to browse an alphabetical listing of terms and definitions.

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Garde de la Marine

Officer cadets in the French Navy. Several Canadians, notably Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, started their military careers as Garde de la Marine.

Gas

Poisonous vapour released to inflict fear and casualties on the enemy, such as mustard, phosgenes or chlorine, and delivered by shell or released from containers. First used by the Germans against the Canadians at Ypres in 1915, it was used by both sides in the First World War. With the prevailing westerly wind over the Western Front, it was of greater use to the Allies.

Geneva Convention

Code of humanitarian behaviour in war. In 1859, Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman, was horrified at battefield conditions after the bloody battle between the French and Austrians at Solferino, in northern Italy. He asked local inhabitants to help him save and care for the combatants of both sides. Dunant then set about establishing a code of humanitarian behaviour that would be agreed to by all nations. This resulted in the first Geneva Convention signed the major European nations in 1864. This identified common rules regarding the humane treatment of POWs, regardless of nationality, and non-combatant status of medical personnel on the battlefield (identified by a red cross on a white background). The first instance of its use by military and medical personnel in Canada was during the 1885 North-West Rebellion.

The Geneva Convention was renewed and refined in many subsequent treaties, most notably in 1899, 1907, 1929 (this one was specific to POWs), 1949 and 1977. The last was signed by 115 countries, including Canada. Canada has been a party to the convention since it was a British colony in the 1860s. Respect of the Geneva Condition has been, and continues to be, far from perfect but it remains the basic ‘Charter of Rights’ for POWs all over the world. Nations with gross transgressions have gained a reputation as being inhumane and have often paid a heavy diplomatic price by losing respect and influence in world affairs.

See also: Prisoner of War, Red Cross.

George Cross (GC)

Decoration awarded for acts of gallantry not necessarily in the face of the enemy, and may be awarded during peacetime to the military or civilians. The medal is inscribed, "For Gallantry".The George Cross is equal in merit to the Victoria Cross, though the latter is the senior decoration in the order of precedence. Holders of the Empire Gallantry Medal at the time of the George Cross's inception (24th September 1940) had the medal exchanged for the GC. Living holders of the Albert Medal have also had their medals exchanged for the GC.

George Medal (GM)

Decoration awarded for acts of gallantry, similar to the George Cross, but not involving the same element of danger and/or courage.