The Juno Beach Centre was pleased to welcome the public to the Canadian commemorative ceremony in honour of the 73rd anniversary of D-Day. For the first time in our history, the weather forced us to hold the ceremony inside.
Thank you to the VIPs in attendance: the Honorable Lawrence Cannon, Canadian Ambassador to France; the Préfet du Calvados, Laurent Fiscus; Richard Nichol, Director of Operations of Western Europe Area for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; and Frédéric Pouille, Mayor of Courseulles-sur-Mer. Thank you to all of the elected officials and dignitaries in attendance, members of the military, and to the public.
We were honoured to welcome 6 veterans of the Allied Forces. Thank you gentlemen, for your service and your presence at our ceremony on June 6! The veterans in attendance were Hugh Buckley, Victor Urch, Don Hall, David Teacher, Bill Taylor, and Pat Moore.
Hugh Buckley, a Canadian veteran of the Shebrooke Fusiliers, gave a short address to the gathered public.
I remember :
I landed on the beach at Bernieres-sur-Mer, on the morning of D-Day. I was a gunner in a tank of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers. We had been given a photograph of a prominent house and ordered to leave the house on our right-hand side when we left the beach. That very house is now the Maison des Canadiens.
A good friend of mine landed ahead of me that morning of the the 6th of June with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada who captured the house. It is a very moving experience to again visit that house, in-spite of the fact that we failed to support my friend as planned. Our tanks were supposed to land in front of the infantry with our superior fire power, but we were delayed by the storm at sea and they suffered many casualties as a result
When I was here three years ago for the 70th Anniversary, I met a lady and told her that we drove along this street on D-Day past the railway station. She said, ‘I know you did, you knocked our house down. But we were glad to see you’. I asked her how old she was on D-Day?’ and she replied, ‘Seven’.
A few hours later we stopped at a farm and the farmer lifted his five-year-old son up onto our tank. The little fellow stuck his head inside the tank, looked around and said, ‘das ist gut’. Until D-Day he thought all soldiers were Germans.
These important little stories continue to remind us Canadians and you our Norman friends that life had surely changed for us all on D-Day.
In the end, on VE Day I was with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles Regiment in North Germany. We were ordered NOT to fraternize with the German people, but for the first time since the invasion we would occupy houses. Ironically, to our surprise, we were made very welcome by the German families. In their minds’ we had liberated them from the oppressions of the Nazis.
As part of the 70th Anniversary commemorations, it came as a great surprise and honour to receive, from the French people, the Legion d’honneur. France and Canada have many cultural, political and religious ties and long may it continue. When the Bugle sounds later today, let us pray that this peace and friendship we enjoy lasts forever.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my memories and those of my comrades with you and may God bless us all.
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.