74th anniversary of D-Day at the JBC

The Canadian Commemorative Ceremony for the 74th anniversary of D-Day took place on June 6, 2018 with a large audience.

Thank you to the VIPs in attendance: Mr Graeme CLARK, Chargé d’affaires a.i., Mr sous-Préfet du Calvados, Mr l’attaché de défense, Monsieur le conseiller régional, Madame la conseillère départementale, Monsieur le Maire de Courseulles. Thank you to all of the officials and dignitaries in attendance, members of the military, and members of the public.

We were honoured to welcome British veterans, brothers in arms of the Canadian soldiers. Thank you gentlemen, for your service and your presence at our ceremony on June 6! The veterans in attendance were Victor Urch, David Teacher and Pat Moore.

Now getting ready for Juno 75!

Patrick MOORE  landed on Juno Beach, Mike sector on June 6, 1944 with the British Royal Engineers.

David TEACHER, Leading Aircraftsman 102 Beach Unit landed on Mike on D-Day and lived on the beach for the following 3 months.

Victor URCH was a Leading Seaman Gunner with the Royal Navy in the sector of Courseulles, alongside Canadians on D-Day and for many weeks thereafter.

SAPPER PAT MOORE’S MEMORIES

On D-Day at H Hour + 45 mins I landed on JUNO Beach Graye- Sur – Mer as a 23-year old Sapper, Driver / Radio Operator, and First Aider. I was a member of 1 Platoon 85 Field Company Royal Engineers. The 263 members of 85 Fd Coy RE were part of the British 7 Beach Group of 3,500 men in support of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The British Engineers were responsible for clearing the beach of mines and obstacles and providing safe access routes off the beach for the Canadian Infantry and Armoured units. 1 Platoon 85 Fd Coy RE had trained and landed with C Coy Royal Winnipeg Riffles, we also wore Canadian helmets and 3rd Canadian Div flashes together with and the Beach Group Fouled Anchor flash.

On D-Day +1 day I was tasked with three others to clear the dead bodies from the sea and collecting their identification discs (dog tags). We were also instructed to collect any serviceable equipment which would improve our combat capabilities. Amongst the dead I found a Canadian doctor and his first aid bag which contained probes, morphine injections, forceps and much more than held in the standard British first aider’s kit. As a First Aider on the beach I made full use of the Canadian first aid kit to dress wounds from mines and shrapnel before taking the injured to the doctor in Graye-Sur-Mer village. The British doctor said to me “are you Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC)”

I said “no I am Royal Engineer First Aider”

“Look” he said, “if some of these people are so bad they can’t do their duty, I’m going to give you permission to commandeer any vehicle and send these chaps back to UK.”

I wish I could have told the Canadian doctor’s next of kin that his loss had not been a total waste as his first aid bag provided sterling service through France, Belgium and up to the Dutch border.

Since training, landing and fighting with the Canadian’s on D-Day I have forged many friendships, particularly with the villagers of Graye-Sur- Mer. For over 60 years the 85 Fd Coy RE Old Comrades Association (OCA) have been returning to Normandy in memory of those who gave their young lives in support of European Freedom. We are very gratified to see that the local French population have passed on their appreciation of the sacrifices made by the Allies to their children, long may this continue.

French Nun’s Crucifix near Courtral (Kontrjk) 15th September 1944

On the way top Courtrai we stopped at a village that had been reduced to a rubble heap. We erected camouflage nets and made a quick brew of tea. Whilst drinking the tea I saw a young nun appear from the rubble with a large bucket. She went a few yards down the road to a well where she filled the bucket with water. The bucket was so full and heavy she had a hard job carrying it so I ran across to help her. Driver Anderson covered me with a Sten gun just in case. I followed the young nun into a space in the rubble and into an underground shelter. The tableau that greeted me I will never forget. There was a large cauldron over a wood fire where a very old nun, I assumed was the Mother Superior, was tending the wounds of half a dozen old people. The Germans had left their visiting card. The old nun required more hot water and she had had no medical supplies. As the first aider of 1 Platoon I had some acriflouvine antiseptic and shell dressings which I gave to the old nun whilst some of 1 Platoon filled the cauldron with water.

As soon as the caldron was full we received orders to move off and as I was clambering aboard my scout car I was called back by the young nun speaking in French that I did not understand. She then pulled off her crucifix and gave it to me.

I do not know the name of the village or the nun, but to this day I still have the crucifix, 74 years later.

SPEECH BY DON COOPER, PRESIDENT OF THE JUNO BEACH CENTRE ASSOCIATION

Seventy-four years ago, 156,000 men embarked on the largest amphibious assault in modern history. Every year on June 6, we commemorate and pay homage to these individuals who fought to liberate Europe from Nazi control, including those 14,000 Canadians who landed here on Juno Beach, 359 of whom lost their lives on D-Day alone.

This year’s ceremony also marks a significant milestone in the history of the Juno Beach Centre as we celebrate our 15th anniversary. On June 6, 2003, the Centre opened with its first commemorative ceremony in the presence of honoured guests, as well as those veterans and individuals who advocated and worked tirelessly to build a museum and memorial in tribute to all Canadians who served during the Second World War. Over the past 15 years, the Centre has evolved into a vanguard museum, renowned for its innovative educational programming and warm Canadian welcome. That evolution has been thanks to the dedicated staff and supporters we have in France and in Canada, who work hard to keep the memories alive and relevant. The tens of thousands of visitors who come to the Centre every year, notably many school groups and young people from Canada, France, the United Kingdom and many countries around the world, are a testament to the vision of the veteran-founders who sought to preserve a legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.

Today’s commemoration is also an homage to the joint role played by Canadian and British forces – brothers-in-arms amidst those from several other nations – during the Battle of Normandy in 1944. Many stories of Canadians fighting alongside the British are well known. One aspect of the D-Day landings which, at times, receives less attention is the fact that 8,000 British soldiers landed here on Juno Beach alongside the Canadians.

Today we remember that 74 years ago, the Canadians and the British stood side by side in the name of peace and freedom, as they did 15 years ago at the Centre’s opening, and as they do today, as we are honoured by the presence of several British veterans. The Canadians and the British, however, were not alone in the fight to liberate Europe during the Second World War. This year, the D-Day Landing Beaches are official candidates for the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing, and so it is especially important to highlight and remember the international dimension to the fight for peace and liberty that took place on this very site nearly 75 years ago.

 

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 jbca@junobeach.org.

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