Canada in the Second World War


Jan de Vries

On the night of D-Day, Jan de Vries parachuted into Normandy with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

Jan de Vries was born on January 24th, 1924 in Leeuwarden, Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands. 6 years later, he immigrated to Canada with his older brother and mother to join his father. Jan attended school in East York and Scarborough in the eastern part of the city of Toronto. At 18 years of age, he applied to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force but was not accepted because he was slightly colour blind.

Shortly after, he successfully joined the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. After beginning basic training in Canada, he sailed aboard the Queen Elizabeth arriving in England in July 1943 with his unit. Jan completed his parachute training at Ringway, Manchester, qualifying in September 1943.

At midnight on June 6th, as a member of C Company, Jan jumped into Normandy. The Canadian Battalion was involved in some of the heaviest fighting of the entire Battle of Normandy but the Battalion never failed in its objectives. Jan de Vries was wounded by a sniper on July 31st, 1944 and evacuated to England.

In September, after treatment, rather than convalesce, he returned directly to the Battalion. He continued the fight with his Battalion in the Belgian Ardennes, fought in Holland on the River Maas, and jumped into Germany as part of Operation Varsity in March 1945.

Jan returned to Canada in February 1946, and decided to train as a carpenter. Over the next forty years Jan rose in the profession to become a site and project manager specialising in residential and commercial high-rise projects. Jan was a founding member of the Juno Beach Centre.

In addition to his work with the Juno Beach Centre, Jan was involved in many volunteer projects and supported Veterans, Cadets, and school children talking to them about his wartime experience and Canada’s contribution to the war effort. For his volunteer services, he received the Veterans’ Affairs Commendation. In addition to his wartime medals he received the Queen Elizabeth Silver and Diamond Jubilee Medals, the Order of Canada, and the French Legion of Honour.

Jan de Vries died on May 27th, 2012.

Source: Joanne de Vries