The Juno Beach Centre recently published a one-page infographic in English and French on Canada’s contribution to D-Day, 6 June 1944.
In that infographic, we quantified Canada’s D-Day experience. Some of the numbers will be familiar while others are new. This short article explains how we arrived at these figures.
How Many Canadians Landed?
The figures of those who landed on Juno Beach are well-documented. Most sources refer to some 21,000 troops who landed on the beach on D-Day, of which approximately 14,000 were Canadians from 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. The final third of the troops who landed on Juno Beach were British.
How Many Canadian Casualties Were There? (Hint: It’s Complicated)
Canadian casualties on Juno Beach are tallied in C.P. Stacey’s The Victory Campaign. There are two appendices at the back of the book that explain these casualty figures. The Canadian Army casualties for the Juno sector (meaning the beach and the advance inland of it) are 340 Canadians killed, 574 wounded, and 47 capturedfor a total of 961. There were also 243 British Army casualties in the Juno sector.
This is not the end of the Canadian Army’s tally. To get to the often-cited total of 359 Canadians killed on D-Day, we must add the 19 fatal casualties of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion on 6 June 1944. A further 10 Canadian paratroopers were wounded and 84 captured out of a total force of 543.
Even this is not the complete figure for Canadians killed in the D-Day battle. An examination of Commonwealth War Graves Commission records(one airman on this list is commemorated in Malta and is therefore outside our scope) shows that 22 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force were killed on 6 June 1944 operating with squadrons in support of the landings.
And what about the Royal Canadian Navy? It seems by some miracle that the RCN suffered no fatal casualties on D-Day. This is incredible considering that Canadian sailors crewed many of the landing craft that brought the assault forces ashore. The RCN did, however, suffer several wounded as many landing craft were torn apart by German shells and mines.
This means that there are new totals we should be talking about when we talk about Canadian D-Day casualties. The 359 figure should be increased to 381 soldiers and airmen killed on 6 June 1944. We also know that there were over 584 wounded (we don’t have an exact figure for the navy) and 131 soldiers captured.
The Royal Canadian Air Force
We know that 22 Canadian airmen were killed in action on D-Day. A twenty-third airman was also fatally wounded on D-Day and died of his wounds a few days later.
The RCAF acknowledges 39 Canadian squadrons in support of the landings. These squadrons lost a total of 7 aircraft.
Many Canadians served in Royal Air Force squadrons. Of the 22 killed on D-Day, 15 died on operations with Imperial units.
It is unlikely that we would ever be able to know for certain the number of Canadian airmen wounded or captured on D-Day.
The Royal Canadian Navy
The RCN’s quantitative contribution on D-Day offers a bit of a challenge to researchers. Aside from the uncertainty around casualty figures, we found that few sources agree on the number of Canadian warships involved. A Blue Water Navy, the official history of the RCN in the second half of the Second World War tallies 63 major warships (minesweepers, corvettes, frigates, destroyers and landing ships) and 46 landing craft of various sizes. There were also 17 motor torpedo boats.
We managed to confirm the landing craft and motor torpedo boat figures, but an accounting of major warships (by battle honour) brought us to the figure of 61.
There were two Landing Ships Infantry (Medium):
HMCS Prince David and HMCS Prince Henry
There were 13 destroyers:
HMCS Algonquin, HMCS Sioux, HMCS Haida, HMCS Huron, HMCS Chaudiere, HMCS Gatineau, HMCS Kootenay, HMCS Ottawa (II), HMCS Qu’Appelle, HMCS Saskatchewan, HMCS Skeena, HMCS St. Laurent, and HMCS Restigouche.
There were 11 frigates:
HMCS Cape Breton, HMCS Grou, HMCS Matane, HMCS Outremont, HMCS Meon, HMCS Port Colborne, HMCS Stormont, HMCS Saint John, HMCS Swansea, HMCS Teme, and HMCS Waskesiu.
There were 19 corvettes (the official history tallies 20):
HMCS Alberni, HMCS Baddeck, HMCS Calgary, HMCS Camrose, HMCS Drumheller, HMCS Kitchener, HMCS Lindsay, HMCS Lunenburg, HMCS Mayflower, HMCS Mimico, HMCS Moosejaw, HMCS Rimouski, HMCS Port Arthur, HMCS Prescott, HMCS Regina, HMCS Summerside, HMCS Louisbourg, HMCS Trentonian, and HMCS Woodstock.
There were 16 minesweepers:
HMCS Caraquet, HMCS Canso, HMCS Bayfield, HMCS Blairmore, HMCS Cowichan, HMCS Fort William, HMCS Georgian, HMCS Guysborough, HMCS Kenora, HMCS Malpeque, HMCS Milltown, HMCS Minas, HMCS Mulgrave, HMCS Thunder, HMCS Vegreville, and HMCS Wasaga.
Together, our list tallies 61 major warships. Let us know if you can identify the missing corvette and bring the total to 62.
Research and writing by: Alex Fitzgerald-Black
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.