The Normandy Landings on June 6, 1944 were undoubtedly the most complex military operation ever orchestrated: more than 6,000 warships, transport vessels and landing craft carried the liberating land forces across the Channel, while thousands of aircraft supported this armada.
The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade assaulted the stretch of beach code-named Juno, capturing the coastal towns of Graye-sur-Mer, Courseulles-sur-Mer, Bernières-sur-Mer and part of Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer. By the evening of D-Day, the Canadians were firmly established some 12 kilometres inland.
On June 6, 1944, 14,000 of the 135,000 allies who landed or parachuted in Normandy were Canadians. After theAerial view of the Bény-sur-Mer Cemetery in Reviers United States and Great Britain, Canada contributed the largest number of troops to the D-Day invasion. Canadian casualties totalled 1,074 men, of whom 359 were killed that day. The 10-week campaign in Normandy resulted in over 18,000 Canadian casualties, including approximately 5,500 dead. Most are buried in the two Canadian cemeteries at Bény-sur-Mer and Cintheaux.
To commemorate this major contribution, the Juno Beach Centre was born in 2003, an initiative of a group of Canadian Second World War veterans, widows and children of veterans keen to perpetuate the memory of the wartime operations that were a credit to Canada and to boost awareness of the role that their country played in the conflict. Garth Webb, a Canadian D-Day veteran, was the constant driving force spearheading the initiative.
For 70 years, Normandy has been a land of tribute to those who came from all over the world to combat Nazism and restore peace: Americans, British, Canadians, Norwegians, Danes, Dutch, Poles, Australians, Belgians and French. The 2014 anniversary will be the last major 10-Year celebration that will include surviving veterans as well as local witnesses and participants who fought or lived through the Battle of Normandy. It has been officially announced that the beaches of Juno and Omaha will both welcome a large bi-national ceremony.
In 2014 the Juno Beach Centre will also present a new temporary exhibit entitled “Grandma, What Was it Like During the War?” The purpose of this intergenerational exhibit is to showcase to both Canadians and citizens of Allied countries what their soldiers came to liberate in 1944, at the same time allowing young visitors to discover what their life would have been like if they had been 10 years old in 1944.
The new film “They Walk With You”, the opening of new remains of the Atlantic Wall to the public during the guided tours of Juno Park and the new app for phones and tablets are various ways of showcasing local history from a Canadian perspective. These initiatives all contribute to increasing awareness about the experience of the CanadianVeterans at the Juno Beach Centre liberators and of the ways this history continues to mark the land of Normandy today.
For the 70th anniversary, the Juno Beach Centre is proud to pay tribute to veterans. In addition to the above mentioned highlights, the Centre is pleased to carry out educational projects that continue to encourage reflection on ideas such as freedom, democracy and peace for which so many men and women fought.
We hope to welcome you at the Juno Beach Centre during the 70th Anniversary.
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 email@example.com.