Update: We learned today that Cyril Crain has passed. On June 6, 1944, he had landed in Bernières with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. The Juno Beach Centre and the Canadians have lost a friend. We will remember him at Juno.
Cyril Walter Crain was born on June 11, 1923 in Nottingham, England. At the start of the war, Cyril was too young to enlist, so he joined the Home Guard. He enlisted in 1942 and in March 1943, Signalman Crain volunteered for Special Services – Combined Operations. Later in 1943, Cyril was attached to The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, an infantry regiment from Toronto, to prepare for the inevitable assault on Fortress Europe.
Shortly before D-Day, Cyril and his 19 Beach Signal Section were transferred to a high-security tented camp near Southampton. With members of The Queen’s Own Rifles, they were transported to Southampton Docks, and then boarded the S.S. Monowai, a former armed merchant cruiser now converted to carry L.C.A.s (Landing Craft Assault).
Signalman Crain landed with the QOR at 0815 in the first assault wave at Bernières-sur-Mer. As Cyril recalled, “The ramps went down and we raced down the ramp quite orderly only to find ourselves up to the waist in water. All hell was let loose, with heavy machine gun fire from beyond the seawall.” Cyril’s friend, Sergeant Freddy Harris of the QOR was hit by machine gun fire while racing for the seawall with Cyril, and died on the beach.
Cyril’s task was to land with the QOR assault troops and communicate back to their ship off-shore that the attack had been successful. His radio did not work. When the QOR moved inland, he and his comrades in the 19th Beach Signal Section remained on Juno Beach to put up telephone lines. He remained near the coast for the remainder of the Battle of Normandy. He married Doreen on December 26th, 1944 (she passed away in 2009).
On June 6th, 2014, Cyril Crain attended the ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre in company of his son, Robert Cyril, and his niece Chrissie.
Cyril Crain is the author of a series of beautiful poems, including « My buddy », in homage of his friend, Fred Harris who fell on his side on June 6th, 1944 on the first assault wave at Bernières-sur-Mer. One of Cyril’s poems was read at the national ceremony at Arromanches, on June 6th, 2014.
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.