Today the Juno Beach Centre organized a special Anglo-Canadian ceremony to pay hommage to a group of Britons who came to visit the JBC with 45 veterans of the Battle of Normandy, including four veterans who landed and fought alongside the Canadians in June 1944. The trip was organised by D-Day Revisited, a British charitable association whose mission is to raise funds to make it possible for veterans to return to the places where they fought in Normandy.
Such large groups of veterans are now very rare and the Juno Beach Centre staff experienced with the public an exceptionnel moment of high emotion and reflection.
Thank you for your visit. It was a moment we will not soon forget.
From the remarks of the JBC’s History Department Manager, Marie Eve Vaillancourt:
There is a natural bond between Canadians and the British and it runs deep. The Second World War deepened that relationship. In 1939, Canada was Britain’s only ally in the western hemisphere.
Canada’s commitment during the Battle of the Atlantic, our longest continued engagement during the Second World War, helped ensure continuous food and war supplies to the United Kingdom and its people.
At home in Canada, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan ensured that over a million aircrew were trained safely on Canadian soil during the war. A great number of Canadian pilots were incorporated into the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Many British children were welcomed into Canadian homes, fleeing the blitz. Canadian and British soldiers lived and trained together in England, preparing for the liberation of Europe.
Many Canadian regiments have highland roots, proud Irish, Scottish, or Welsh lineage. For instance, the Calgary Highlanders, in Alberta, the Black Watch of Montreal in Quebec, the Canadian Scottish, from Victoria, British Columbia, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, the Queen’s Own Rifles from Toronto, or the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, in Ontario. The Irish Regiment of Canada, the Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment, or the Stormont Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders… just to name a few.
Before the Normandy landings, Canadians had fought together with British units at Dieppe, in 1942. They also landed together in Italy in the summer of 1943, fully integrated with the 8th British Army.
The British presence on Juno Beach on D-Day is substantial. An estimated 8000 British troops were incorporated into the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, amongst 14 000 Canadian soldiers. Well over 30 British regiments were integrated into each of the Canadian brigades, spanning 8km of Juno Beach.
Present were numerous Beach Groups, each comprised of Provost companies, Royal Engineer, Survey units and Armoured, Artillery and Infantry regiments. Even elements of the Royal Air Force were deployed over Juno Beach, not to mention the presence of the Royal Navy, ensuring Canadian units made their way ashore on the morning of June 6th, 1944.
During and after D-Day, Canadian and British units had to link up together. The push inland in the weeks after D-Day was known as the Anglo-Canadian frontline. It spanned over 50 km from Ouistreham over to Bayeux. Britons and Canadians experienced the Battle of Normandy together, and maintained this continuous and unwavering front line steady for over a month before breaking out of the city of Caen.
On Monday, during our annual D-Day ceremony, we will also be welcoming a British veteran of the Royal Artillery, Frederick Hall, who landed here on Juno Beach, like some of you today.
He told us of a memorable moment from early in the morning on June 6th 1944. Aboard one of the landing crafts with his fellow Canadians, he recalls one Canadian soldier handing him his Maple leaf pin and said “You are one of us now.”
I would like to close by saying that it is an honour to have you here today, and it cannot be repeated enough:
You are all one of us!
Welcome to Juno Beach
Welcome to YOUR beach
And welcome to back Normandy.
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.