Familial connections at the JBC (Part 3)

| November 16, 2016

Over the next three weeks, we’ll be posting updates on this blog that provide insight into what it’s like to work at the JBC and to live in Courseulles-Sur-Mer. Check up on it every Wednesday and Friday until November 25th!

Every year, the Juno Beach Centre connects thousands of Canadians with their own family history, and our guide team is no exception. Here is a testimonial by former guide and current Visitor Services Manager, Scott:

When I was younger, I used to love going through old family scrapbooks that my Grandma had on her coffee table. In one of them, seen above, there was a black and white picture of my Great Grandfather sitting in the driver’s seat of an armoured fighting vehicle. To my younger self, it was an interesting photo, but I had no context in which to place it. That was my connection to the Second World War; an old photograph featuring a man I had never met.

Now, after working at the Juno Beach Centre for a year and a half, I know that his story is not unique, there are millions of Canadians who have relatives that fought in the Second World War, and very few know what that relative did. Working as a guide at the Juno Beach Centre, it is incredibly common to have a Canadian come in and say: My Dad landed here, but he never talked about it.” And that is there connection to the war. They’ll have an anecdote, an old picture, maybe the name of a unit or squadron, but little more. There are few experiences more rewarding than providing someone with more information on what their own family history is in this place.

Thanks to the efforts of my grandmother and my work at the Juno Beach Centre, I am far more aware of what my family’s role was during the Second World War. My great-grandfather, Wilfred French, landed in Normandy on July 27th 1944 with the British Columbia Regiment. I can tell you where and when his regiment landed, the strategy and tactics of his unit in the battles they fought, and how that fit into the Allied success in the Battle of Normandy. I can also point you to the place where many of my great-grandfathers’ comrades died and are now buried. At this point, I would love to be able to share a well-documented account of Sgt. Wilfred French’s heroics in the Battle of Normandy.  But that’s not his story. His story, like the story of the majority of the 90 000 Canadians that fought here in the summer of 1944 will never be told in detail. My great-grandfather was a tank driver and a mechanic; he did what he thought he had to, and he spent 4 long years in Europe, away from his family and friends. He never talked about what he did during the war, few veterans did. At the end of the war there were one million Canadian men and women in uniform. Today there are only 61 000 Canadian Second World War Veterans left. This why I am so honoured to work here at the Juno Beach Centre, because when the last of the veterans are gone, it will be up to us to tell their story.

Interesting becoming a guide at the Centre? Apply before November 25 to join our 2017 team!

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 jbca@junobeach.org.

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