Juno75 Student Pilgrimage Day 5 – 7: Normandy and Juno Beach.

| July 12, 2019

On Day 5, we enjoyed a brief break from visiting battlefields to enjoy Normandy’s rich medieval history, and to appreciate the land liberated by our ancestors.

Day 6 saw us visit the Juno Beach Centre and tour Juno Beach with a Canadian student guide. In the afternoon, we participated in a ceremony for the 75th annivesary of the liberation of Caen.

On Day 7 we visited Canada House in Bernieres-sur-Mer, Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, and the Abbey Ardenne. That evening we shared a dinner with the JBC guide team!

Monday, July 8 2019 – Day 6: Rest Day

Alexandra McColgan – Pointe-Claire, QC

The first thing we did today was go for a tour of the famous Notre Dame de Bayeux Cathédrale. The first thing I noticed thanks to Sydney was the mix of several architectural styles used to build the enormous religious sanctuary. The guide explained in extreme detail that the building process of the cathedral, the decorations and all the traditions of the ancient building. After that enriching tour, we embarked on another guided journey, but this time around the city. During this, we learned about the evolution of the city from when the Romans ruled Eastern Europe to the French Revolution. My favourite parts of this tour were the Arbre en Liberté, which was planted after the revolution to symbolize freedom, and learning hearing about the British’s plan to destroy everything to get through the city during its liberation before thinking about going around it. In the afternoon, we made our way to my new favourite beach, Juno Beach. It was an extremely eye opening experience to stand where the Canadians stood, suffered, died and won 45 years ago. Surprisingly, the water was way more pleasant than I imagined and we were able to not only enjoy the views, but also the ocean. After a wonderful couple of hours at the water, we visited the Juno Beach Center and then went on the hunt for dinner. To our surprise, we could not find any restaurant or snack shack that would sell us anything other than a hotdog before 19:00. Overall, today was one of the more enjoyable days of my life and this week the best week of my life.

Shana Quesnel – Dunvegan, ON

 Ce matin, la plage de Juno était calme et pleine de gens qui s’apprête à aller dans l’océan. Il est difficile d’imaginer aujourd’hui que sur les plages de Normandie s’est déroulé la plus grande invasion de l’histoire. En profitait de cette journée au bord de l’océan nous avons réalisé le vœu de plusieurs soldats, que la vie retourne à la normale. En marchant sur le bord de la plage, j’ai vu les empreintes que l’occupation a laissé allemande comme les bunkers. En écoutant le son des vagues sur la plage, j’ai eu la pu refléter sur notre de chance vivre dans un pays libre et que cette liberté a seulement été possible grâce au sacrifice des soldats allié.

Nick de Gier – Ponoka, AB

Normandy is a land of fields and hills and trees. Liberated Normandy resounds with the thronging of church bells and sparkles with the placid cows in its fields. Not long ago, Normandy was not home to this but to shellfire, bombing, and bloodshed. While bellicosity brought William the Conqueror to England, liberation brings England to Normandy. Juno Beach is today the preserve of tourists and beach goers. Less than a century ago, it was filled with battleships and tanks and landing craft and soldiers as far as the eye could see. While we explored Juno’s blissful shores, some near-helpless soldiers come to mind: facing tanks, the greatest powers of history, and others in basically the same boat.

Sydney Johnson – Saint John, NB

Today was “rest day”! Started off with a tour of Notre Dame de Bayeux which was gorgeous. As a secret medieval history fanatic, I absolutely loved getting to see the architectural crossover between gothic and romanesque arches and design. The cathedral is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen to date. Bayeux definitely deserves the pride it holds as the host of such a stunning church. After the tour of the city, we headed to Juno Beach for a swimming afternoon. Seeing this place in the flesh as opposed to on a TV  screen, or in a textbook, was incredibly eye-opening. All I could think about was how many men landed here in 1944. Especially my former neighbour, Sylvio Paulin. He was a veteran as part of the 14th field regiment in the 3rd Canadian infantry. To honour him, I arranged rocks on the beachfront to spell out his name, and buried Canadian D-Day coin with his mini memorial. It was an extremely moving experience to be able to stand where they fought (precisely for the freedom of a fun day in the sun). Everyone really enjoyed the setting and had an amazing day again! Here’s to the coming week!

Natalie Mubalama – Ottawa, ON

Aujourd’hui, le 7 juillet 2019, nous avons visité la très vielle ville de Bayeux. Nous avons commencé par faire un tour guidé de la cathédrale Notre Dame de Bayeux pour ensuite aller autour de la ville et découvrir son histoire. Pour l’après midi, nous avons eu la chance de profiter d’un après midi sur une des plages principale du débarquement en Normandie, la plage JUNO. Je veux tout d’abord dire que les habitants de la ville de Bayeux sont tous extrêmement chaleureux et invitants. Nous avons eu la chance de parler et de rencontrer plusieurs personnes qui ont partagé avec nous leurs connaissances sur la deuxième guerre mondiale et l’histoire de leur ville. On peut vraiment voir la reconnaissance qu’ils ont envers les sacrifices que les soldats ont fait pour liberer leur ville. Lors de notre visite à la plage JUNO, Emma et moi sommes allées sur le site du Centre JUNO Beach, nous avons trouvé la brique commémorative de son arrière grand-père. C’était touchant de voir sa joie et sa fierté. En la voyant, je m’imaginai à sa place. Je ne connais personne qui a combattu pour l’une des guerre mondiale et parfois je me demande comment je fais pour m’identifier autant aux soldats et à leur vécu mais c’est vraiment grâce aux personnes comme Emma qui n’ont pas peur de partager leur joie avec le monde.

Max Bahri – Sherwood Park, AB

Since nearly the beginning of the second world war Normandy has been in the hands of the Germans, but after d-day the allies had liberated the city. As we learned from our tour guide several plans were in plan to destroy the city like a naval bombardment and tearing down buildings to create a bypass. Thankfully none of these plans came to fruition as the city has become a thriving destination with a vibrant history to explore in the modern day. Because the generosity of the allies we were able to discover the intricacies of the architecture of the cathedral and the ancient buildings that still reside. I was able to enjoy the beauty of the city as some of the group went for a morning run and even speedily seeing the beauty of the city in the morning sun I’m very thankful it is still standing and healthy as it hand been before the war.

Jordan Talledo – Winnipeg, MB

Today was a rest day from learning about the World Wars. In the morning we had a tour of the Notre Dame de Bayeux which was really interesting, especially the crypt. It was also interesting that people were buried underneath some spots in the cathedral. After the cathedral tour, we then got a tour of Bayeux and learned more about some of the town’s history. Today was also the day when we went to go to Juno Beach to swim. Unfortunately the lifeguards came to stop all of us from swimming because only 5 of us were allowed to swim at a time, which kind of sucked. Other than that, the beach was really fun – I tanned for a little bit, buried someone else in the sand, and it was just overall a fun time. Then for dinner, we went to this one restaurant and ordered a huge burger that made me really full. To sum up, it was a really fun rest day and I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip.

Elisha Davidson-Yee – Surrey, B.C.

Today the Juno75 Pilgrimage group had the chance to take a guided tour around Bayeux. This included a visit to the cathedral. I found the architecture incredible and so different from what we have back home in Vancouver. After eating lunch, we headed to the Courselles-Sur-Mer beach for some free time. As we had the next few hours to ourselves, we had time to swim or walk around the beach. Though these few hours weren’t exactly educational, they were incredibly impactful. These moments gave me yet another chance to think about the soldiers who fought here during D-Day. They are the ones who have given us youth the liberty and ability to visit and enjoy the beach that they stormed back in 1944. After dinner as the day was finishing, my friends and I took a walk down a pier that stretched into the water. While the sun was setting, I was again reminded of the beauty of the place I was visiting as well as the sacrifices these soldiers made in order to give this to us. 

Tuesday, July 9 2019 – Day 7: Juno Beach Centre

Francesca Lepore – Coquitlam, BC

Today was a very exciting day for the Juno Beach Pilgrimage. We visited the trenches on Juno Beach as well as an interactive museum at the Center. I enjoyed visiting the trenches as they were very interesting to see. We learned that the trenches designed by engineers structurally and tactically excelled over the other trenches. Following the trench exploration we visited the interactive museum which was a very informative and fun activity. The games allowed us to learn more about the Canadians prior and during the Second World War. I felt that the interactive games were an engaging and a great way to educate youth. Although I felt that more time to complete the games would have been beneficial, the activities did allow us to learn about Canada at a glance. After the interactive museum we watched an emotional video about the Canadians during WWII. This video was extremely impactful and moving. As the video came to an end, pictures of soldiers were shown across the screen. Slowly soldiers began to disappear from the pictures signifying their death and sacrifice. The final scene concluded with a family walking on the beach with the many fallen soldiers walking along side them. The ending to the video had a great impact on myself and exemplified the importance of the sacrifices made by the soldiers at Juno Beach. I will cherish that video alongside the impression it left on me.

Alyssa Mason – Winnipeg, MB

We spent most of our day at the Juno Beach Centre exploring the bunkers along with Juno Beach and the museum. Being able to walk along the Beach that the soldiers landed on was an amazing experience and I will never forget it. This encounter really opened my eyes to a new perspective because being able to witness in person where soldiers have landed and what the they they have gone through really made me thankful for the life I’m living today. It was a very emotional day for me, not only because I was able to see my great grandfathers display in the museum, but also being able to watch the short film really helped tie things together. Soldiers sacrificed not only their lives, the also their families and with what my great grandfather has sacrificed will always be an important part of my life and I am forever grateful of his services.

Elisha Davidson-Yee – Surrey, B.C.

We started today’s adventure by travelling to the Juno Beach Centre. When we arrived, we were taken on a guided tour of the bunkers at the museum. We learned that the engineered bunkers were a better stronghold and were structurally and tactically superior. As we entered the Centre, we had the chance to try out one of their new programs and explore the museum. It was interesting using the different resources to increase our learning. In the evening, our group had the opportunity to participate in the ceremony for the Liberation of Caen. Members of our group were chosen to take part in the event and I enjoyed seeing how Canada was integrated into the ceremony. After the first half was done, we went through the church and into another area for the reception. We had the opportunity to speak with some other attendees which included a veteran from World War II. I really enjoyed this time as I had the chance to practice my French and speak with some locals. 

Emma Marie Blackburn – Ottawa, ON

Ever since I was younger, I have dreamed of visiting the Juno Beach Centre where my great grandfather landed and where his name is inscribed. This was only fueled by our close connection, many stories, and my overall love of history. Today I got to see the beaches he landed on, hear the difficulties he faced from a new perspective and take a photo with his name. Not only that, we got to tour the museum where I saw a motorcycle similar to the one he would have used as a dispatch rider. The founder of the centre, Garth Webb, went on a 50th anniversary tour with my great grandfather which made this trip – 25 years later – unbeatable. Finally, after attending a ceremony for the liberation of Caen, I got to have a conversation with an English veteran. Striking up indescribable emotions, his British banter along with his stories and love for his wife reminded me of both my great grandparents. It was an honour to speak with him and spend my day where my great grandfather did 75 years ago.

Sydney Johnson – Saint John, NB

This morning we enjoyed a tour at the Juno Beach Centre with one of the Canadian tour guides, which was a really cool experience. We walked around the bunkers and on the beach, then headed back to the museum to go through the interactive games in small groups. At the end of the walk through the exhibits, we watched a short film dedicated to Juno. It was very powerful and equally emotional. It really showed the right perspective of the losses in the Second World War in my opinion, and I strongly recommend anyone who has the chance to visit the Juno Beach Centre to watch this film.

Later today we attended the Liberation of Caen Ceremony to celebrate the 75th anniversary. Watching a few of the kids from our group participate in such an important service was really impressive. Afterwards we had the honour of meeting an English veteran who was very funny and sweet. It was a pleasure chatting and getting to know a man as respected as him. Definitely was the highlight of the whole day.

Max Redmond – Vancouver, B.C.

Today we visited Juno beach and the Juno beach center and got a tour of beach, the bunkers and German beach defences. It was really interesting to see how Germans planned for what was the biggest invasion in human history. It was also interesting hearing about how the allies planned for this massive invasion. I couldn’t imagine being posted by the beach knowing that soon one of the biggest invasions of all time was about to go down. It was also very interesting going through the Juno Beach Centre and learning a bit more about the invasion and about Canada in general. At the museum, we were able to participate in interactive games and I thought that was really interesting. It really helped me feel emerged in the learning experience at the museum. In conclusion, I had a great time today learning about the Juno Beach landings and really enjoyed my experience at the Juno Beach Centre.

Tarynn Kearney – Pembroke, ON

Today we visited the Juno beach centre where thousands of canadians lost there lives. For me it was touching to see the place  and feel that connection and pride. In the museum and the beach we got a look at what it was like during the war and I learned more about the time around d-day leading up and surrounding the mission and I really got a good picture of it all. In the museum I found a photo of the soldier who I research. I knew of his work in Normandy but not specifically Juno beach. When I researched him I thought of him as one of the lucky ones who made it home, but seeing that photo and the new knowledge I has made me realize truly how lucky he was. It made me emotional thinking about how he might not have been the person I researched as I presented to the group later. That helped me really stand up straight and show my respect at the parade later because aside from my usual behaviour I had a personal reason to represent and show my thanks to Canadian soldiers.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 – Day 7: Juno Beach Sector

Haileigh Macleod – Halifax, Nova Scotia

Today was an eye opening day, we say the Juno Beach sector as well as the lines on which the Canadians advanced.

We walked around the beach up the 8km front, although not the full trek. We stopped at Canada House and saw first hand the connections between the French and the Canadians. Connections that were founded because the Canadians helped liberate the French 75 years ago.

What really touched me today, however, was the Beny-sur-Mer cemetery and L’Abbaye d’Ardenne. This cemetery had a lot of soldiers that our group had chosen to research. It was interesting to hear the stories of these fallen men, and it gets you thinking about how each of these tombs holds a man, a man who has a story to share and be told, but many are lost, never to be heard.

L’Abbaye was hard, because not only did we hear of the horrors of what happened there, but I learned that some of those men executed were from my hometown, or neighbouring towns… which really hit me hard. These men were not much older than any of us, and the horrors they faced, I can’t imagine. To know that someone from my home never came home, and these were the last things he saw… it truly is a crime.

Ryan Waugh – Hartland, NB

Presented with the opportunity to walk a considerable distance of Juno Beach, I took the time to clear my mind, and consider the experience of a soldier treading the very same grains of sand. A rather peaceful moment for myself, it would have been nothing but the opposite for a soldier on D-Day. While for most of us death is the ultimate fear, it was the only escape from the living hell men went through on that day. While many individuals may question returning the beaches to their public state, I believe that the soldiers fought for this freedom, so our leisure today is one won 75 years ago.

What I was least prepared for was the Abbeye D’Ardenne. Contrary to the numerous cemeteries previously visited, I was instantly struck by the weight of the history behind this area. Most importantly, the context of the horrendous acts committed were instantly sobering: inhumane murders laid upon Canadian prisoners of war, young men my age, who were shown no shred of humanity by their captors. Finally, the similar age of their German captors is disturbing: indoctrinated as Hitler Youth, their warped perception of reality motivating unspeakable war crimes. While this location may be lost to many travellers, I believe that it has unquestionably had the most impact on my heart and mind this trip.

Erin Susla – Oakville, ON

Today we got the chance to learn about many more Canadian stories and experiences. We visited the Canadian House which is right by the beaches that were liberated. The house was filled with artifacts and photos each with important memories and stories behind them. One that especially interested me was the story of a soilder that was given a cross for good luck. But a bullet hit the left side knocking it off and saving his life. He continued to carry the cross for the rest of his life for good luck. But for me even more personal was visiting the memorial dedicated to Garth Webb. Garth Webb was one of the founders of the Juno Beach Centre and is the namesake of my school. Although I knew his story and remembrance is very important in my school, it was very different looking at the field he fought in and seeing the impact he holds locally. Although he has passed, remembering the sacrifices and bravery these men had is important to learn about and teach to our generation and all those that follow.

Caleb Erb – North Vancouver, B.C.

Today is Day 7 of the Juno Pilgrimage. It was a very eventful day. We had a news crew from a French TV station follow us around all day. We spent the first part of our day touring Juno Beach and the bunkers. This was really special to me seeing what the Allies were going up against in the invasion, especially the Canadians. They had a very hard beach, a very armoured beach. The part that we were at today, and the part that the Juno Centre is on, is right next to the port so it was heavily fortified because the German thinking was that wherever there was an area of importance that allowed for the loading and unloading of supplies, equipment and personnel inland would be a target the Allies would likely attack. Since they couldn’t stretch their fortifications across all the kilometres of beach, it was focused there. Going into the German bunkers, seeing photos of what it was like back when the invasion started, and seeing how the beach has transformed now and how the area around the beach has changed was dramatic.

Another really important part of today that really stuck out for me was the celebration of the liberation of Caen, which is a French city that was the original objective for D-Day. It took a month to capture, instead of a day like the Allies predicted. We lost a lot of Canadians and other men to take Caen and liberate them from the Germans. Luckily we did just that on the 9th of July 1944.  The celebration of this day happens every year, and this year we were fortunate enough to participate in the ceremony. It was really amazing seeing all the French people from the town, and the people who liberated the town. Some of the veterans were there who actually helped to liberate Caen, which was really amazing. Seeing something I’ve read a lot about in my studies and research in person is almost surreal.

Before I left, a lot of people told me that the French were really nice towards Canadians and I certainly found this to be true. Even though I don’t speak a lot of French, they picked up on what I was saying. Going around with the other students and having the opportunity to speak to them, hear their stories, and hear why the celebration of the liberation was meaningful to them was really interesting. It was a really cool day.   

Felix Rondeau – Lethbridge, AB

Today we learned more about the whole Juno sector rather than just the beach. we did a trip around the Canadian sector, We visited Canada house, Bény-sur-mer Canadian War cemetery, 14th Field Regiment RCA Monument and more. We also visited most of Juno beach and talked about the defences of the Atlantic wall. We walked more inland and talked about the push from village to hill to forest that the Canadians had to do over and over in order to make their advance inland. Talking about this made me think of all the danger they had to face. Anything could end it all, a sniper, artillerie, machine gun nest and list goes on. These soldiers never knew if they where going to survive to see another day. Which really made me think. Next we visited Abbaye d’Ardenne . The final resting place of around 20 Canadian soldiers who where assassinated. They where executed out of hate and anger for the Canadian forces who had come out victorious at this point. Visiting this place really made me stop and think of the horrors of war. I also made me thing how people can believe so stubbornly in their cause wether it was right or wrong. Some people go as far as executing prisoners to crushing dead bodies with your own tank.

I enjoyed this day. It really made me stop and think about a lot of things, some on a more positive note than others. But I enjoyed it anyway.

Courtney Decker – Strasbourg, SK

This morning we walked along Juno beach, towards Canada House. Canada House was present during the assault on D-Day, but wasn’t destroyed by bombs. It was left standing to be used as a reference point for the allied troops landing on the beach. Today this house helps maintain a relationship between the French people and Canadians. It is full of war memorabilia, pictures, paintings, and artifacts.

We then walked inland and followed the path that the Canadian soldiers took. We were able to see the gouges left in the concrete from the tanks moving through the streets. By walking this path we were able to see the different danger and obstacles that blocked the allied advance. I now have a better understanding of why the allies moved so carefully and why it took them so long to push the Germans out. The Germans were in every small bush and treeline, so the allies had to advance very carefully.

Our next stop today was Beny-sur-Mer Canadian war cemetery. There are 2044 Canadian soldiers buried here. I was once again struck by the young soldiers and the inscriptions on the headstones. Some people presented their soldier research papers, and they were very touching. This made me think more about how every soldier in the cemetery has a story, and how their story ended much too soon.

The last stop of the day was at l’Abbaye d’ Ardenne. It was here that 20 Canadian POWs were murdered by German SS troops and their commander. This was a very solemn monument. Everyone was very silent during this time. I was just thinking how awful and sad it was to be killed in that way. I was there to honour and remember those soldiers, and when I left my eyes were not dry.

Tarynn Kearney – Pembroke, ON

 Today we visited Bernieres sur mer, Canada house, saint aubin sur mer, beny sur mer, and the Juno beach centre. We discussed lives lost, kilometers gained, and veterans coming back to where they saw d day first hand. It’s sad to realize what was lost to gain what seemed so little, but we know that it has big significance. We realized how much everything could be different if even small things were different like if someone had been killed their descendants wouldn’t be here with us today. We also took a look at the devastating story of the 20 prisoners of war from nova Scotia killed by nazis. We learned from that how war can change us and how the ss Hitler’s young German men were so inhumanely as people. Last, at the junk beach centre we took a look at the legacy we our carrying on by showcasing on display and by having veterans share their story. And I learned first hand that we the next generation must carry on the legacy. I tried so that my soldiers story could be told so that others knew what I learned.

Morgan Dutchak – Dauphin, MB

Today we went to Beny-Sur-Mer. Out of everything scheduled for the trip, this had the most significance to me. This is the site where six men from my mother’s home community are buried. Their names are Lawrence Guiboche, Louis Chartrand, Lawrence Chartrand, Anthony Alex Fagnan, William Porter and Joseph Nicholas Porter. I grew up hearing and seeing these names every Remembrance Day when my mom would take us to Camperville for the remembrance ceremony held there. Their names are depicted on a memorial, and speeches and poems were presented, some of which I presented myself. Today, in Beny-sur-mer, I presented my fallen soldier project, which I did on Lawrence Guiboche. He was my great grandfather’s, Felix Ledoux’s, best friend. I’ve heard stories about their friendship my entire life, and to be there in front of his grave was unreal. It was so emotional that I had to call my mom after, and she told me that it was important that I carry on the memory of my great grandfather, his best friend, and the other men from my community. She told me that he’s in a better place now, with his best friend, and they’re probably both really proud of me coming here to honour them. At times like this you just need your mom to help handle emotions like this.

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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