Seven days, seven lives. This is a short history of Canada’s Battle of Normandy presented through the stories of seven Canadian soldiers and airmen who gave their lives.
On 6 June 1944, 14,000 Canadians landed on Juno Beach as part of the Allied invasion of Normandy, known to history as D-Day. By the end of August, more than 90,000 Canadians participated in the fighting from Juno to closing the Falaise Pocket, the beginning of the end for Hitler’s Germany.
Nearly 5,500 Canadians were killed in Normandy and remain there today. This episode features seven of those 5,500 brave Canadians who gave their lives to end Nazi tyranny. Scott Entwistle joins us to examine both the larger events surrounding their deaths and to speak to the families and communities they left behind.
We conclude by giving listeners some tips for undertaking research on Canadian Second World War veterans. If you’re looking for even more helpful hints, check out the
Canadian War Museum’s military personnel research guides.
Lieutenant Joseph P. Rousseau, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, Tuesday 6 June 1944
Joseph Philippe Rousseau Lieutenants Joseph Philippe Rousseau (left) and Joseph Maurice Rousseau, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, at a transit camp near Down Ampney, England, 13 February 1944. Both officers were later killed in action, Philippe on 6 June 1944 and Maurice on 20 September 1944 (Lieut. Strathy E.E. Smith / DND / LAC / PA-198329). Emblem of the British airborne forces, worn by members of 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. The Invasion of Normandy, Allied Concentration and Routes (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Sketch 5) Operations of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, 6 June 1944 (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Sketch 6)
11:40 Private Charles Doucette, North Nova Scotia Highlanders, Wednesday 7 June 1944
Formation sign identifying 3rd Canadian Infantry Division vehicles. North Nova Scotia Highlanders Hat Badge (Courtesy of Ray Fleming) Troops of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and the Highland Light Infantry of Canada landing at Bernières-sur-Mer, 6 June 1944. Disembarking from L.C.I. of the Canadian Landing Craft Infantry (Large) Flotilla, of either the 260th, 262nd, or 264th (Gilbert A. Milne / DND / LAC / PA-116533). The Canadian Assaults, D-Day (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Map 2) Virtually no photos exist of the advance of the vanguard of 9th Canadian Brigade on 7 June, but a glimpse of what it looked like can be gleaned from photos of Exercise Pedal II–the final rehearsal for that advance–in April 1944 (LAC e00II08373). Infantry of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders embark on a Sherbrooke Fusiliers Ram tank during Exercise Pedal II, 13 April 1944. (Grant / DND / LAC / PA-176424). The Canadian Front, 7-8 June 1944 (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Sketch 7)
Flight Lieutenant Barrington F. Cleeton, 63 Squadron RAF, Sunday 25 June 1944
Barrington F. Cleeton The Air Plan for the Landings in Normandy, 6 June 1944. A map of the changing front line in the advance on Cherbourg. Barrington F. Cleeton’s family lighter on display at the Juno Beach Centre. The cruisers HMS GLASGOW (right) and USS QUINCY (left) during the bombardment of Cherbourg in support of the advancing Allied troops, © IWM (A 24310).
27:38 Flying Officer Donald Shapter, 403 Squadron RCAF, Friday 14 July 1944
Donald Shapter A Supermarine Spitfire of No. 127 (Canadian) Wing takes off on a dusk patrol from B2/Bazenville, Normandy, while a Spitfire Mark IX of No. 403 Squadron RCAF waits at readiness, © IWM (CL 778). 403 Squadron RCAF crest Diagram of B2 Bazenville airfield, Normandy (Jean-Pierre Benamou and François Robinard, La Bataille Aérienne de Normandie 1944).
36:46 Major Edwin R. Bennett, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, Saturday 5 August 1944
Edwin R. Bennett Formation sign identifying 2nd Canadian Infantry Division vehicles. Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada cap badge (courtesy of Ray Fleming) German Dispositions, British Front ,24-25 July 1944 (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Sketch 12). Verrieres Ridge-Tilly-la-Campagne, 25 July 1944 (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Sketch 13). Newspaper clipping announcing Major Bennett’s death. The Bennett brothers with their father and uncle, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett (centre-left). Edwin R. Bennett is on the right.
42:10 Guardsman David Blain, The Governor General’s Foot Guards, Friday 11 August 1944
Newspaper clipping announcing David Blain’s death in France. Camouflaged Sherman tank near Vaucelles, France (DND / LAC / e010786174). Formation sign identifying 4th Canadian Armoured Division vehicles. Governor General’s Foot Guards cap badge (Courtesy of Ray Fleming) Operation Totalize, 7-10 August 1944 (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Map 4). Expansion of the Normandy Bridgehead, July-August 1944 (C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Sketch 19).
50:28 Private James R. Demerchant, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Tuesday 29 August 1944
Private James R. Demerchant James Demerchant’s daughter, Anita, who was born the day he died with her mother, Nancy, the woman James married in England. Formation sign identifying 2nd Canadian Infantry Division vehicles. Royal Hamilton Light Infantry cap badge (Courtesy of Ray Fleming) The Pursuit to the Seine, 22-30 August 1944 (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Sketch 20). Foret de la Londe, 26-29 August 1944 (Map from C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign, Map 6).
Scott Entwistle is the Special Projects Coordinator at the Juno Beach Centre Association. He is responsible for researching and administering
Canada’s Commemorative Campaign. If you’re interested in participating, you can reach Scott by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-778-872-1466 (Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm PST).
The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:
Canada’s Commemorative Campaign
Stopping the Panzers with Marc Milner
Too Young to Die with Dan Black
Crerar’s Lieutenants with Geoff Hayes
OSCVI’s War Dead with Dave Alexander
The Normandy Campaign
Weapons & Formations
1st Canadian Parachute Battalion
Canadian Army Units in the Normandy Landings
Canadian Army Units in Normandy from July 1944
RCAF Fighter Squadrons Overseas
Juno Beach & Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the centre’s Digital Projects Coordinator.
Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel:
Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel:
Garth Webb’s quote about D-Day from the Testaments of Honour Historical Archive and the Defining Moments Canada website:
Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel:
Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel:
Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)