Almost 20 years ago, the TV miniseries Band of Brothers propelled parachute troops from the Second World War into our popular memory. Executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg told the story of a company of American soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division. Not for the first time, American star power and money helped to shape Canadian impressions of the Second World War. Few Canadians knew that there was a Canadian version of a similar story — that of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
In 2002, Canadian TV producer Lance Goddard (Global TV Network) produced Victory From Above, a documentary exploring the story of “1 Can Para” from its origins through to the end of the war. He relied extensively on veteran testimonies to produce this film. The following podcast draws from Lance Goddard’s original interviews with six veterans sharing their memories of Operation Varsity, the final large-scale airborne operation of the Second World War.
All proceeds support the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s Second World War Museum in Normandy, France and allow us to continue to offer this content to listeners across Canada!
We don’t have a guest this week, per se. Instead, we’ve taken the opportunity to let the 1 Can Para veterans listed below speak for themselves. This episode is dedicated to them and their comrades.
Private Jan de Vries was a Dutch-born member of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. He jumped into Normandy on D-Day and across the Rhine during Operation Varsity. He passed away on 27 May 2012.
Lieutenant Robert Firlotte served with 3rd Parachute Brigade headquarters during the jump across the Rhine and was wounded later that day. He also served during the Korean War and died on 20 September 2014.
Lieutenant-Colonel Fraser Eadie served as the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion’s second-in-command for the Rhine drop. He quickly assumed command when the commanding officer was killed. Eadie received the Distinguished Service Order for his exceptional leadership of the battalion in 1944-1945. He died on 11 August 2003.
Corporal Ernie Jeans jumped into Normandy on D-Day and across the Rhine during Operation Varsity. He passed away on 10 September 2008.
Sergeant Ronald Anderson served with the battalion in Belgium, Holland, and Germany. He jumped across the Rhine with 4 Platoon, “B” Company and passed away on 3 November 2015.
Corporal Dennis Flynn served alongside Sergeant Anderson in 4 Platoon during the jump across the Rhine. He jumped into Normandy and across the Rhine, receiving wounds in both battles. Corporal Flynn passed away on 19 August 2003.
The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:
Juno Beach & Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the Juno Beach Centre Association’s Operations and Outreach Manager.
The 1 Can Para veteran interviews were provided by Lance Goddard. They are raw footage from the 2002 Global TV documentary Victory From Above.
Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SlEvclY5LE&t=48s
Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCSQ4uWR1Y
Female veteran’s voice (Eileen Green, née Short) Courtesy of The Memory Project, Historica Canada: http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/383:eileen-green-nee-short/
Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB5wZtV1MWM
Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgZI4tAoMN0
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)
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.