Scott, a Juno Beach Centre guide, reflects on his experience at the Juno Beach Centre in 2015.
As we approach the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, I have been reflecting on my time as a student guide at the Juno Beach Centre last year.
There are many unique aspects to working at the Juno Beach Centre, the most humbling of them all being the occasions where veterans of the Second World War make their pilgrimage to this site.
Every encounter with a veteran is different; every one of them has a story to tell and each of them remembers their experiences in different ways. To say the least, each encounter with a veteran is special.
The most memorable moment of my 8 months on Juno in 2015 was the time I gave a tour to Jack, veteran of the Royal Navy.
It started like any other tour here in Juno Park, but at some point a man in his sixties mentioned that his father had landed on Juno Beach, not that unusual. Then his father walked into the bunker right after him. It wasn’t the first time I’d taken a veteran on the beach, but it is still a big deal. Throughout the tour, I asked him a few questions. He was in his early 90s, and he had been a signalman on a LCT (Landing Craft Tank) that had landed on Juno on D-Day. And then we got to the beach.
As we got onto the beach I noticed Jack’s eyes had started watering. His son explained that it was his first time back on the beach since the summer of 1944. “It was quite an exciting summer” is how he described it. Ok, well this just got a whole lot more real.
So after giving what I hope was the best tour of my life, most of the tour group left and I stayed to talk with Jack and his two sons. He told me his landing craft had put 9 Sherman tanks with their 5 man crews ashore on D-Day on Juno Beach. Of those tank crews, one made it through unscathed. Not one crew. One soldier. “I can still see their faces” he told me. “Every single one. Its hard, its just … hard”.
Now I dare you to stand on that beach and listen to that story and not be absolutely overcome with emotion.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.