Phillipe (Joseph) Rousseau

Lieutenant Phillipe Rousseau
Montréal, Québec
1st Canadian Parachute Battalion

Lieutenant Rousseau is sponsored by the Royal Military College Club of Canada, Ottawa Branch.
Lieutenant Rousseau était parrainé par Royal Military College Club of Canada, Ottawa Branch.

Phillipe (Joseph) was born in Montréal but grew up in Montmagny near Quebec City. He was one of  12 sons (with 2 daughters) if Lacasse Rousseau (an electrician and engineer) and Gabrielle Fafard. His brother Lt. Joseph Maurice Rousseau served with the Special Air Service; brother Bernard Rousseau was a Captain with the Regiment of Montmagny; brother Jacques Rousseau became well-known as a director of the Montreal Botanical Garden. Both sisters, Pauline and Marie, studied medicine. Both Joseph Phillipe and Joseph Maurice were commonly called by their middle names.

Phillipe entered the Régiment de la Chaudiere in 1942, before requesting a transfer to the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion when it was created in July. He had graduated from the Royal Military College in Kingston with his brother Maurice, and was already an officer. He qualified as a paratrooper in Ringway, England at the end of 1943. In the winter of 1943-44, he took over the command of Lt. J. M. Rousseau’s section (B Company, no. 4 platoon) when his brother transferred to the 2nd SAS Regiment before D-Day. Phillipe didn’t speak much English at this point, but he learned quickly; his men said that he spoke with such passion that they’d never forget the things he said to them.

On the night of the invasion, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion parachuted into Normandy on the Eastern side of the Dives River; they successful achieved its objective of establishing a strong point here protecting the left flank of the Allied landing beaches from assaults by German armoured forces. Phillipe’s platoon was to land on the far left on the drop zone. Due to strong winds, the plane drifted too far to the left. Phillipe was ambushed and killed upon landing.

Phillipe, along with 2 others – Corporal Boyd M. Anderson and Private James George Broadfoot – had been tasked with proceeding to the village of Dozulé, located on the main highway to Caen, in order to meet up with the Mayor, who was also named Rousseau. Anderson later recalled: “It was thought that the mayor was friendly to our cause.  We were to ignore whatever trouble was going on and proceed immediately by whatever means we could to Dozulé and locate Mayor Rousseau and strike up a conversation with him with the hope of establishing a relationship and find out the numbers and disposition of the German troops in the area.  Lieutenant Rousseau was very excited about this assignment, and of course I was pleased to have been selected for this dangerous but unusual task, and like Lieutenant Rousseau, I was all gung ho to get at the job.” Unfortunately, Anderson was unable meet up with either Rousseau or Broadfoot when the jump got scattered.  He learned later that the lieutenant was killed in the early morning hours of D-Day at Gonneville-sur-Mer and Broadfoot was shot to death later in the day.

 Phillipe was reportedly the first French Canadian soldier to die in the invasion of Normandy. His brother, Lt. Joseph Maurice Rousseau (who died on 20 September 1944), notified his family of Phillipe’s death:  “À Gondeville-sur-Mer, près de Houidate, dans le département de Calvados, en Normandie, il y a une tombe où repose Philippe. Il y a aussi une croix dédiée “au premier Canadien français à mourir dans l’invasion pour la libération de la France”. La population lui a élevé cette croix et des fleurs sont déposées chaque jour par les ordres du maire. Un service lui fut chanté par le curé de l’endroit, et ceci sous l’occupation de la France par les Allemands.”

Joseph died at the age of 23 in Gonneville-sur-Mer, Calvados, France and is buried in Ranville War Cemetery. Although some online sources say that he died on June 7, records provided by the RMC confirm that he died on June 6.

REMEMBER TODAY, REMEMBER ALWAYS.

THIS TRIBUTE PROFILE CONTAINS AVAILABLE BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION ON ONE OF THE CANADIANS WHO DIED ON JUNO BEACH ON 6 JUNE 1944. THE PROFILE ALSO RECOGNIZES THE INDIVIDUAL OR ORGANIZATION WHO GENEROUSLY SPONSORED THIS SOLDIER, AND INCLUDES A MESSAGE OF THANKS AND REMEMBRANCE FOR THEIR SACRIFICE. THIS INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN THE SOLDIER’S NATIVE TONGUE AND HAS BEEN COMPILED BY THE LEST WE FORGET PROGRAM AND, IN SOME CASES, THROUGH THE GENEROSITY OF INDIVIDUALS CONNECTED WITH THE SOLDIERS.  DUE TO THE INCONSISTENCY OF HISTORICAL RECORDS AND THE SPARSE AVAILABILITY OF FIRST-HAND WITNESSES, WE KNOW MORE ABOUT SOME THAN OTHERS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE ANY MATERIAL OR HELP IN OUR EFFORTS TO PRESENT THE BIOGRAPHIES IN BOTH FRENCH AND ENGLISH, PLEASE CONTACT: JBCA@JUNOBEACH.ORG.

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CE PORTRAIT CONTIENT DES INFORMATIONS BIOGRAPHIQUES RELATIVES À L’UN DES CANADIENS QUI SONT MORTS SUR LA PLAGE JUNO, LE 6 JUIN 1944. IL PORTE ÉGALEMENT MENTION DE LA PERSONNE OU DE L’ORGANISATION QUI A GÉNÉREUSEMENT PARRAINÉ CE SOLDAT, AINSI QU’UN MESSAGE DE REMERCIEMENT EN SOUVENIR DE SON SACRIFICE. CES INFORMATIONS SONT DISPONIBLES DANS LA LANGUE MATERNELLE DU SOLDAT ET ONT ÉTÉ COMPILÉES PAR LE PROGRAMME LEST WE FORGET ET, DANS CERTAINS CAS, GRÂCE À LA GÉNÉROSITÉ DES PERSONNES LIÉES AUX SOLDATS. EN RAISON DE LA DISPARITÉ DES DOCUMENTS HISTORIQUES ET DES RARES TÉMOINS DE L’ÉPOQUE, NOUS NE DISPOSONS PAS DE LA MÊME QUANTITÉ D’INFORMATION SUR TOUS LES SOLDATS. SI VOUS SOUHAITEZ COMPLÉTER NOTRE DOCUMENTATION OU NOUS AIDER DANS NOS EFFORTS POUR PRÉSENTER LES BIOGRAPHIES EN FRANÇAIS ET EN ANGLAIS, MERCI DE CONTACTER : JBCA@JUNOBEACH.ORG.