Rifleman Thomas Joseph Pierce
The Queen’s Own Rifles Canada
Rifleman Pierce is sponsored by Dufferin County
Rifleman Pierce était parrainé par Dufferin County.
In honour of all of our Veterans and Fallen.
Thomas Joseph Pierce was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Monday, 21 November 1921. His life story is difficult to discover because of the lack of history that he knew about himself. Pierce did not know who his biological parents were, or where they were from. He was adopted at birth by Thomas and Jessie (Stewart) Pierce. This couple had been married for eighteen years and had no other children. His father’s occupation was recorded as a mechanic in 1927; many years later he was recorded as a moulder (a maker of wood moulding). On 16 August 1927, six-year old Thomas’s mother passed away, leaving his father a widower at the age of forty-five. On 12 November 1928, his father married widow Mary (Langan) Middleton at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church on Leslie Avenue in Toronto. The Pierce family resided at 31 Redwood Avenue in Toronto, but sometime between 1930 and 1942 Pierce, his adoptive father and step-mother moved to an apartment on Delaney Crescent in Toronto.
Pierce lived an average lifestyle, consisting of eight years of schooling. He eventually moved into the farm business where he worked for Noyce Moffatt in Dufferin County, Ontario for eight years. He lived in Adjala, Ontario during this time. This is the same area his father was born and raised before he moved to Toronto. Demand for soldiers was becoming higher, and on Monday 26 October 1942, Thomas enlisted in the Canadian Army, joining up with the Toronto Scottish Regiment of Toronto, Ontario. After that day, Thomas would find himself in a whirlwind of intense training. His family would not know where he was or even how he was doing.
On Friday 20 November 1942, Thomas was sent to Basic Training Camp in Toronto before being transferred the next day to a more intense course in Orillia, Ontario. Basic Training would consist of intense exercises that would try to prepare a soldier for the most their body could take mentally and physically. The task was to prepare the soldiers to the best of their ability before entering the war. This included running miles a day, basic knowledge of battle, use of equipment, and preparation for war plans. Thomas completed his Basic Training on 28 January 1943 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec.
Before going overseas, Pierce was given leave from 5 May to 18 May 1943 and a “Special Leave” under provisions from 19 May to 22 May 1943. While gone, Pierce would receive $0.50 a day.
A few weeks later on 19 June 1943, Thomas travelled overseas, arriving on 24 June.Many men were not used to travelling at sea and the stench of seasickness was overpowering in such tight quarters. After arriving in the UK, Pierce was taken on full strength to the Queen’s Own Rifles on 27 August 1943. The Canadian Army knew that they were preparing themselves for a massive attack against the Germans, they just did not know when or where.
Over the course of the next year, Thomas participated in field training until 26 April 1944. After the completion of this training, his pay was raised to $1.50 per day.
The date for D-Day had been pushed back and changed many times due to bad conditions. Eventually, it reached the point where the operation simply could not be delayed any longer. Just after midnight on Tuesday 6 June 1944, an allied assault began on German-occupied Normandy began. As allied units attempted to dent the German lines, soldiers prepared themselves for a day that could very well be their last. It was not until approximately 0600 hours that the Germans would see a vast span of attackers coming approaching the 100km stretch of coastline that was the landing zone. Thomas was part of Queens Own Rifles A-Company; their objective was to secure the village of Bernières-sur-Mer (seven miles inland).
As the ships brought Toronto’s Queen’s Own Rifles closer to the shore, the men could hear shots being fired along the shoreline. Suddenly, the ramp dropped down into the water as men rushed out on to a section of the beach called “Nan White,” landing west of their target. Immediately, after stepping out of their ships, the Queen’s Own Rifles were hit head-on by heavy machine gun and mortar fire. By 0730 hours, all of the Queen’s Own Rifles had mounted the beach and were pushing themselves forward to complete their objective.
There was no clear path to advance on; men had to use their gut instincts, following the path that seemed best. Some men could not handle what was going on and collapsed onto the ground, covering their ears and trying to shut out what was truly happening. Finally, A-Company advanced off of the beach and moved to the village, taking a road southwest. By 8:45, B Company had joined them and the village of Bernières-sur-Mer was secured. Toronto’s Queen’s Own Rifles had accomplished their mission in capturing the village. 143 soldiers were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner from Queen’s Own Rifles that day.
Thomas was one of the nearly 400 Canadian soldiers who were declared killed in action on 6 June 1944.
Shortly after his death, Pierce’s family was notified of the loss of their son. Pierce was reburied at Beny-sur-Mer Canadian Military Cemetery and to this day this is where his body remains.
All the awards he earned during his short time with the Canadian Army were sent to his step-mother, Mary Pierce. Pierce was honoured with the France and Germany Star, which was awarded to all those who served at least one day between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945, and also the Defence War Medal. As an act of remembrance in modern day, soldiers of the Queen’s Own Rifles each carry a pendant of remembrance for their given soldier. It is their responsibility to remember their soldier.
Written by: A student at the Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.
Rédigé par : Un élève de Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute, Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada.
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.
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.