Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Juno Beach

June 6, 1944, every year this was an important date in our house.  D-Day.  Vera Lynn (yes I have mentioned her in 2 blogs now) was playing.  Remembrance Day November 11, the tv was on and the ceremonies were watched for 2 hours.  Even when I moved to Aurora I would pull over my car for the 2 minutes of silence.  My parents both served in the RAF (out of India) but their sense of loyalty and support was so strong that until the day they died they remembered and instilled in us this same sense of thankfulness for our troops both surviving today and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Planning our trip to France we had the chance at a timeshare in Marseilles or in Normandy, there was no question for Jim and I where we were going.  This was our history, this was our parents history.  As a generation Jim and I are so blessed that we only had to witness this through our parents, books, Hollywood and school history lessons (we actually got the day off school to remember).

As our world is changing it was important for us to make this pilgrimage.  Scary to say but who knows where the world is heading.

 Where Dieppe was a fortress and our Canadian troops made the ultimate sacrifice to help plan the actual D-Day invasion better and save countless lives, Juno Beach on the shores of Couseilles-du-Mer  was a long beautiful flat beach which was fortified with tunnels and gun posts for the 8 km that the Canadians had to attack.  The difference was surprise, the Germans didn't know we were coming.  The French resistance had taken out the communication posts and had set up fake messages so that the Germans thought the attack was happening somewhere else.

The Juno Beach Centre was the brainchild of Garth Webb, a WWII vet who died in 2012 and is a non-profit organization based out of Burlington.

From Grade 4 to 6 I went to a school called David Hornell in Mimico.  It was named after David Hornell who received the Victoria Cross for his valour during the war.  We found this placard to him at Juno Beach.  

 The kids working at Juno Beach are from Canada, the girl who served us was from Oakville and yippee spoke English.  They do 7 month stints.  What a great experience.

 This is low tide, when the Canadian force landed it was still high tide which meant that they landed too far up the beach right in the midst of the barbed wire and land mines.

The Sailors Cross

Juno Beach was named for the Canadian arm of Operation Overlord.  When we were looking it up on the map I was looking for a place called Juno Beach.  No such place.  The names for the British and Canadian arms of the operation were originally Goldfish, Jellyfish and Swordfish.  The Canadians being the Jellyfish.  Winston Churchill said that he was not sending men to die under the name Jelly so changed it to JUNO.  


The headstones are surrounded by beautiful Canadian Maple Leaf Trees.  Needless to say when we wandered through the headstones we walked down the middle aisle.  I turned to Jim and said I feel sorry for the men on the ends, probably no one ever wanders that far, so off we set to repeat and thank a few more men.  

The major town of Caen is 20 km's up the road.  It took our troops almost a month to get there.  But they didn't give up.  Jim and I had dinner there and we were so surprised at how new the town looked.  Other than the castle and the church, everything else looked brand new.  After seeing the film of the bombing of the town there was basically nothing left standing.  It was razed to the ground.  60,000 people lived here then, 30,000 had left and 17,000 died.  The main street is called Ave du Liberation.  

 The town has been rebuilt and everyday life continues and the candle of remembrance has now fallen on our shoulders as our parents generation is slowly fading away.  Will our children remember as strongly as we do, probably not.  Will they realize how lucky we are too live in Canada, probably not.  Will the struggles in the world reach our doorstep this time.  I hope not.  But I will give thanks everyday to the men and women who have and continue to keep us safe and strong and be thankful to live in a wonderful country like Canada where we still respect human life and each other.

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