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Editor’s Choice

Editor’s Choice

The Heroes of Normandy

By Guy Black, Recipient of the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation

May 29, 2024 – Death struck deeply into those who waded ashore on June 6, 1944. Struggling to quickly move from their landing craft to the sand of Normandy beach. Burdened by the heavy weight of their equipment, and the sights and sounds around them. Before them lay a terrifying array of obstacles waiting to trap, maim, and destroy anyone who attempted to challenge the terrible might of the nazi occupation of France.

Service men and women came from all across Canada. Local militia units like the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Machine Gun) and the Essex Scottish Regiment were mobilized for active war service. These part-time “Saturday Night” soldiers were busy in their armouries and drill halls, recruiting and training its new members. Some would find themselves “storming Juno beach” on June 6th, while others arrived sometime later, joining the 3rd Canadian Division as they consolidated their foothold on the Normandy coast.

The liberation campaign slowly progressed mile by bloody mile across France until Paris was freed on August 25, 1944.  In its wake were left countless dead and injured, destroyed towns and cities. Names of places became etched into the memories of the soldiers who fought in battles like Bourguébus Ridge, Carpiquet Airport, Caen, the Falaise “Gap”, Vaucelles, and Verrières Ridge. The campaign to liberate France from its occupiers would end up taking the lives of 5,021 Canadian soldiers.

The number of war veterans who fought in the liberation campaign have steadily declined as the years have passed. Fortunately, some of these remarkable old soldiers are still living. They are resilient people who followed a path of duty, endured hardship, faced danger and experienced things we could never imagine. Through the National Order of the Legion of Honour medal program, the Embassy of France in Canada continues to bestow their nation’s highest medal to our veterans who are proudly known as the liberators of France.

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