By Richard Lawrence
View photos here: https://www.richardlawrencephotography.ca/rlpgalleries/2019/dday75/
The 6th of June, 1944, or D-Day as it’s best known, was the culmination of years of planning, training, and stockpiling of supplies that allowed the Allied forces to regain a foothold on the European continent and open a second front to relieve the Russians, who had been fighting the Nazis since the summer of 1941. It was a huge invasion, the largest amphibious assault in history, and the Canadians were given a sector of their own to control: Juno Beach. Approximately 14,000 Canadian troops hit Juno Beach that morning and by the end of the day, 340 were dead, 574 wounded, and 47 captured. The RCN contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors and the RCAF had 15 fighter/fighter-bomber squadrons in the air to provide air cover and ground support.
It was good to see the Canadian government take the time to go to the Juno Beach in Normandy and commemorate and remember the sacrifices of the soldiers. It was good to see some of the veterans who had actually fought in that battle go back. With the Prime Minister and senior ministers over in France, I feared that there would be little done to commemorate the battle in Ottawa, as has occurred with the Vimy Ridge remembrance. However, I’m pleased to say that I was worried for naught as Veterans Affairs stepped up and did indeed hold a full blown remembrance ceremony at the National War Memorial.
The Honourable Andrew Leslie (MP Orleans) represented the government and laid a wreath with MP Karen McCrimmon, both who are ex-military. MGen. Allain Pelletier represented the Canadian Armed Forces while the British High Commission had Brigadier Nicholas Orr (Defence Attaché) handle the wreath and Ministre Conseiller Jérȏme Bresson and Liaison Officer to the CAF, LCol. Guilhem de Tarlé laid the wreath on behalf of France.
Of special interest to this ceremony was that there were actually five D-Day/Battle of Normandy veterans in attendance as Lucien Beauchamp and Jack Commerford (95 years old) handled the Act of Remembrance and Gerry Bowen laid a wreath on behalf of the veterans. Also with the guests were Victor Norburn and Sam Jamieson who also participated in this battle in 1944.
The remarks presented by Mr. Leslie, Mr. Bresson, and Brig. Orr, all had a common theme which centered around how young these men were, the odds that they face and overcame, and the horrors which they saw and endured on the beaches. None of the speakers forgot to mention how much we owed to these men, and their comrades who didn’t come home.
One of the more poignant elements of the ceremony also provided a little comic relief and probably was missed by most present. On the steps up to, and just below, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, were placed a pair of combat boots with a poppy affixed to the top. In itself, it is a stark reminder of those who never came home. However, when the photograph of these boots is examined, one the inside at the very top lip in black ink, is the boot’s owner’s name: Wynnyk As it turns out, this is an old pair of LGen Wynnyks boots that he turned in some time ago and they have resurfaced, unbeknownst to him, at this ceremony.