Abbey d’Ardenne

Few Canadians have ever heard of the Abbey d’Ardenne. Near the village of Cussey, northwest of Caen, the 12th century abbey is one of the largest in the region – a massive collection of mediaeval buildings including a church and several farm buildings encircled by walls and grainfields.

The Abbey d'Ardenne was the site of one of the worst atrocities suffered by Canadian troops in the Second World War.

The Abbey d’Ardenne was the site of one of the worst atrocities suffered by Canadian troops in the Second World War.

During the Battle of Normandy in June and July 1944 the Abbey served as the headquarters of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitler Jugend, commanded by SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer. Here during the night of June 7-8th, 1944 eighteen Canadian soldiers captured during the fighting were ruthlessly murdered. Two more Canadian prisoners of war were executed here on June 17th. Hastily buried in makeshift graves, the bodies were not found until the late winter and early spring of 1945. Each had been shot in the back of the head. More details of the atrocities are available HERE.

A wall of remembrance at the memorial features the pictures of each of the murdered Canadian soldiers.

A Wall of Remembrance at the memorial features the pictures of each of the murdered Canadian soldiers.

After the war Kurt Meyer was tried and found guilty of war crimes. Sentenced to death, his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, but he ended up serving only 8 years. Meyer died of a heart attack in 1961.

Sonya and I visited the site of the massacre in the late afternoon of July 14th. Here one finds a small garden surrounded by a high stone wall. On one of the walls are the pictures of the twenty who died here. Nearby is a monument to the 20 covered in flags and poppies which reads:

“On the night of June 7/8, 1944, 18 Canadian soldiers were murdered in this garden while being held here as prisoners of war. Two more prisoners died here or nearby on June 17. They are dead but not forgotten.”

The monument at the Abbey d'Ardenne - gone but not forgotten.

The monument at the Abbey d’Ardenne – gone but not forgotten.

The pictures which follow are from our Normandy Beaches Gallery. Click on any thumbnail below to expand the image and view the caption. The entire Normandy Beaches Gallery is available on the Photo Gallery menu.

 

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