D-Day, June 6, 1944 was a pivotal day in the history of the world. It was then that Allied forces of Britain, the United States and Canada invaded Hitler’s Fortress Europe in what proved to be the beginning of the end of the Second World War. Today, of course, we know how things turned out, but in the early hours of that morning in June the outcome on and around the beaches of Normandy, France, was very much in doubt. To lose to Nazi Germany would have changed the face of civilization. The Nazis were one of the most heinous regimes ever to take power and their policies of racism, extermination and hate led to the deaths of millions. They had to be stopped… and to stop them was to save the world.
No other Allied nation supported the war effort more than Canada. Although the country had a population of only 11 million during the war, an incredible 1.1 million Canadians joined the armed forces. Those that didn’t serve in the military worked on the farms and in the industries that helped secure the final victory.
In our family my wife’s father, Stu, served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in England and France, and her mother, Marion, worked in a Peterborough, Ontario factory manufacturing antiaircraft guns. My father, Don, worked a farm, and his girlfriend, and later his bride, Isabel, my mother, served with the Canadian Women’s Army Corp. Isabel’s oldest brother, Bill, worked a farm, and another brother, Jim, served, (and eventually died) in the Merchant Marine. Don’s older brother, Jim, served in the Royal Canadian Navy. Jim’s ship, the minesweeper, HMCS Thunder was one of the first minesweepers off Juno Beach in the early hours of June 6, 1944.
And so it is that the Second World War, and D-Day in particular have always held a particular fascination for me. You can imagine my excitement when I had a chance to visit Juno Beach with my daughter Sonya in July of 2014. It was a fascinating and amazing day, which I will attempt to document in upcoming posts.