Canada’s Juno Beach Centre and museum is at Courseulles-sur-mer right behind a section of the 8-kilometre stretch of beach assigned to Canadians for the invasion. This was the centre of the Allied forces with British and American armies assigned landings to their left and right.
Today on the 75th anniversary of June 6, 1944, Canadian vets, and literally thousands of family members, local residents and visitors assembled just behind the beach on the Juno Centre grounds to remember the sacrifice of the hundreds of Canadians killed, the hundreds more wounded, and the remaining few veterans, all in the 90’s, who were able to make the trip.
Brigadier-General (ret’d) Ernest Beno was in attendance at the major ceremonial event today at Courseulles-sur-mer along with Major Richard Gratton of Montreal with HQ 2 Div. Support Group.Listen
The ceremony today was well-organised by Veterans Affairs, and carried out with great dignity.
After the ceremony, the veterans all made their way to the beach to be once again, where they once ran to face an entrenched enemy and where many comrades fell never to rise again.
Many young students had been brought from Canada to also take part in the event where they had the chance to meet these veterans and hear their stories, to learn about Canada’s history, and to take back that memory to share with others of their generation.
This will also be the case for the group of artillery soldiers with Brig-Gen. Beno. He is leading a group of 60 Canadian military personnel, several of whom are on their first trip to the battle sites of Canada’s two world wars.
Their trip has been financed in part with their own funds and through private donations.
Though the main Canadian event for this anniversary is over along with the international ceremony which was held at the same location a few hours later, the group has smaller commemoration events to attend to in the coming days
On the 8th, the group will take part in a dedication ceremony of a Canadian 25pdr field piece at Point 67 overlooking the outskirts of Caen where Canadians fought a series of bitterly contested battles at heavy cost. The gun placement was an initiative of Gen. Beno who raised funds from private donations, including Britton Smith of Kingston Ontario, a veteran of the Normandy campaign and still an active 99 year old businessman.
The veterans who were able to make the trip to France have expressed gratitude that their efforts have not been forgotten after 75 years.
Across Canada today similar memorial events will be held to remember and honour the sacrifice of the veterans still with us, and those young men who left but never returned.