The sun was shining bright and everyone got on the bus with a smile on their face. The first stop on the day’s itinerary was the landing zone of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. These soldiers were put in charge of seizing Robehomme—a piece of ground that was strategically vital to the success of the D-Day landings. After doing a lap around a small town with near impassable roads, we finally found the plaque and bench dedicated to the battalion. Following this stop the tour went to Pegasus Bridge, which in 1944 was a strong point captured by the British glider forces. Our Pipe Major played the members across the bridge with the Regimental Sergeant Major leading. While we were there, we took the time to visit the very first building to be liberated and buy some souvenirs.
After seeing the airborne landing sites, the tour headed towards the beaches of Normandy. We stopped at Bernieres-Sur-Mer, where the Queen’s Own Rifles landed on D-Day. The tour was given ample time to reflect on what took place on the beach that we were standing on. With the pipes playing in the background, serving members and the association was scattered all over the beach to soak in the moment. Evidence of the battle still exists 71 years later.
On this day the British Columbia Regiment (BCR) contingent was supporting the Canadian Scottish Regiment at their battle sites. The first location we arrived at was Courseulles-Sur-Mer, where a short ceremony was conducted. The BCR guard was formed up just behind a Sherman tank that was recovered after it had been sunk during the landings. The tank is adorned with unit icons from the many different Regiments which took part in the invasion of Normandy. We noted with satisfaction that the BCR plaque sits nearest the front of the tank. The city and its mayor hosted the contingent for a reception with refreshments. We were then given time to roam the city. Some went to the Juno Beach Centre and some went for lunch.
The next city was Putot-en-Bessin where a large memorial stands to commemorate the soldiers of the Canadian Scottish and the Winnipeg Rifles, who fought in the surrounding countryside during the invasion. Emblazoned on the memorial are the names of all those who fell during the hard-fought battle. Many Canadians named were executed by the fanatical SS. A short ceremony was conducted to commemorate the fallen. During our visit we were introduced to the president of the Juno Committee, Michel Le Baron, who talked about his experiences during the war.
Afterwards, we travelled to the town of Rots. Here the ceremony was bigger and a crowd of townspeople looked on as the guards marched down to the plaque commemorating the soldiers of the Canadian Scottish Regiment. After the parade concluded, Vern Salisbury received a ride from a vintage WWII-era jeep to the D-Day Academy where a reception was held. The D-Day Academy is very cool, and we all had a great time. Their collection of weapons and paraphernalia is second to none. Everywhere we turned there were authentic WWII weapons and vehicles that we could operate and interact with; it was like dropping a group of fifty kids in a toy store.
Throughout our travels, in every town and city, Vern was recognized and respects were shown for what he did 71 years ago. Vern never refused a photo for anyone and always had a smile on his face. After a long day, the tour was let loose. However, foremost in our minds was the fact that the next day was going to be very special for the regiment. All serving members made sure their uniform was up to standard before enjoying the evening.
Submitted by: Captain Majeet Vinning, Colonel (retired) Keith Maxwell and Bob Hall
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