The 75th-anniversary commemoration of the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6 will celebrate the incredible sacrifices of the 14,000 young Canadians — some from Portage la Prairie — who stormed Juno Beach on D-Day.
Portage la Prairie Royal Canadian Legion Branch 65 will be marching at 5 p.m. to commemorate the Canadian effort that turned back German forces in France and ultimately took the fight on the road to freedom.
“We at the legion along with other military personnel from the Portage area will be hosting a parade and celebration of D-Day to honour all those who passed away at that time and those who were injured,” said Legion President Bob Oldford.
The parade will leave the legion at 5 p.m. and make its way to the downtown cenotaph for a short service, return where there will be a casual get together.
“We had numerous individuals in the military from Portage that were involved in D-Day operations,” Oldford said. “There are many stories that we hear – not so much from the individuals — but we hear from within our families about their family members who were involved in D-Day operations.”
The D-Day objectives were simple: land on five beaches (code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) stretching 50 miles along the coast of Normandy, France, and secure the coastline in order to mobilize troops to liberate France from German control.
Juno Beach – The Canadians On D-Day
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, “Operation Overlord”, the long-awaited invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, began with Allied armies from the U.S., Britain and Canada landing on the coast of Normandy. On D-Day, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division landed on Juno Beach. The Canadian assault troops stormed ashore in the face of fierce opposition from German strongholds and mined beach obstacles. The soldiers raced across the wide-open beaches swept with machine gun fire and stormed the gun positions. In fierce hand-to-hand fighting, they fought their way into the towns of Bernières, Courseulles and St. Aubin and then advanced inland, securing a critical bridgehead for the allied invasion. The victory was a turning point in World War II and led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Fourteen thousand young Canadians stormed Juno Beach on D-Day. Their courage, determination and self-sacrifice were the immediate reasons for the success in those critical hours. The fighting they endured was fierce and frightening. The price they paid was high – the battles for the beachhead cost 340 Canadian lives and another 574 wounded. John Keegan, the eminent British historian who wrote Six Armies in Normandy, stated the following concerning the Canadian 3rd Division on D-Day: “At the end of the day, its forward elements stood deeper into France than those of any other division. The opposition the Canadians faced was stronger than that of any other beach save Omaha. That was an accomplishment in which the whole nation could take considerable pride.”
Museum, Legion re-open Veteran’s Wall
As a tribute to the men and women who served in the Canadian Army during D-Day and World War II, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 65 held a ceremony June 1 to reopen the “Veteran’s Wall” memorial at the Fort La Reine Museum.
“We’re very happy to be involved with the museum to reopen the wall,” said Oldford. “If you have come over the years and in the last little while there have been plaques falling off and it is in need of some work. That has been done,” he said.
The legion president targeted Chris Bowman and Rick Alexander for their part in bringing the veteran’s wall and display back to health.
“There’s a lot of other work we’re hoping to do in the future partnering with the museum with the displays and rotate things in the displays.”
Information to have other vets included in the display is available from the legion or the museum.
The Fort la Reine Museum offered free admission for the morning for those who wanted to attend the reopening.
“We’re very proud of our Southport military building and the collection it houses,” Museum Executive Director Madison Connolly added.