Juno Beach and the Canadian Experience in WWII

Earlier on my European trip I visited the Passchendaele and Vimy Ridge WWI memorial sites.  It was quite an eye opening experience of trench warfare.

The main WWII war site for Canada was at Juno Beach in Normandy.  This was a water-based assault on fortified German positions.  The Germans had concrete bunkers approximately 200m apart along the beach, plus numerous obstacles placed in the water to make it hard for the allies boats to land, plus difficult for the soldiers to make it to the shore.

Seeing the beach now, you can only see a few bunkers, which are slowly sinking into the beach sand to be forgotten. I was reminded of the the poor weather that the soldiers went through on D-Day.  June 5, 1944 was the original date but the weather was too poor to sail across, so June 6 was selected.  It was also a poor weather day, as it was when I stood on the beach looking up and down the beach.  A sudden downpour of rain and high wind drenched you quickly, then cleared just as fast.

WWII pyramid obstacles

Our tour guide showed us some of the concrete obstacles placed in the low tide area of Juno beach.  They looked like pyramids with no interior, just the edges, and placed on top, a landmine.  As the tide would rise, any allied ship coming into shore could hit a landmine and sink.  At low tide, the boats would land further out, and then when the allies ran to shore, they would have no shelter from the crossfire of German machine guns from the adjacent bunkers.  These pyramid barriers, being hollow, did not provide any hiding place for the allies.  They had to keep running to shore.  They could not stop until they died, were captured, they destroyed a bunker, or captured the German soldiers.

Getting through the water to the shore was hazardous too for our Canadian soldiers who had several pounds of gear on their back.  The water was churning and as they jumped out of the boat, the gear could bog them down and drown.  Those who made it, had to be lucky to not be hit by the machine gun cross fire… I am amazed that we were successful. And I am immensely grateful!

Canada Juno Beach WWII Memorial. Notice the Inukshuk?

Beside Juno Beach is a war memorial that has been put together originally by Canadian veterans from WWII.  They collect donations from around the world to build and maintain this memorial.  They do not want us to forget the war.  There is an ongoing donation program.  For EURO 200, you can get a “brick” with your name on it, to show your support for the memorial. 

I appreciated being greeted by a Canadian University student on his & her summer holidays getting experience and learning more about Canada’s contribution to WWII. The memorial building is sheathed in titanium which shines in the sun, and can withstand the wind, rain, and salt water that thrashes against the Normandy coast.  Inside you learn about how Canada joined the war, things we did both at home, and in the UK.  But equally as interesting is part of the site is built to let people know “who are Canadians”.  As such, there is a room with vignettes of different people across Canada, from First Nations people, Ukrainians, Chilean, Spanish, etc and how they integrate into Canadian society.  So maybe people will learn that we are more than lumberjacks living in a snow-covered country. 

If you have a chance to travel to Normandy, take time to visit Juno Beach and the memorial site, and learn about our past, before it sinks into the sands of time.  Lest we forget.

Here is a link for more info about D-Day.

A link to my WWI memorial visit.