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Published: August 9th 2019
After landing on Juno Beach June 6, 1944 the Canadian troops pushed up through to liberate Caen. In mid August they pushed on to Falaise and then pushed on and over the Seine River via Foret de la Londe and Rouen from the west. Fierce fighting was encountered.
By the middle of June over 330,000 men and 45,000 vehicles had landed.
To secure supply routes much needed to keep the troops and vehicles moving the British and Canadian troops were assigned the tasks of capturing major forts along the English Channel. The German forces knew this and fiercely defended these ports. In September the Canadian troops liberated Le Havre and Dieppe in France as well as the super port - Antwerp In Belgium. Antwerp was the largest deep-water port close to Germany and was connected to the North Sea via the river Scheldt.
As ports were liberated and the German forces were retreating a number of allied soldiers were left to defend their positions.
It was about this same time - late September / early October 1944 - four months after the landing on Juno Beach that Private Kelley reached his personal limit - he was suffering
After 4 months of combat - innocence lost
from shell shock and needed help.
Per family biographer Rob Kelley : after spending the night under convoy trucks which were being bombarded by his own brigade’s artillery, and watching his army buddies die from the explosions, Doug was sent back to England, for recuperation, being diagnosed with ”shell shock“. The Allied Army Hospitals were reluctant to accept psychological reasons for any soldier away from duty and after three months he was returned to active duty.
Over these recovery months in England Doug‘s treatment included rest, medications, “fattening up”, “increased liquor consumption” and a fledgling form of “electro shock therapy“. He went awol a number of times and hitched many miles down to Bournemouth to visit Hazel - he was able to do this as he had kept a civilian suit with him (why?) that he bought overseas from Ottawa (what was he thinking). It was an ugly green tweed that he would also lend to Bob and George on occasion (if any family member knows why please Le me know). Per Hazel Doug would just show up on my doorstep.
When Doug had “recovered” he was sent back to the front. D-Day plus
75 years Le Clos des Fontaines - not far from Rouen - on the Seine - July 30 to Aug 2nd
Danielle and I program “M” and head up to Le Clos Des Fontaine - we need to cross the Seine by ferry (no cost?) to reach our very secluded rustic farm room at our retreat spa destination - so much for roughing it...
We arrive unpack and head into the picture perfect little village to have a couple of omelettes and frites - I have not seen potatoes cooked any other way so far - from steak to fish to oysters they all arrive with frites. The omelettes are nothing special but the atmosphere is great - a young couple run the eatery - and the clientele are mostly young families themselves - the well to do travellers are at the very expensive restaurant next door - nice to be around young families - we both miss ours already.
I catch up on my blog - first in our room - until I loose it all - bad reception - and then in the lobby in the main building with a nice Belgium blonde (beer)
to help me along. Danielle avails herself of the spa.
We head down to an old run down local bar in town for supper. We are the only guests in the eating area - not always a good sign. I have some red wine - and one of the specials (can’t remember which one) Danielle a croque monsieur (per Danielle not memorable either) & some Perrier. We are both tired so we decide to call it a night.
Our room has no air so I leave our window (no screen) open. Danielle barely sleeps worrying about birds, bats, spiders, snakes or other small critters sneaking in. I sleep like a baby knowing Danielle is on guard - the next two nights the window is closed tight and the only air movement we get is from a noisy portable fan and my snoring.
We wake up and head over to breakfast - I boil up a few eggs, make some toast from fresh baked multi grain bread, have some excellent local cheeses and a fresh croissant with a tart raspberry spread and we share a pot or two of very acceptable coffee. We are ready to face the
”M” steers us to Dieppe.
In August of 1942 the allies failed on an assault (to be known as the Dieppe Raid) of this channel port. Over 5,000 of the 6,000 men were CanadIan.
The raid lasted less than 6 hours - the allies had to retreat. Over 3,600 men were either killed, wounded or captured. The allies lost 106 aircraft, 33 landing craft and 1 destroyer. The Third Reich described the raid as a military joke.
The information gathered from this failed raid however was invaluable in the planning of the D-Day invasion to follow.
We visited Le Memorial du 19/8/1942 museum and the Dieppe Canadian War Memorial in Dieppe - both great tributes.
We also tried for hours to find the Dieppe War Cemetary in Hautot-sur-Mer but “M” was just not up to the task.
On Thursday we visited The Abbaye du Jumièges and spent a few hours driving along the Seine with a quick run into Rouen.
We had supper in town that night at the family run eatery - I have a great salmon in a beschemel sauce with frites and Danielle has a salad - mine
again with a nice Belgium blonde - the nine year old in me likes saying this......
Tomorrow we are off to Calais.
The good - I am sure that my dad carried the emotional scars from the sheer horror of his war experiences with him until he passed away. We were lucky though - his scars did not “outwardly“ ruin his or our lives - he worked hard for his family and his community, he had great friends, he was a good dad - not perfect - who is.
The bad - 41 % of shell shock survivors are more likely to develop circulatory and heart issues. Dad had his first stroke at age 47, his first heart attack at age 58, and his 2nd at age 63 - he underwent quadruple bypass surgery. At the 50th anniversary celebration of D-Day in France dad collapsed during the event and needed an emergency operation performed by President Mitterand’s doctor - a pacemaker was put in and Dad was air lifted home - he died just over a month later - at age 69 - nothing breaks like a heart.
The ugly - it is estimated
that there are over 354,000,000 PTSD sufferers in the world as a direct result of war Living today. As scary as that number is it is estimated that there are even more PTSD sufferers in the world as a direct result of sexual assault - almost all of the sufferers women.
Any traumatic event can cause PTSD - at any age.
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Nothing Breaks like a heart......
Keith, Thanks for these blogs. The description of your dad's plight as well as all the others during this war is heartbreaking. Good to see you have a sense of humour through all of this. I always liked a Belgium blonde (beer that is)… After the war my dad worked in the Belgium Coal mines for a few years before emigrating to Canada. DK
Sal Foran Robusky
Nothing Breaks Like a Heart
Very teary eyed reading about Doug's journey, and what he endured (and others). What strikes me most, is it is so true that despite his trauma, that he could be such a pillar of strength, and a wonderful father, husband, grandfather etc. That is pure inner strength, and that Irish sense of humor served him well! Again, what a tribute Keith to trace this powerful moving journey, and to share it with your kids, and grandchildren. We will continue to look forward to your blogs and your endless search for strong coffee & good directions by "M"!!! (Make sure you check below your blog; quite often your drafts are saved there and not in your actual blog. Trying clicking on them. Hope this helps! (Happy belated birthday to Danielle. Please tell her I emailed her!) Love Sal & Al xox