France 165 - Juno Beach and the Canadians/ two young Canadian guides/Boxing Day /Meilleurs Voeux


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Europe » France » Lower Normandy » Courseulles-Sur-Mer
January 3rd 2020
Published: January 3rd 2020
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Boxing Day does not get a mention in France . It is back to normal . It is business as usual . Time for us to move on for another war themed visit. Time to wish you all a Meilleurs Voeux. This time to a site that was synonimous with the Canadian forces and their p art in WW2. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 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. It must have been as horrific as everywhere else along that bit of coastline . At Juno Beach the Canadian troops stormed ashore in the face of fierce opposition from German strongholds and mined beach obstacles. They like other soldiers s raced across the wide-open beaches swept with machine gun fire and they stormed the gun positions. There was as expected fierce hand to hand combat before they fought their way to various towns and liberated them. 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach , 340 lost their lives and a further 574 were wounded. Another high price to pay.

We were trying to bet to the Canadian World War 2 museum in the town of Courseulles Sur Mer. Silly had one idea . She took us around the pretty harbour and back around again. She took us to a derelict plot of land. She even tried a road we needed a permit to drive on. In the end intuition came to our rescue. We could as always see what we wanted to get to . We just had to work out how to do it on the one way system. Round again we went , back to where we had started but this time we took over. Down one street, up another . We were finally in the right place. As always at time of the year the car park which was massive was fairly empty. We virtually had the museum grounds to ourselves .

So what did we see ? A modern building surrounded by blue and silver what looked like pods. A very modern sculpture with not much form but with imagination it was quite moving. The museum like many others along this coastline was built to give visitors a better understanding of the contribution of Canada in the 2nd World War . It was showcasing Canadian values and culture and telling a story about the War and displaying temporary exhibits . It was going to be a different perspective on the same war. A war through the eyes of a different country. This would be interesting .

The first thing that caught our eyes were the blue and silver that shimmered in the light . Each stack was a single name of a soldier lost to the Canadian forces . A memorial not in stone but aluminium. So many names. The idea of the bricks started some years ago when the town gave the land to the Canadians to build their museum on a site in the area. Brick by brick fundraising begain with big outfits such as Walmart contributing . It took 20 years to fundraise enough to raise the building. We walked inside to a very warm welcome . French with a Canadian accent . The young lady on the counter and the young lad were here working . Paid by the french government they were recruited to represent Canada in France. They were knowledgeable. They needed a degree. They worked for a few seasons and were given a shared house in the town. They needed good customer service skills and needed a vast historical knowledge of Canada , its history and its culture. They were good . They dug the underground workings out and they taught the schoolchildren .

The young guy led us first to a exhibition on the role women played during the war . From knitting bonnets at home for the troops to being shot for spying . The women on Canada had done most things. We read board after board about individual Canadian women who gave their lives working for the resitance , nurses , women who helped the war effort at home, It was both humbling and inspiring .

We were then led to the cinema . We were told we would experience what it was like for those soldiers landing on the beach. We would be in a landing craft with the waves threating to engulf us . We would land and hear the same carcophany of sound that they heard. The film " They will walk with you" did indeed do everything they said it would. We felt the waves . We saw the landing craft opening and we walked on the beach with all that gunfire whistling over our heads . If it didnt feel real before then this made up for it.

As our doors opened we entered the museum. It was smaller than many we had been in . Display cases lined the walls . Some artifacts different than we had seen before . Wool spun for the war effort . Those hoods the women knitted . Red Cross parcels . Clothest sent for the children who found themselves homeless . Everyday items but with meaning .

We left with our thoughts going around our heads. Who thought that this holiday would provide us with one of our most precious moments . I had expected it to be good. But this exceeded every expectation many times over.

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