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Boomers pay their respects at Beny-sur-Mer 70 years later

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A circular patch of grass in the garden adjacent to Abbey D'Ardennes marks the spot where the remains of murdered Canadian soldiers were found.

A circular patch of grass in the garden adjacent to Abbey D’Ardennes commemorates the spot where the remains of murdered Canadian soldiers were found.

In September my husband and I spent two weeks in France and Belgium feeding our appetites for history, French wine and travel with the emphasis on history. Until this year I had been unable to source a tour that offered visits specifically to Canadian memorial sites related to World War I and World War II. The river cruises didn’t meet our criteria. After I mentioned my requirement to Lola Stoker of Cruise Holidays.com (lstoker@cruiseholidays.com)  she called me several weeks later to inform me of the perfect tour. It began with a few days in Paris followed by eight days touring Canadian war sites in northwestern France and Belgium by motor coach and returning to spend a few more days in Paris before returning home.

In addition to visits to the usual Paris landmarks, our itinerary included stops at Monet’s Giverney, Caen where the Canadians traveled inland within twenty-four hours of landing on Juno Beach on D-Day, Juno Beach and Gold Beach, Dieppe, Pegasus Bridge, Honfleur, Amiens, Somme area, Vimy Ridge, Ypres Belgium, Passchendaele, Essex Farm Cemetery (where Dr. John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields), as well as numerous Canadian war cemeteries, museums and monuments. Many people on the motor coach with us were Canadian Baby Boomers who had a grandfather, father or uncle who was a veteran of one of the wars who had a personal stake in what we were witnessing.The trip included many memorable moments but with Remembrance Day approaching, I would like to share one particular event that deeply touched each of the forty-two people on our tour.

Pictures and details about each murdered Canadian soldier are permanently installed on the wall of the monastery garden.

Pictures and details about each murdered Canadian soldier are permanently installed on the wall of the monastery garden.

One of our first visits was to the Abbey D’Ardennes near Caen. Making their way inland on D-Day, the Canadian North Nova Scotia Highlanders were the only Allied forces to achieve their objective but when they reached the Abbey they did not have the backup support they expected. The Abbey was occupied by elite Nazi SS soldiers under the command of Kurt Meyer SS-Brigadeführer Generalmajor der Waffen-SS who captured the Canadians in a section of the monastery. Meyer ordered the illegal execution of the prisoners and their bodies were not found until after the war when the wife of a neighbouring farmer turned up the remains while planting flowers in the abbey grounds. Each had been shot in the back of the head.

As we were walking from the monastery to the adjoining garden, the lady walking beside me, quietly said, “My husband was one of those soldiers who was in the area that day.” She then went on to describe how her husband, along with other Canadian soldiers hid in the wheat field next to the monastery while the German SS soldiers scoured the fields looking for them and shooting and bayoneting them until there were no survivors. Her husband, one of three soldiers who survived by playing dead for three days, then worked their way slowly through the fields until they encountered a British transport.

The monument in the garden at Beny-sur-Mer to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.

The monument in the garden at Beny-sur-Mer to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders murdered on June 7, 1944.

When they asked for a ride, they were informed that there was no room. The transport proceeded without them and was blown up further along the road killing everyone aboard. It took a few days for her husband and the other two soldiers to regroup with the North Shoreman division as the North Nova Scotia Highlanders had been decimated. He went to the padre to see if they notified his parents. The padre said no but if he  hadn’t shown up by that evening they were going to send a telegram . Her husband had planned to accompany her on this trip but passed away earlier in the year, so one of their five daughters traveled with her mother on this special journey.

As the story was related to the group, a spontaneous silence descended over our group for several minutes, followed by the placing of poppies and Canadian flags on the memorial. The owners of the adjoining farm are the same family who lived there on June 7, 1944 and who found the remains. They fly a large Canadian flag at their gate and still tend the gardens and monument. The spot in the garden where the bodies of the murdered Canadians were found is now sacred ground and there is memorial to them as well as pictures of each soldier permanently mounted on the wall of the monastery.

Kurt Meyer was eventually tried in a Canadian court for the murders and served eight years of a life sentence before he was released and returned to Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Lynda Davis

As an early Baby Boomer, born in 1947, it seems to me that as we approach our retirement years, Boomers have gone from being the energy driving our nation to slowly becoming invisible. We risk losing our identity as society remains stubbornly youth-centric. And the irony is that Gen Xers and Ys are not the majority; we are. BOOMERBROADcast is my platform for being the voice of Baby Boomers, women in particular. We've generated a lot of changes over the decades but there's still a long way to go. After a 40-year career in the corporate world, I've taken up expressing the observations and concerns of our generation. Instead of pounding the pavement in my bellbottoms with a cardboard sign, I'm pounding my laptop (I learned to type on a manual typewriter and old habits die hard). If you have issues or concerns you would like voiced or have comments on what I've voiced, I'd love to hear from you. We started breaking the rules in the sixties and now that we're in our sixties it's no time to become complacent. Hope you'll stay tuned and if you like BOOMERBROADcast, share it with your friends. Let's rock n' roll! If you would like to be notified whenever I publish a new posting, click on the little blue box in the lower right of your screen that says +Follow→ Lynda Davis

6 thoughts on “Boomers pay their respects at Beny-sur-Mer 70 years later

  1. Pingback: Boomers pay their respects at Beny-sur-Mer 70 years later | BOOMERBROADcast

  2. Thanks Lynda for sharing. It was truly moving to meet and be included in their story. Thanks Yvonne and Trish.
    Carla and Les Gray

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  3. That sound fabulous, Lynda. My great uncle died at Vimy Ridge, and my dad served as a Major overseas, landing after D Day and circulating in behind retreating forces. He never wanted to talk about it…so I have learned what I could from books and tv. I have been to that area once…time to go back soon…Good for you.

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  4. Great memories!

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  5. A beautifully written piece. Let us all make sure we wear our poppies and observe those two minutes of silence on November 11. It’s the very least we can do.

    Like

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