60th Anniversary SAR Battlefield Tour - 2005

Thursday, April 21

Juno Beach EntranceAfter an early breakfast the buses loaded for Caen. It was morning traffic on the Paris Ring road so everyone watched the city creeping past. Paris is remarkably clean but some places along here needed some cleanup.

Once out into the country it was beautiful, the fields growing crops, trees in leaf, and flowers here and there. The season was much more advanced than back in Canada. At one point we watched one of our buses go a different route from the other. Interesting! We stopped at Caen to pick up Dr. Jean Pierre Benamou.

Dr. Benamou and General Graham HollandsThe air was hazy as the buses pulled up to the Juno Beach Museum overlooking Juno Beach. For me it was a disappointment. It was a poorly designed building, representing nothing, unless it was one of the destroyed gun bunkers. Inside there was the usual display of mannequins dressed in a variety of uniforms with assorted war time items around them. I had expected more for such an important location.

The group toured the museum and then walked to the beaches where they could see how well the German Army could control the landing points on the beach. There was little else for the Allies to do but walk into blistering enemy fire and hope to get through. Twenty one thousand Canadians made the march, spread across 6 miles of beach that surrounded the little town of Courseulles-sur-Mer. The group was fortunate indeed to have with them Dr. Jean Pierre Benamou and Major General Graham Hollands. Mr. Benamou has been a friend of the Canadians for many years and his interpretive skills were excellent.

Later the veterans posed in front of a tank from the Ist Hussars which recently was retrieved from the ocean and placed in town with several plaques attached to it.

The tour proceeded higher up the hill where, from the cliffs, they could see the Mullberries, the huge structures that were towed from England to act as harbours in a land where there were no welcoming ports.

At the War cemetery at Benny Sur Mer they took time to visit and lay a wreath for the fallen comrades.

Benny Sur Mir Cemetery, Abbaye Ardennes where several Canadian prisoners were shot in the back of the head, Plaque at Abbaye Ardennes

After driving across the quiet countryside the buses arrived at Abbaye Ardennes which is a complex of huge stone buildings. The Abby had been taken over by the Germans. When they had to retreat because of the Allies moving in, Kurt Meyer's troops took several Canadian prisoners outside and shot them in the back of the head. A large plaque lists the names of those found.