Remembrance Day will never be the same for 27 travellers from Pemberton and Mt. Currie. In March 2009, we embarked on a Canadian Battlefields Tour in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Our Spring Break Travel Club consisted of nine adults and eighteen students.
We landed in Paris on a beautiful sunny day and took in the city sites, which included Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles.
The palace was where the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the end of WW I in 1918 by the Germans and the Allies to guarantee world peace, establish a League of Nations and prevent such atrocities from happening again. As we all know the treaty was broken when Hitler invaded Poland and started WW II.
Paris is an amazingly beautiful city. It's historic architecture and famous sites make it a must see for everyone at least once in their lives.
We then toured the Normandy region, a landscape of rolling hills and beautiful farmland. This peaceful countryside was also where some of most famous battles of WW I and II took place and it is now home to hundreds of cemeteries and monuments to the soldiers who fought and died here.
Nothing prepared us for the emotions we would experience visiting these sites where our Canadian forefathers battled in two World Wars.
We started at Dieppe where a castle overlooks a beautiful beach. Under the castle is a small memorial park honouring Canadian soldiers who fought, died and were captured during "Operation Jubilee" - a failed raid on the port of Dieppe on August 19, 1942. The object of the raid was to gather intelligence and take out key Nazi defensive positions but Germans knew of their arrival before they came ashore and the stone beach impeded the movement of the tanks and troops. The men were in an impossible situation, and 907 Canadian soldiers were killed and 1,946 were taken prisoner out of 5,000 that landed on Dieppe that day.
Although the cost was high, the lessons most learned were the deficiencies in Allied planning and strategies. Without Dieppe, the planning for the Normandy "D Day" invasion would not have been as comprehensive or successful. The Memorial at Dieppe will forever ensure that the Canadian soldiers who fought and died, were wounded and captured will never be forgotten.
Juno Beach was our next stop on the tour. The Canadian Memorial at the Juno Beach site is an amazing testament to our soldiers. On June 6, 1944 "D-Day", the Third Canadian Infantry Division landed on Juno Beach, part of a larger invasion by the Allied armies of Britain, Canada and the U.S. - not to mention a dozen other nations in supporting roles - who landed on the beaches of Normandy. It was known as "Operation Overlord" and more than 160,000 troops were involved.