Canadians On D-Day 70 Years Ago


  Today, I pay tribute to the men of the Canadian Third Division who got through the Atlantic Wall. There were several regiments in the assault wave, but I know these men from the Queen’s Own Rifles best. They represent the finest of Canada. All are gone now. Herman Stock and James Catling died that day. Bert Shepherd, Charlie Martin and Bill Bettridge survived the war with “Boots” Bettridge passing away last when he was 91. They, and all the Canadians were volunteers.

    These men were the “poor bloody infantry” who, without support, breached the Atlantic Wall. Bill Bettridge said they used to joke about the big BB, the great Blood Bath that D-Day would be.

    The German defensive wall was based on mutually supporting Widerstandsnests or Resistance Nests of varying sizes. One company of the Queen’s Own Rifles landed in front of five of them by a mistake in navigation of the landing craft crew.

    In spite of the movie depictions, the 400 assault troops of the Queen’s Own Rifles landed unsupported by air or naval power on a very broad front. In fact, none of the Resistance Nests had been damaged let alone neutralized. The Poor Bloody Infantry did it alone.

     As bad as D-Day was, the Battle of Normandy was worse. During the almost 80 days of combat before the German Army in Normandy was defeated, the Allied armies suffered over twice the daily casualties as the British and Canadians suffered in one of the big BBs of World War 1, Passchendaele. Hundreds of Canadian prisoners of war were executed by the Germans.

    A Canadian officer visited Normandy before the war was over. He said, with supreme confidence, “If my boys held those positions, nobody would have gotten through.”

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   Jim Catling’s dedication says, “Happy, smiling and content. Loved and respected wherever he went. Sweet memories left behind.”

   James Catling was killed by machine gun fire as he crossed a light railroad track. He had a hand on the far track as if trying to pull himself forward.

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    Herman Stock, a Bren Gunner, was one of the first through the wire and one of the first to fall inland.

     Looking through the cemetery of the Queen’s Own who fell on D-Day gives some idea of the sacrifice. There are 60 graves.

    To those men of 70 years ago. Well done.



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