June 6th marks the 65th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. I’m hardly the first to note it, but as a Canadian and someone with an interest in military history, I feel obliged.
I’ve also been to Normandy, in May 1997 on one of my backpacking trips around Europe. Three of us rented a little Renault and visited Omaha Beach with it’s cliffs and huge American cemetary, Juno (the Canadian beach) with it’s infamous seawall, and a few kilometres inland from Juno, the first of the Canadian WW2 cemetaries, maintained by the Commonwealth Wargraves Commission to it’s usual impecable standards. That first Canadian cemetary is out on a side road these days, amongst the grain fields, and very quiet. Every grave had a flowering plant at the base of the headstone, and the plantings along the front wall were in full flower. It wasn’t a grand stone memorial like Vimy Ridge or the Menin Gate, but in it’s own way it was as spectacular and fitting.
Image courtesy Wikipedia – Canadian troops of W Beach Commando inbound to Juno Beach, morning of June 6 1944. I can’t help but wonder how many of the men in this photo are resting under those flowers in Normandy.