Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
June 20, 2024
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Memories of D Day

June 6 is the 80th anniversary of D Day, the turning point of World War II
<p>Front Page of the Picton Gazette, 7 June 1944</p>
Front Page of the Picton Gazette, 7 June 1944

Under cover of darkness, Allied forces landed on shore at Normandy Beach in a long planned invasion of France, beginning with a midnight airborne assault against German guns and mines. British, American and Canadian divisions worked together to orchestrate the attack.

Guy Black, recipient of the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, explains in a letter to the Gazette this week. “The liberation campaign slowly progressed mile by bloody mile across France until Paris was freed on August 25, 1944. In its wake were left countless dead and injured, destroyed towns and cities. Names of places became etched into the memories of the soldiers who fought in battles like Bourguébus Ridge, Carpiquet Airport, Caen, the Falaise ‘Gap,’ Vaucelles, and Verrières Ridge. The campaign to liberate France from its occupiers would end up taking the lives of 5,021 Canadian soldiers.”

The Picton Gazette rolled out its coverage of the invasion over two issues, on 7 and 9 June, shown here on the front pages. The first reports quoted the Allied leaders and commanders: “This noble undertaking,” Eisenhower called it. 

“We will succeed. We will accept nothing but total victory,” said General Montgomery.

“In a speech to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Churchill said the invasion was proceeding according to plan and added, ‘What a plan’.”

“The fighting will be heavy, bitter and costly,” warned Canadian Prime Minister McKenzie King, “Let all hearts be filled with prayer for the invasion and the liberation of enslaved people.” 

The County’s local regiment, the Hasty P’s, were fighting in Italy. By 9 June, the Gazette had found some local connections to the Normandy invasion: “A/B Fred Walden is serving on the H. M. C. S. Sioux, with the invasion fleet,” it reported. 

“A number of other County sailors have been training overseas and are likely part of the great naval armada.” Across the page we learn that “Major Leland Boulter, son of Mrs. G. E. Boulter, Picton, has an important post in connection with the invasion now under way.” He was instructing nurses for D-Day.

Even from Italy, the sense of a turning point in the war is palpable. The Gazette printed a letter from Lieutenant Farley Mowat reporting on the local regiment’s successes: “This has been the finest job done by the Canadians in this war and, maybe, in the last one too. In thirty-six hours our division smashed, overran and passed through the line which the Germans said was as impregnable as the Maginot was not. Today I have examined some of the fortifications. That flesh-and-blood men could crack that line is purely a miracle.” (Read Mowat’s letter in full at “From the Archives” at our website.)

Despite all the action and excitement abroad, ordinary life in the County carries on in the pages of the Gazette in wartime. 

In addition to news of the war there are reports of damage to buildings in a storm, a golden wedding anniversary, the purchase of a bull and a heifer, a bridge competition, the hardball league, a vaccination clinic, and an increase in canning-crop acreage. These are the very things that our soldiers were fighting to protect on D-Day. That we still have them, inspires enormous gratitude for their sacrifices.

As Mr. Black notes, “The number of war veterans who fought in the liberation campaign has steadily declined as the years have passed. Fortunately, some of these remarkable old soldiers are still living. They are resilient people who followed a path of duty, endured hardship, faced danger and experienced things we could never imagine. Through the National Order of the Legion of Honour medal program, the Embassy of France in Canada continues to bestow their nation’s highest medal to our veterans who are proudly known as the liberators of France.” 

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 23 edition of The Picton Gazette
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