Storming the Beaching of Normandy

There was only one real reason to go to northern France and it was the Beaches of Normandy. After four years of studying war history at Dalhousie University, I wanted to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought and gave their lives for our freedom. Juno Beach, the only Canadian sector, allowed me to re-live the pitiless battles fought by the Canadian Infantry and mindfully walked the beaches in the soldiers’ honor. Juno Beach is sometimes referred to as the Canadian beach because of the Canadian Division capturing the beach on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. The Canadian history, the sandy beaches, and the museum made Juno Beach a fascinating visit. It was a quiet, reflective day that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.

The Juno Beach Centre commemorated the sacrifices of Canadian Second World War veterans. It was both educational and enjoyable. Greeted by a fully Canadian staff, we were directed to a short video presentation to put us in the shoes of the soldiers. We spent an effortless hour touring the centre. The dramatic sound clips and the extensive collection of war memorabilia brought the war effort to life. The collection of letters from veterans was a piece of history that added to the overall effect.

As we stepped out of the building with the stories of Canadian soldiers fresh in our minds, the beach came alive. I imagined the naval ships approaching the horizon and the guns firing in all directions. I pictured a camouflaged helicopter hovering over the ocean and paratroopers dropping to their deaths. Just looking at the now tranquil beach was hardly a reminder of the events that unfolded on the grounds. Without the aid of the Juno Beach Centre tour, I would have seen the beach in a different, brighter light. The tour was a reminder of the devastation of the D-Day landing. The Juno Beach Centre’s real impact lies not in the visuals that it provides, but in the mental images it helps to create.

After spending four hours at Juno Beach, we waited for the bus back to the campground. The poppies that lined the streets were a reminder of sacrifice and, with tears in my eyes, I pulled a couple of them from the ground. . I pressed them in a book that we were carrying in our backpack because I wanted to be reminded forever of the sacrifices that were made before me.

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18 thoughts on “Storming the Beaching of Normandy

    • It was something that I wish all students could experience to appreciate and understand the pitfalls and sacrifices of war.

      France is a beautiful country with a vast history beyond Paris.

      Please keep reading and keep commenting; it is appreciated.

      Lesley

      • Thank you for saying that and keep spreading the word… Hearing “Oh I love Paris!” every time you say you’re French is getting annoying. There is so much more to see!
        And your blog is great! It makes me wanna travel even more! :D

  1. What an amazing experience! I would love to visit some of these historic battlefields. You mention letters.. I have a letter written by my uncle, who was serving in the Royal Navy, to my mother for her 10th birthday in 1917. The next year his ship hit a mine and he was lost, age 20. My mother adored him, as evidenced by the fact that she kept that letter for the rest of her life. So precious.

    • It was a humbling experience that changes the way you view the freedom of your life. As a former teacher, I wish every student had the opportunity to visit the beaches of Normandy.

      I love your photo in High Flight. Great shot!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment; it is appreciated.

      Lesley

    • At four months pregnant, the baby has already changed my life so much. Everyday I feel blessed that I will soon be a mother.

      I can only hope that my baby girl with have the same passion for travel and new experience as her mother and father.

      Good luck with your blog,

      Lesley

  2. Wow this is so interesting. I just got back from a wedding in Normandy a few weeks ago but we did not experience any of the historic points of interest in the area. That said we did get to explore many, long, beautiful beaches and cafes and ohhh the french food!!

  3. Many years ago I accompanied a group of war veterans to Normandy, One of the highlights for me was seeing the Pegasus Bridge, one of the first sites to be captured beyond the beaches by the Allied soldiers who had arrived by glider. The war cemeteries are truely humbling, so many graves of so many young people, It was hard not to shed a tear as the old soldiers looked for lost companions amongst the headstones

    • It must have been a humbling experience that I’m sure you will not soon forget. With most of our WWI and WWII veterans no longer with us, you had an experience that very few will get to have. I admire your respect and remembrance.

      Thanks for sharing,

      Lesley

  4. Hi Lesley,

    I’ve got history degrees too and it changes the way you see the world! I have a long term plan for northern France, the coast yes, but also Canadian battlefield/cemetary tour! I really need to get to Vimy Ridge for example and take my son, who is also a buff. It must be genetic. Thanks for your like, it led me to your blog and to share in your adventures! Much happiness with all you pursue.

    Best,
    Maija

  5. Hello, Lesley.
    I’ve just read about your experience on the D Day Landing beaches and I see it had a profound effect on both of us. My husband and I went there in October 2010 and the overwhelming feeling for sadness and gratitude to those amazing brave young men will live with me forever: I still can’t get over Omaha Beach Cemetery with its thousands of crosses and the wall dedicated to the ‘unknown’ soldiers.
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you.

  6. Thank you for reading my post but thank you even more for your photos and comments about Juno Beach. My husband and I are going there in September and you have reinforced my desire to go there.

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