Sunday, June 7, 2015

71 Years After D-day : Juno Beach - France 2014

Yesterday I remembered that June 6th is the anniversary of D-day and 2015 marks its 71st anniversary.  Last year, the 70th anniversary, was a large event celebrated all over France, Great Britain, the US and Canada.
We had the pleasure of visiting Canada's D-day beach, Juno,  last year during these commemorations while we were visiting Normandy.  I'd love to share these thought-provoking pictures with you today. 
Canada's JUNO BEACH CENTRE opened in June 2003 after nearly 20 years of fund-raising.  It receives no funding from the Canadian or French government so it runs completely on donations and legacies left by those who love it and want to see its work continued. 
"Remembrance and Renewal" by Colin Gibson
"The sculpture features five military figures that wrap in a circular formation look outward, into the distance. The massive figures blend into one another, accentuating the unity and comradeship of those who served Canada at home and abroad. The figures are posed to reflect different emotions, in keeping with their individual gestures. One figure depicts leadership, one strength, another vigour and alertness, while still another looks sombre and reflective. A final figure is stepping forward to assist a comrade."  (

While on the peaceful, seaweed-covered beach, it was hard to imagine the death and strife that once played out here.  The stone sculpture above is an "inukshuk," built often by Canada's native people of the north who use it is a symbol that marks "man has been here."
These words were read to the Canadian soldiers as their landing boats traveled towards the French shore.  Oh, the fear these men must have felt.....

Right on the beach we were able to climb onto a sinking German bunker that is slowly slipping into the sand.  These nearly bomb-proof buildings gave safety to the Nazis as they protected the "Atlantic wall," their hold on the shores of Europe. 
Another German bunker, recently found when a dog dug a hole into the sand, has been cleaned out by volunteers and is now available to visit.  It was far from cosy in here and little to no natural light ever entered.  The hole in the outside wall was "fake ventilation"  into which Allied forces dropped grenades in hopes of killing the men inside.  Instead, the grenade would roll right out another hole at the feet of the Allied soldier and likely kill him within seconds.
After touring the bunkers, beach and centre, we decided the next, very important place to visit was the Canadian D-day Cemetery in nearby BENY-SUR-MER. The land was gifted to Canada by the French people in thanks for Canada's role in France's liberation.
Here lies the resting place of 2049 soldiers,  surrounded by Canadian pines and maples.
The main goal of visiting Juno Beach and its nearby cemetery was to give our three children a better understanding of our veterans, Remembrance Day, and the real reasons why we should always "remember." My husband and I were moved by how seriously all three children behaved and how even they seemed changed by the experience.
 The rows of grave markers went on and on. The children looked for family names they recognized - we found a Pearson (my maiden name) and even a McConvey (our family name.)
The plots are kept impeccably by a Canadian gardener and a team of thankful locals.  It really was a beautifully moving spot.
Lest we forget....

I hoped I would find poppies growing amongst the stones like in the famous images I've often seen of war-time France.  None grew in the maintained gardens around the grave stones, but nearby, just past the outer rows of pine trees, I found several wild patches of blood-coloured poppies blowing in the wind. 

This poem was scripted in a dark room at the end of the Juno Beach Centre museum.  Hanging beside it is one of the original crosses used to mark the earliest resting places of the departed D-day soldiers on the beach. 
Now it hangs inside as a poignant reminder that we should never forget......
We will remember them....


  1. How chilling - shoot at anything moving. It's hard to imagine how awful it must have been.

    1. I can't even imagine..... We are very lucky that we live in much more peaceful times (at least in our part of the world!)

  2. Replies
    1. It IS important to think of those who lost their lives at times other than Remembrance Day.

  3. A very poignant post. Yes, we will always remember them!

  4. what an incredibly moving post. I think everyone should go and visit there....

    1. It was wonderful. Beautiful, and eye-opening - and now we all have a better understanding of war, too.

  5. Beautiful pictures Bronwyn! Such an important message and so very important that we never forget xx

    1. This outing has really opened my eyes. I will never look at war the same way again....


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