Remembering Glengarry and D-Day
BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL
Staff Seventy-five years ago tomorrow – June 6, 1944 – young men from the banks, farms, shops and woodlots of Glengarry took part in the largest seaborne invasion in military history –- Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day.
However, before nightly television news or constantly updated Internet/social media coverage, and during a period of wartime censorship restrictions placed upon all types of private and public correspondence, details of the Normandy beach landings and the subsequent campaign inland were slow to make their way across the Atlantic.
In fact, it wasn’t until three days after the launch of the greatest military invasion the world had ever seen that area residents finally learned that local boys were in the thick of the fighting.
“Glengarry men among invasion troops,” declared the headline across the front page of
on Friday, June 9, although the story acknowledged that information was not yet official.
And it would be three more weeks (the June 30 issue) before the presence and contribution of the local boys in “the great invasion” was officially confirmed by correspondent Ross Munro of
In a report picked up by Mr. Munro wrote of how the “SD&G Highlanders pushed back German armour and infantry” and “won a great name for the regiment in repulsing the strong German drives at Les Buissons (a village taken from the Germans on the morning of June 7).”
Early the previous morning, more than 150,000 troops, predominantly from the British, Canadian and U.S. armed forces, had departed England before landing several hours later on five beaches in the French province of Normandy, initializing the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe which culminated in Germany’s defeat less than a year later.
The massive armada was transported by nearly 7,000 ships of all types, augmented by aerial support and transport from more than 12,000 aircraft.
Almost 22,000 Canadian servicemen took part in the D-Day landing, with the 3rd Canadian Division, along with the 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade, going ashore at Juno Beach between 7:30 a.m. and noon.
Approximately 360 Canadian troops were killed and 574 wounded on D-Day – a figure that was actually less than half of what the operation’s planners had expected.
Although there are no “official” casualty statistics available, the total number of Allied soldiers killed, wounded, missing in action or taken prisoner on D-Day has generally been estimated at around 10,000 – including over 4,400 dead.
Historians have no figures for total German D-Day casualties either, although it’s estimated that between 4,000 and 9,000 enemy soldiers lost their lives on June 6.
During the ensuing two-and-ahalf-months-long post-D-Day Normandy campaign, over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing in action. Over those 10 weeks in the late spring and summer of 1944, local residents continued to learn about the bravery, expertise and ferocity of the boys from Alexandria, Apple Hill, Lancaster, Martintown, Maxville, Williamstown and throughout the remaining expanses of Glengarry as they endured some of the most intense fighting of the war.
Among the stories reaching the home front were those of 24-yearold Pte. John Kennedy of Alexandria – wounded during the ill-fated Dieppe Raid of 1942, and again shortly after the Normandy invasion, only to be killed in action in September 1944; and Pte. James (Jimmy) A. McDonald, another Alexandrian who lost both hands and his left leg during the battle for Caen, and consequently spent the rest of the war at Christie Street Veterans Hospital in Toronto.
Pte. Gordon Lapierre of Lancaster, killed in France on July 15, 1944 – his 19th birthday – provided one of the more poignant stories of this period.
It’s unclear today how many surviving D-Day veterans there are.
However, according to Veterans Affairs Canada, an estimated 41,100 World War II veterans of this country’s armed forces, with an average age of 93, were alive as of March 2018 – approximately 4 per cent of the 1.1 million Canadians in uniform between 1939 and 1945.