Little-Known Photos of Canadians During D-Day

 
Canadians entrusted with capturing and holding “Juno” beach
Canadians entrusted with capturing and holding “Juno” beach
 
SHARE:

Operation Overlord, with its landing phase that was code-named Neptune, became known as one of the crucial events of the Second World War, for it marked the beginning of the liberation of France and paved the way for the liberation of the whole of Western Europe.

However, while the iconic invasion is usually associated with the American landing forces, Canadian involvement in the conflict sometimes remains unfairly neglected, although they were the third biggest contributor to the Allied war effort, second only to the British.

The first minutes of the battle proved to be the bloodiest, with the Germans determined to hold their ground.

This is partly due to the fact that the beachhead codenamed “Omaha,” which was designated for landing by U.S. troops, took the heaviest toll in terms of casualties.

The Royal Winnipeg Rifles heading towards Juno aboard LCAs
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles heading towards Juno aboard LCAs

Some sources claim that the invasion forces there suffered more than 5,000 dead and wounded.

Canadian troops moving towards Juno
Canadian troops moving towards Juno

On the other hand, the Canadians entrusted with capturing and holding “Juno” beach played a crucial role in connecting the British beachheads “Gold” and “Sword,” thus forming a united foothold on the beaches of Normandy.

Soldiers of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade deploying in Nan White Sector
Soldiers of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade deploying in Nan White Sector

In order to fulfill their task, the Canadians amassed a formidable force of 14,000 soldiers supported by 110 warships, as well as 15 aircraft of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The ground forces were part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, led by Major General Rodney Keller.

The Royal Winnipeg Rifles advance inland on D-Day.
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles advance inland on D-Day.

Their objective: cut the Caen-Bayeux road, seize the Carpiquet-airport west of Caen, and finally form a link between the two British beaches on their flanks.

The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada dug in at the end of D-Day near Carpiquet.
The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada dug in at the end of D-Day near Carpiquet.

Just before midnight on June 5th, the Canadian Royal Air Force began bombing runs on German coastal defenses. However, due to poor visibility, their efforts barely scratched the infamous Atlantic Wall in the Juno sector.

Allied soldiers guarding German prisoners on Juno
Allied soldiers guarding German prisoners on Juno

On the morning of the following day, the first landing force, consisting of the men of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, was set to wreak havoc in coordination with other Allied troops along the coast of Normandy.

Personnel of Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando W land on Mike Beach sector of Juno Beach, 6 June 1944
Personnel of Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando W land on Mike Beach sector of Juno Beach, 6 June 1944

They were immediately met with harsh resistance from two battalions of the Germans’ 716th Infantry division, which were later joined by elements of the 21st Panzer Division stationed near Caen.

Corporal W. Nichorster of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals examines the telephone switchboard in the underground bunker of a German radar station at Beny-sur-Mer. Although the site was originally intended to be taken on D-Day, a series of problems delayed its capture until 11 June.
Corporal W. Nichorster of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals examines the telephone switchboard in the underground bunker of a German radar station at Beny-sur-Mer. Although the site was originally intended to be taken on D-Day, a series of problems delayed its capture until 11 June.

The first minutes of the battle proved to be the bloodiest, with the Germans determined to hold their ground.

Canadian soldiers with a captured Nazi flag
Canadian soldiers with a captured Nazi flag

As the landing progressed the Canadians were able to turn the battle in their favor, but at a heavy price. While the estimated total of Allied casualties during the first phase of the campaign is numbered around 10,000, 1,074 belonged to the Canadian Army.

Read another story from us: A Mad Major: The Canadian Hero Who Captured A City

Omaha on the afternoon of D-Day
Omaha on the afternoon of D-Day

Out of that 1,074 personnel, 359 gave their lives fighting on Juno beach, thus opening a front in Western Europe which proved to be the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.

 
© Copyright 2020 - War History Online