June 3, 2019: Exploring the American Sector

Today was a different sort of day than most of the ones we’ve had so far on the tour. We started at the La Cambe German Cemetery and that was a very tough place for everyone to visit. There was a heavy, sad feeling about the place and we all struggled with different emotions and reconciling the idea of having a memorial in the form of a cemetery (resting place) for the men who fought under Hitler’s Nazi regime during the war. We all felt silent and heavy after that site.

We visited several American sites today as well. The first was Pointe du Hoc, an American memorial full of war re-enactors in costume and actual American and German soldiers visiting for D-Day 75. Pointe du Hoc was a fascinating site with German bunkers and gun batteries scattered along the sea cliffs, which we could climb in and explore. It helped to give a better idea of the difficulty of the objectives on D-Day given the tight German defensive positions along the Atlantic wall.


Next we visited the American Cemetery at Normandy, where nine Canadians were buried after the American invasion on Omaha Beach. We were unable to walk through the cemetery as it was cordoned off but the sheer size of it was still impressive. We also saw Osprey V-22’s and Blackhawks flying back and forth overhead that was impressive as well. The Operation Overlord Museum was also very interesting and the exhibits were put together really well.

We ended the day of exploring in Bayeux. We got to see the Bayeux Tapestry and it was beautiful. It is amazing that something so frail has survived as long as it has to be viewed by us today. It was very special to be able to see it in person.

—Haley Kloosterhof


2 June: Normandy, Juno, and Commemoration

Today marks Day 9 of our battlefield adventure, and in spite of our aching feet, overfilled brains, and some sweltering heat, we’ve (mostly) remained happy and eager to continue our great learning experience by visiting more sites and sharing more history. As seen in the past couple blog posts, we’ve now fully transitioned to a focus on the Second World War, and right now we’re studying the invasion of Normandy in the summer of 1944. While we’re coming from a Canadian-oriented point of view, we are also trying to approach the historical events from a wider range of perspectives. We began today at the Longues-sur-mer Battery, in order to better visualize the German defences on the French coast at the time. Then, we visited the Arromanches museum to garner a wider understanding of the whole Allied operation. Following those stops, though, we visited some important Canadian sites of commemoration: Juno Beach and the Juno Beach Centre. The beach today is largely a place for tourists, for lounging in the sun, for kids to build sand-castles and play in the water; looking at the shoreline, and seeing those contemporary activities, it’s hard to imagine that same beach 75 years ago, when thousands of soldiers lost their lives. To commemorate that, though, are plaques, monuments, signs, and flags; moreover, there are bunkers and, of course, the Juno Beach Centre. All these items raise questions on how commemoration works, especially concerning popular historical memory. Why were these places chosen, and who decided? Why this monument, or this preserved site? Why these interpretations, instead of others? How much goes unsaid?

How history is shaped today, through monuments, historic sites and interpretive centres, impacts how history will be taught years from now. That responsibility, then, to be as accurate, as effective, and as respectful as possible, is an issue that all historians have to grapple with. As we wandered those spaces today, I know that many of us were considering these issues. Hopefully, we will carry those ideas with us into our futures.                       

Cora Jackson

June 1st 2019

This morning we woke to a beautiful morning in Dieppe. When we were loading the vans, we realized that the right side mirror on one of our vans had been stolen. Despite that mishap, it did not put too big of a damper on the day. We had our morning briefing on top of a hill overlooking ‘Green beach’.

As we drove along the highway we stopped at a Canadian cemetery in Pourville. This picturesque town was home to Monet at one point in time. We also stopped at several cemeteries visiting soldiers from RCAF 403 Squadron.

Next we stopped at a monument in Veraville, which was commemorating the 1st Canadian parachute battalion who landed in the early morning of D-day.

From there we made our way to Pegasus Bridge in Bénouville. There we took part in the museum, where Cpl. Frederick George Topham, of the 1st Canadian parachute battalion was honoured. There was a photo, his biography, and his medals, including his Victoria Cross.

Within the city of Bénouville we got our first taste of the D-Day ‘festivities’ as the streets were filled with a mix of international visitors. We saw many people in uniform, and some had original outfitted vehicles.

Our last stop of the day was at a massive store. There we did groceries for the next few days of which we will be spending at the Moulin Morin.

— Sophie Cyr

My Juno Experience

Second day of Normandy. After going to see the parachute divisions side of the D-Day landings, it was time to move onto the beaches. We started off by seeing the Longeau Battery, where I experienced my first ever time of seeing WW2 beaches. There were 4 massive gun stations, with a central command bunker that we also explored. There were only a dozen chunks of concrete taken out the of bunker, which shower just how thick and strong that concrete would be for the battleships to make essentially no damage. After the cliffs, we went to the Port Arromanches museum, where I learned for the first time about the man-made port used by the allies to reach the shore; this was one of the most interesting facts that I have learned so far, to see how much innovation and technique was used by the engineers and planners to map out this attack left my mind bewildered. After 2 informative videos on the D-Day landings, we moved onto Juno Beach. We learned about the different construction levels of the bunkers at the beach, and the visitors center had a very emotional video at the end to show the continuation of the war’s memory. If I had to pick a moment from the day that hit me hardest for the realization of what this tour means to me, it was the end of the video where it stated that on Juno Beach they (soldiers) walk with us (civilians). The video spoke on the important matter of, not only being told these stories of the world wars but also, experiencing the history and passing it on to future generations – to make sure that they will never be forgotten. To conclude, after giving my three presentations and physcially seeing the places that were taught to me over the years, I get it now. I understand it. I see how it is our duty to take in these experiences, stories, take the pictures, to pass them on to others to make sure that these men and women have their lives continue on in their memory.

Ellen Dombowsky