Today we went to the D Day Academy to get a firsthand experience of some of the weaponry and machinery used in the European Theatre. The gentleman who runs it, Jean-Pierre, was very nice and encouraged us to pick up guns and climb over the vehicles. I love that sort of stuff, so I was really in my element. My favourite pieces of the collection were the MG-42, the Panzerschrek, the anti-aircraft gun that still swung around, and the ride in the field command truck. He also had a large cross of Lorraine French flag, which I’ve been looking for while here. One of the men there told me that I likely will not find one, and I’m better off making my own. In a way, that makes it more authentic considering the Free French would have had to make their own as well.
We made many stops throughout the day, but the one that sticks with me the most is the Abbaye d’Ardenne. Twenty Canadian prisoners of war were executed there by the 12th SS Hitlerjugend in the days following D-Day. The mood inside the courtyard was somber and eerie, and made more so by the dreary, rainy weather. When we walked out the courtyard, we heard a trumpeter playing Last Post and Reveille from the monument across the wall. Everyone in the group instinctively came to a halt to listen. I think everyone felt the same thing I did; a profound sense of loss and respect for those men. We all paid our respects with an impromptu moment of silence after the trumpet had gone quiet. This was truly a moving experience, and one we shared collectively.
Lastly, I got to do my first presentation, which was on the North Shore Regiment at Carpiquet. I used an old essay I wrote in my undergrad as the basis, and used Marc Milner’s book D Day to Carpiquet for additional information and a quote that contradicts the prevailing narrative that the battle (part of Operation Windsor) was a failure. Despite the rain, I think it went well. Overall it was a fantastic day. I’m looking forward to the D-Day ceremonies in a few days!
— Josh Sheppard