Members of the Ponoka Legion commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day June 6 at the Cenotaph near the Seniors’ Drop-In Centre.

Members of the Ponoka Legion commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day June 6 at the Cenotaph near the Seniors’ Drop-In Centre.

Legion commemorates 70th anniversary of D-Day

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Ponoka Legion hosted a ceremony June 6 at the Cenotaph

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Ponoka Legion hosted a ceremony June 6 at the Cenotaph by the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre. Dignitaries such as Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox, Mayor Rick Bonnett, Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin and county Coun. Bryce Liddle came to show their respect.

D-Day; one of the most important milestones of the WWII in 1944 was the June 6 invasion of Normandy by Allied forces to gain a tactical advantage over German-occupied western Europe.

Canadians’ involvement on D-Day

Historians recognize the invasion as a major contribution to the Allied victory in the Second World War, but the operation came at a cost: more than 12,000 Allied soldiers died in the effort.

Planning for the operation started almost a year earlier in 1943 and required approximately 156,000 British, U.S. and Canadian troops for the first wave of attacks.

The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, a total of 14,000 soldiers, invaded Juno Beach in coordination with the Normandy invasion and lost 340 in the attack. Another 574 were wounded and historians have stated Juno Beach was one of the most fiercely defended beaches next to Omaha Beach.

Albert Colquhoun, friend of Legion president Sybil Evans, was asked to speak on the events that transpired on that fateful day. Colquhoun said the soldiers’ task was not easy.

“The Allies knew what was waiting for them and they knew it was not going to be pretty,” said Colquhoun .

He provided recollections from soldiers involved, which painted a realistic picture of what they had to endure.

Memoirs from Cliff Chadderton, a soldier with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, discusses the overwhelming task they faced when training. Chadderton says: “The men of the infantry and tank regiments chosen for the invasion simply had to disregard what lay ahead. We just dug in, trained harder, determined to do what some were saying would be impossible.”

For Colquhoun , this was a testament of fortitude. “And if that attitude isn’t emblematic of Canadian resolve, then I don’t know what is,” he said.

He read another memoire from Jim Wilkins of the First Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles B Company. Wilkins explained in grim detail what the first wave of soldiers endured when arriving at Juno Beach.

“Soon we are only 500 yards from the beach and are ordered to get down.  Minutes later the boat stops and begins to toss in the waves. The ramp goes down and without hesitation my section leader, Cpl. John Gibson, jumps out well over his waist in water.  He only makes a few yards and is killed,” stated Wilkins.

Colquhoun said despite the toll on soldiers’ lives, the Canadian troops were able gain tactical advantage on the beach.

“The fighting they endured was fierce and frightening but the outcome was undeniable. This astonishing and brilliant assault had succeeded,” said Colquhoun.

The Last Post and a moment of silence followed the ceremony at the cenotaph. Then Legion members closed the ceremony with refreshments at the Ponoka Legion branch.

Mayor Bonnett feels remembering D-Day is vital. “It’s important for the fact that if they wouldn’t have done that in 1944, we wouldn’t be here now.”

Reeve McLauchlin is proud of the Canadian forces and their dedication that day. “It’s a pivotal moment in World War II.”

MLA Rod Fox suggests that freedom comes at a cost and he feels the Canadian forces were a big part of what made the invasion of Normandy a success. “The lessons of history teach us, guide us and make us stronger.”

Sybil Evans, president of the Legion said this ceremony is something that keeps in line with the Legion’s goal to honour and remember Canadian soldiers. “Lest we forget.”

She is pleased with community support.

“I think as the years go by, it’s not taken for granted anymore,” said Evans.