Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lest We Forget

This past Friday, November 11, I had the honour and privilege of going to Juno Beach in Normandy, France, for Remembrance Day. After staying over in Caen, a city just inland of the beach, my friends and I caught a green line bus with a few other Canadians to  Corseulles-sur-Mer, the town where Juno Beach is located.
After researching online, I found out that there was a Canadian Museum called the Centre Juno Beach, and that they would be having a Canadian Remembrance Day ceremony at 3pm on November 11. Obviously we had to make it!
When we first arrived, we took a moment to walk along the beach and enjoy the sights. It is very different seeing the beach and knowing what happened there on the morning of 6 June 1944... it is really a gorgeous beach, so therefore very difficult to imagine the horrors that took place there!
Posing with the Canadian and French flags

Centre Juno Beach

Juno Beach

Me and Juno Beach
After we took in the sights, we made our way to the center to look around a bit before the ceremony started. Outside of the center, there are all of these plaques that people/groups who have donated to the center can purchase. I actually found one from home, from the place where my Dad (and basically my whole town) works.
Pretty neat!
Before the ceremony, we had time to quickly view a temporary exhibit and watch a short video that takes images from the archives of Canada and tries to show what it was like for our soldiers who landed on the beaches. It was very well done.
The ceremony took place outside, and I must say that it was one of the best ceremonies that I have ever been to. Maybe it was because I was in France and hadn't had much exposure to Canadian traditions in a few months, but all in all it was very well done. And it had been a while since I had seen so many Canadians!
We began with a song by a boys' choir from a Toronto School. They were excellent! They sang two songs during the ceremony, the first one and then Amazing Grace at another point. After, there was a welcome (in France and English) from the director of the center. She pointed out some important people who were attending, such as the mayor of the town, the Toronto group, the representatives of the First People's of Canada, and some Afghanistan veterans. She also pointed out an older gentleman, who was a Polish soldier during WWII but was now a French citizen. He had actually fought in the Battle of Normandy! When she recognized him, everyone clapped and he stood up and shook his hands together for everyone. It was pretty remarkable, and I found that he received a warmer welcome here than our veterans at home. Makes you realize how little we are actually appreciating what they did! After the welcome, there was the second song by the choir, some speeches, and then the Last Post. They also read the Act of Remembrance and we had a minute of silence. As per tradition, we had a wreath laying and then we sang the French and Canadian national anthems. It had been awhile since I'd sang O Canada, so I felt rather patriotic! Especially singing such a proud and peaceful anthem after one that sang about "the foreigners blood watering our crops" (see my previous post "Mardi..." etc. about the French national anthem).
After the ceremony, we had a chance to explore the museum. We could have stayed there for much longer, but it unfortunately closed at 5pm so we only had an hour. It was a great review for me, and I enjoyed reading all of the displays and listening to the audio recordings. One room had all of these old radios with the broadcasts made by various world leaders on the eve of World War II. I listened to Hitler, King George V (the King's Speech), and our very own Mackenzie King give their addresses. I enjoyed all of the information about King, after having studied him intensely last year in one of my history courses.
WLMK is sitting on the right.

We got to have one last stroll along the beach as the sun was setting. As it set, I couldn't help but think again about how gorgeous the beach was... but how terrifying it must have been for all of those young men who fought bravely to capture it. I can't imagine how they must have felt, and I hope that I never see a war where so many of our young men and women have to be in the same position again.
Lest we forget!
Our two flags again.

The beach at sunset

What a view!

No comments:

Post a Comment