Juno Beach, Sword Beach, and a Canadian War Cemetery

After spending our early afternoon in Arromanches and the Musée du Débarquement we were off to the remaining two beaches, the Juno Beach Centre, and the Canadian Military Cemetery

Juno Beach

junobeach

Juno Beach is the beach the Canadians landed on that proved a military success but costly in terms of men lost. The main task of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division upon landing was to move inland to cut the Caen-Bayeux road and form a connection between the British beaches, Gold and Sword.

The plan was to land at low tide so the German defensive obstacles would be exposed but low tide was three hours prior to their landing so they were partially submerged. The mines took a toll on the landing craft and destroyed or damaged 30% of them. The men, after wading ashore, were then met with heavy firepower with an estimated 50/50 chance of surviving the gunfire.

After fighting hard for Juno Beach they reached the German positions behind the beach and were able to move inland with some speed to reach their target by the end of the day. The price they paid was 1,200 casualties of the 21,400 men that landed on the beach.

Exhibits at the Juno Beach Centre
Exhibits at the Juno Beach Centre

In September 1939, Canada declared the state of war and joined its allies by mobilizing the mightiest military force in its history at sea, on land, and in the air. The Juno Beach Centre tells the story of the Canadians who fought in the military, as well as those the waited at home for their return. In the first room we stood in a simulated landing craft to watch a film projected around us showing images of the war, D-Day, as well as families back home describing what they were thinking and feeling at the time.

The permanent exhibits have lots of photographs and other artifacts to tell the story but my favourites are always the more personal documents like letters to home, even the letters sent home with the sad news that a loved one wouldn’t be returning. The batteries, bunkers, and guns can tell part of the story but those artifacts are always what gets me. One word. Heartbreaking.

For the Fallen

by Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them. 

 Sword Beach

Sword Beach
Sword Beach

Sword Beach was the furthest east of the five beaches used on D-Day that was assigned to units of the British 2nd Army. The area around the beach was lightly defended by the Germans, but only as compared to some of the other beaches, and doesn’t mean that the British troops didn’t lose soldiers too.

The landings started at 7:25 am and by 8:00 am most of the fighting around the beach was over. By 1:00 pm that day the soldiers had met up with the paratroopers at the bridges over the Orne waterways, but on the right were unable to link up with the Canadian troops from Juno Beach. At 4:00 pm the 21st Panzer Division (German) launched an attack but it wasn’t to last long. 

By the end of D-Day the British had 29,000 men landed with 630 casualties. German casualties were much higher and many German soldiers had been taken prisoner, but the Caen objective was still several kilometers away.

Musée du Radar

Musée Radar de Douvres
Musée Radar de Douvres

After our short visit to Sword Beach the sun was starting to set so it was time to make our way to the Canadian War Cemetery which was our last planned stop of the day. On the way though we realized we had come upon the Musée Radar (which was on our list for the morning) so we decided to make our stop then.

This is the site of a former German radar station that was one of the most important radar detection links in the Atlantic Wall defenses with a unique example of the Wurzburg Riese radar. The site was closed so we took in the views through the fence and therefore didn’t stay very long. 

Canadian War Cemetery

canadiancemetery

 

Before the sun did set on us it was time to make our way to the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery which is the very peaceful resting place of 2,048 soldiers. A large number of these soldiers were killed in early July 1944 in the Battle of Caen and the also those soldiers that fell during the D-Day assault on Juno Beach. Canadian prisoners of war, that were illegally executed at the Ardenne Abbey, are also interred here. 

After quiet wander it was time for another wonderful day out to wind down. Time to head back for a delicious {and romantic} dinner and our last night at our rustic and charming hotel in Crépon. 

In my next post I’ll finish off our time in France as we spend the morning at Pegasus Bridge {with a guest post about this by L!} and at our last WWII cemetery in Ranville. Then it is off to Belgium!

To follow along on our adventures on our trip exploring WWI and WWII sites of Normandy and Belgium, please feel free to check out these posts:

The Battle Plan (Our Whole Itinerary)

Previous Post: Longues Battery and Arromanches-les-Bains

Next Post: Pegasus Bridge and Memorial

Further Resources to Plan Your Own Trip to Normandy and Belgium

 

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