Canadians on D-Day: Timeline
June 4, 1944
Thousands of soldiers move toward ports across the south of England and embark on ships, but the weather worsens and soon the seas in the channel are too rough for the crossing. The generals decide to postpone the invasion by 24 hours.
June 5, 1944
After a night of watching the weather, the generals are told there may be a break in the storm.
Eisenhower orders the invasion. Minesweepers go first to clear the channel of German mines.
Troopships and the naval escorts begin carefully planned departures from ports so that all the ships will arrive off the Normandy coast at the same time.
Part of the Canadian contingent, including the armed merchant cruisers HMCS Prince Henry and HMCS Prince David, escorted by the destroyers HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Sioux leave Portsmouth bound for Juno Beach. On the Canadian ships, officers go over the plan.
The Canadians will attack Juno Beach in two groups:
In the west, infantry from the Royal Winnipeg, the Canadian Scottish and the Regina Rifles, supported by tanks from the 1st Hussars from London, Ont., are told their objective is a small fishing town named Courseulles at the mouth of the Seulles River. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles are to land in the sand dunes west of the river, while the rest were to land east of the river where the buildings from the town lined the seafront.
Nan Sector is divided in two.
In the centre, the Queen's Own Rifles were to land and take Bernières, a small beachfront resort town. The North Shore New Brunswick regiment was assigned to capture St-Aubin, another resort town. The armour from the Fort Garry Horse was to support both groups, with Le Régiment de la Chaudière from Québec held in reserve.
A reserve brigade from the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, the North Nova Scotia, the Highland Light Infantry from Galt, and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers from Sherbrooke was designated as the second wave, with orders to land when the situation in Nan Sector was clear. Artillery, machinegun and mortar units, signals and medical corps personnel and other units accompanied the troops in all sectors as support units.
June 6, 1944
The briefing is over. The Canadian ships reach mid-channel. Heavy clouds make the night black; the ships plow through high winds, heavy seas and driving rain. Back in England, aircraft are preparing to take off, bombers to pound the German defences, aircraft with paratroopers or towing gliders with soldiers who have to seize key bridges, roads and strong points to prevent a German counter-attack.
RCAF Lancaster bombers from 6 Bomber Group are among them. RCAF Spitfires escort the bombers. About 450 Canadians drop behind enemy lines by parachute or from gliders.
Canadian soldiers on the transport ships are served breakfast. On one ship they get scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, bread and jam.
The sky lights up. Canadians on the invasion ships watch flashes in the east from Le Havre where the RAF is bombing heavy German guns. To the west, they see flares where the Germans have spotted the American convoy heading for Utah and Omaha beaches.
Overhead, the transport aircraft are heard returning from their mission.
All soldiers are ordered on deck of the transports and muster at embarkation statons.
Dawn. All ships go to action stations.
The men on the ships can make out the dark grey line of the French coast ahead. The allied battleships and cruisers begin the bombardment of the beaches.
Destroyers and other warships, closer in, begin firing. At Juno Beach there is no return fire from the Germans.
The convoy breaks radio silence.
Artillery and tanks on the transports also begin firing at the beaches. At Juno Beach, the Germans begin returning fire on the Allied ships.
Most heavy support firing ends. Germans continue to attack the invasion force. Landing craft head for the beaches.
Landing craft reach the beach; men and tanks get in the water.
The first Canadian beachhead is established in Courseulles in Mike Sector by the Regina Rifles, covered by the tanks of the 1st Hussars. Naval gunfire had taken out the German guns in their area but nearby the Royal Winnipeg Rifles come under heavy fire – there the navy had missed the German guns and many of the soldiers die in the water, never reaching the beaches.
In Nan Sector, the North Shore Regiment lands under heavy German fire.
The Queen's Own Rifles land at Nan Sector, held up by high seas. The soldiers have to run 183 metres from the shore to a seawall under fire from hidden German artillery. Only a few men of the first company survive.
Canadian soldiers are on the beach in all sectors. Reserve troops begin to reach the beach on the rising tide. While the Canadian Scottish suffers only light casualties, the landing craft bearing Le Régiment de la Chaudière hit hidden mines, killing many men. Others drowned trying to reach the shore.
Major General R. F. Keller, the Canadian commander at Juno Beach sends a message from his superior, General H. D. Crerar, commanding the First Canadian Army. "Beach-head gained. Well on our way to our immediate objectives."
All units of the Third Canadian Division are on shore at Juno Beach.
The North Shore Regiment capture St-Aubin. In the next few hours, the Canadians capture Courseulles and Bernieres. Later the Highland Regiment captures Colombiers-sur-seulles and the 1st Hussar reaches its objective 15 kilometres from the beach at the Caen-Bayeux Highway intersection. The Hussars was the only Allied unit to capture its planned final objective on D-Day.
On June 6, 1944, 340 Canadians were killed, 574 were wounded and 47 were captured at Juno Beach.
Munro, Ross Gauntlet to Overlord: The Story of the Canadian Army
Department of Veteran's Affairs
U. S. National D-Day Museum
Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
Dictionary of Canadian Military History
Juno Beach Centre
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