Elsley Foulds, Canadian World War II army medic, receives highest French military honour

More than 70 years ago, Elsley Foulds landed on the shores of Normandy during the Allied invasion, with nothing but a red cross and a medical kit to protect him.

Foulds, 93, is receiving the Legion of Honour in Coquitlam, B.C., from the Consulate General of France

The French National Order of the Legion of Honour is similar to the Order of Canada, and is given to veterans for their role in liberating France. (www.legiondhonneur.fr)

More than 70 years ago,after landing at Juno Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy, Canadian Elsley Foulds will receive the highest military decoration in France, the Legion of Honour.

The French National Order of the Legion of Honour is given to veterans for their role in liberating France during World War II

The Consulate General of France will award Foulds the medal on Thursday afternoon at the Royal Canadian Legion in Coquitlam, B.C., where Foulds and his wife have lived since 1947.

"It's a great honour to have, honouring that medal and having it pinned on me for the Canadian veteran soldiers that didn't make it home from D-Day. I will wear it with great honour — in their honour as well as mine," Foulds said.

Foulds was serving with the 22nd Canadian Field Ambulance at the time of the historic landing. Unarmed and equipped with just a medical kit and some bandages, he charged toward the shore.

"We were all scared, but we had to get to land, so we headed for the beach," Foulds told CBC Radio The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"We had a red cross band on each arm, and our helmet had a red cross on it. … That's all we had for protection."

Canadian soldiers on Juno Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944. About 14,000 Canadian troops rushed the northern French coastline alongside Allied forces that day.

Shortly after the invasion, Foulds met his wife, Yetty, while still in Europe.

They crossed paths at a concert hall celebration. Unfortunately, the music stopped just as they were getting up to dance, Foulds said.

Disappointed, he walked Yetty home. "I said to her, 'Can I see you tomorrow night?'  She said yes. That's how it started," Foulds said.

They married a few months later in Holland, after Canadians liberated the country. That was 69 years ago.

Memories still fresh

Last June, Foulds and other veterans joined Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other world leaders in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the invasion.

"It was very sad," Foulds said. "Things have changed so much from when we were there before. It didn't seem like the same place.

"Sometimes, [the memories] come back pretty fresh. You try to forget it, but you never do. It's things that you really don't want to talk about."  

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