Roy Pritchard was 25-year-old soldier with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles when he crossed the English Channel with hundreds of other men on June 6, 1944.
“I thought I was going to drown, the water was so rough and it seemed to be pulling at my feet underneath,” the now 95-year-old recalled on Friday at the Kipnes Centre for Veterans in Edmonton.
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Pritchard was among the 150,000 Canadian, English and American soldiers to scramble onto Juno Beach that day under heavy German fire.
“I was interested, but I don't think I was scared,” Pritchard said. “I was scared later. I don't think I was on that day.”
More than 350 Canadians died on that day which was the start of the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.
Ceremonies marking the 70th Anniversary of D-Day took place on Friday, including the unveiling of a new temporary exhibit at the Alberta Aviation Museum about the role played by the 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron.
“On the day of the invasion, squadrons like 418 (City of Edmonton Squadron) were tasked from keeping things from moving ...and counter-attacking to keep any other people from reaching the beaches that could oppose the Allied Forces landing,” said Tom Hinderks, the museum’s executive director.
A thousand planes flew in and out of Edmonton each day in the effort to train and send troops overseas.
“My father was a Lancaster pilot, flew missions on June 5 and June 6, in the night attacks,” Hinderks said.
The sacrifices made that day are still remembered by soldiers.
“I've stood on those beaches and my first impression was that those were not men, those were supermen,” said Brig.-Gen. Dave Anderson. “Those had to have been giants to have done that.”
Roy Pritchard is modest about the role he played on the beaches of Normandy.
“I’m not a hero...I wasn't a hero,” he said. “I was just an ordinary Joe.”