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Liberté, égalité, fraternité: Canadian soldiers in France after D-Day

The Story


Within days of D-Day, Allied soldiers have fallen into a ritual in the villages of Normandy. In the evening they'll take a stroll from their camps to visit the people they've liberated. Once in the French kitchens they'll take a glass of wine or a coffee, share their English cigarettes and talk about the war. In this clip, correspondent Frank Gillard forcefully refutes the rumour that the French are being difficult with the Allied invaders. 

Medium: Radio
Program: War Dispatches
Broadcast Date: June 13, 1944
Reporter: Frank Gillard
Duration: 3:59

Did You know?


• One of the most famous stories of the French reception of Canadian soldiers is told by Marcel Ouimet of Radio-Canada. On D-Day a French-Canadian soldier met an old man who asked him where the troops were headed: Paris, perhaps? The soldier, not wanting to divulge sensitive information, shrugged and responded: P'tet ben que oui (perhaps, yes) -- an old Norman expression. The Frenchman was astonished: "You're not a Canadian! You're a Norman, just like I am."

• Many French citizens plied soldiers with Calvados, an apple brandy distilled from cider.
• For all their gratitude that the Allies had driven out the Germans, the French were also entitled to be upset with the outcome of the D-Day invasion and the Normandy campaign. Some towns were virtually levelled by the action. In St. Aubin, 90 per cent of the homes, churches, shops and other buildings were destroyed by bombing, guns and mortar attacks.

• The French Resistance provided valuable assistance to the Allied invaders. They could easily gather intelligence because they were behind enemy lines. Sabotage was also a regular practice: they cut German communications lines and bombed railways.
• Because of the risk of disclosure, the Allies could not tell the Resistance when D-Day would be. They devised a radio code: the phrase "It is hot in Suez" followed by "The dice are on the carpet" meant the attack was imminent.


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