Memories of the D-Day invasion revisited in France, 40 years later

Everyone who had been in Bernières-sur-Mer, France on June 6, 1944 remembered what it had been like to see the fateful D-Day invasion up close.

Returning veterans shared some of their memories with the CBC's Joe Schlesinger in 1984

Memories of D-Day

38 years ago
Duration 2:43
Forty years after D-Day, Canadian veterans share the memories of that fateful day.

Ken Scott stood on the beach and faced the town of Bernières-sur-Mer, France, as he looked up at an old house that had stood there 40 years earlier.

He'd previously been on that beach on June 6, 1944, the day of the D-Day invasion.

The same house helped him locate the spot where he had been hit by machine-gun fire that day.

"I'd never forget that and it just looks the same now as it did then," Scott recalled, when visiting Bernières-sur-Mer with his wife, Jean, in 1984.

Back on the beach

Canadian veteran Ken Scott used a house in Bernières-sur-Mer, France, as a landmark, so that he could show his wife, Jean, where he was hit by machine-gun fire on D-Day. (The National/CBC Archives)

Scott was among a group of Canadian veterans that had returned to the Normandy coast, a few days ahead of the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

For fellow veteran Carl Warner, the terror of the battle remained firmly etched in his mind four decades after the battle.

"I was scared to death," he said, when thinking back on the day of the invasion, when he and other Canadians landed on what they called Juno Beach.

His return visit there, however, was something that he savoured.

"Now, I enjoy it very much," he told the CBC's Joe Schlesinger. "More peaceful, eh?"

'The sea is filled with ships'

In June of 1984, Micheline Grave is seen opening the shutters of her family's home in Bernières-sur-Mer, France. Forty years after the D-Day invasion, she still had clear memories of the day the Canadians landed on the beaches. (The National/CBC Archives)

Local resident Micheline Grave shared memories of D-Day that were just as clear as the veterans' own recollections.

That day, in 1944, she opened up the shutters of her family home to see the Allied ships approaching the beach.

"The sea is filled with ships," she said in French, recalling what she yelled to her parents about what she saw out the window.

Personnel of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division are seen landing from L.C.I. 299 of the 262nd Flotilla, at Bernieres-sur-Mer, France, on June 6, 1944. (Gilbert Alexander Milne/National Archives of Canada, Canadian Press)

Schlesinger said the incoming soldiers soon marched past her home "right under the window from which she first spotted their ships."

Upon meeting some of those soldiers at the time, Grave initially wondered if the invaders were French. She was surprised to learn they were from the other side of the Atlantic.

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, more than 300 Canadians died in Normandy on D-Day. The fighting and the loss of life for the Allied forces was not close to being over: They would spend almost another year fighting the Germans before victory had been achieved in Europe.

Canadians guard German prisoners taken at Juno Beach, in Bernières-sur-Mer, during the invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944. (National Archives of Canada, Frank L. Dubervill/The Canadian Press)

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