Veteran Ken Duffield remembers leading platoon of Regina Rifles onto Juno Beach
Ken Duffield, 94, has never forgotten the sacrifices of his troops.
Seventy years ago, Duffield was a 24-year-old platoon commander for B Company of the Royal Regina Rifles Regiment — part of the contingent that saw action at Normandy, France, on D-Day. The incursion is noted as a major battle of World War II that propelled the Allies to victory in Europe.
Duffield's B Company — 12 men — were instructed to focus their attention on German artillery positions on the beach.
"We never lost a man on the beach," Duffield, from Semans, Sask., recalled in a recent interview with CBC News. "How we got through all that machine gun fire and mortar, it's a mystery. I often think of how lucky we were."
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The Regina Rifles were amongst the first Canadian regiments to land on the beaches in France. On the first day of the invasion the Rifles suffered 108 casualties.
Duffield recalls coming across wounded and dying solders, memories seared into his mind, he says, as if branded there.
"[One man] bled to death because I couldn't stop the bleeding," he remembered. "After he died, I had to carry him a little ways and bury him. But the next morning, you had blood all over your hands [and] the only way you could wash, you run your hands through the dew on the grass to clean your hands off. So you could eat."
Despite the pain of the memories, he is determined to remember — and share — his experiences, although he said he does try to keep busy to keep his mind from constantly playing back disturbing moments.
One memory, of a fellow soldier injured and stranded on the beach, haunts him to this day.
"The tide was coming in," Duffield said, his voice choking with emotion. "[And] if somebody didn't help him in 10 minutes, he was going to drown, because he couldn't move. And you think 'What happened to him?'"
CBC News will have a complete coverage on events for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
With files from CBC's Adrian Cheung