Windsor

'I'm a very fortunate guy': Windsor veteran in France for 75th D-Day anniversary

Veteran Charles Davis says it's amazing what the Armed Forces has done — but he doesn't think the majority of Canadians understand or realize that. 

'Canada should be proud of the Armed Forces,' says veteran Charles Davis

Charles Davis, centre, was one of the veterans Canada sent to the D-Day remembrance anniversary in France. (Ryerson Fitzpatrick/Facebook)

Charles Davis has lived in Windsor for 82 years — but this week he's in France, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. 

When Davis was in his 20s, he drove an ammunition truck onto Juno Beach just four days after hundreds of Canadian soldiers died on the shore. 

"We've had a long day today," Davis said when CBC News spoke to him on a video call. "It's been a long week."

Canada sent more than one dozen veterans to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary ceremony. 

For Davis, the experience has been overwhelming.

"A lady came up to me and grasped both my hands and kissed me on both cheeks and sang O Canada to me in French," said Davis. "That's when it really hit me."

Charles Davis met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as part of D-Day remembrance events in France. (Ryerson Fitzpatrick/Facebook)

There were more than 10,000 total Allied casualties on D-Day. In that, 359 Canadian soldiers were killed and another 715 were wounded.

The Queen and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took part in anniversary remembrance celebrations. 

"Canada should be proud of the Armed Forces, and the way Veteran Affairs looked after these old veterans," said Davis. 

Essex and Kent Scottish: The 'deception force'

On D-Day, the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment didn't make the trip across the English Channel.

Instead, they were in southern England, as part of what regiment historian Hardy Wheeler calls "the deception force." 

There's still a link though — August 19, 1942. The Dieppe Raid wasn't supposed to be an actual raid, but Wheeler said it turned into a disaster. 

"The Essex Scottish was one of the first trials of invasion of any size," said Wheeler. "That whole division was decimated."

The Essex Scottish Regiment didn't cross the English Channel on D-Day. But an ill-fated crossing two years earlier played a pivotal role in the Allied landing, which took place 75 years ago today. Hardy Wheeler is the historian for the regiment, he tells the story. 6:51

According to Wheeler, more than 100 men were lost in August 1942. Only 51 people returned to England. 

"It was very, very useful," said Wheeler about the Dieppe Raid. "The beaches of Normandy was not a major port. That caught the Germans off guard. [D-Day] was quite successful because of it."

Remembering D-Day

Davis said it's amazing what the Armed Forces has done — but he doesn't think the majority of Canadians understand or realize that.

He wants people to read some of the history and stories.

"I wouldn't have agreed to any of these interviews if it wasn't for the fact it would hopefully get to more Canadian people," said Davis. "We worked our keisters off to make this country what it is."

"I'm a very fortunate guy."

With files from Angelica Haggert and Windsor Morning

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.