I hope that you are all wearing your poppies and showing respect to those who died in the name of our country. While I do not necessarily agree with the current conflict in Afghanistan, I still include the current soldiers in my thoughts.
Last Spring I was fortunate enough to go to Juno Beach in France. For those of you unaware, this is were the Canadian soldiers landed On June 6, 1944, in the invasion that began the end of the war in Europe.
A mere stones throw from the beach is the Juno Beach Centre, a museum of sorts talking about Canada and World War II. It outlines Canada in the build up to the War, then about how Canada was during those years, then finishes with information on Canada today. It includes a variety of first hand accounts of people's experiences, including a section where you can hear letters from soldiers read a loud.
As you enter the museum you are escorted into a small room that has televisions lining the wall. The room is made to be the exact size and dimensions of one of the boats that the soldiers landed on the beach with. The televisions began to play a battle scene as you feel that you are really there. It was hard to look all 360 degrees that were required for me to absorb all of the information. I hope that I only have to imagine what it would be like to have those bullets be real instead of virtual.
While I have a very good memory, it is not good enough to give a detailed play-by-play from eight months ago. Also, this is really something that should be experienced.
But there is one thing about that experience that really stuck out to me. Near the end of the exhibit there was a television on display above a small hallway. The screen had a scrolling display of the names of every Canadian who died during the war. Nothing fancy, just a simple white font on a black screen moving up at a reasonable speed for people to read it. When I arrived, they were just finishing showing those whose last name began with A. I have heard stories of my great-uncle, Raymond Dolan, who was shot down over North Africa, and I thought it would be good to try and take a picture of his name on the screen to show some members of my family.
I wandered around the rest of the museum and occasionally checked the progress of the screen to try and estimate how long I had to wait until it made it's way to the D's. I wandered around the museum for a good 20-30 minutes and I thought that I may have missed my time. How wrong I was. After all that time, the screen was at 'Be'.
This really him me. I took a second to figure out how long it took to go through a portion that small of the alphabet and I figured that it would take at least 12 hours to go through the names of all of the Canadian soldiers who died in the war. As a history major, I have read the facts and figures many times. This, however, put it into real terms for me, each of those people had a name, a heart broken mother, and possibly some descendants like me coming to that very place and realizing the same thing that I was.
At this point, I realized that my bus was leaving shortly so I needed to head on out without seeing the name of my great-uncle. Since I didn't have several hours to kill.
All in all, Juno Beach was a fantastic experience and if any of you happen to be in France I really recommend it. I stayed in the small town of Bayeux (a cool place in its own right!!!) and it makes a great place to go and relax a bit after some frantic times in Paris.
Here are some of my pictures from Juno Beach, hoep you enjoy, and more importantly, get a chance to show me some of your own!!!
Look just like any other beach doesn't it?
One of the many abandoned bunkers that have been left as a grim reminder.
Not sure if you can read that sign, but it says "Here On the 6th June, 1944 Europe was Liberated by the Heroism of the Allied Forces" . Just to the right of the pillar you can see people playing in the ocean. Fitting isn't it?
Until next time,