French cemetery contains graves of D-Day dead

By on October 31, 2017

Dear Editor:

On June 6, 1944, now known in history as D-Day, Operation Overlord, the long-awaited invasion of Northwest Europe, began with Allied landings on the coast of Normandy in France.

The 3rd Division and the 2nd Armoured Brigade were Canada’s major ground contribution to the D-Day landings.

These were representative of the whole nation as three of the infantry battalions came from Ontario, one from Quebec, three from the western provinces and two from the Maritimes.

The artillery, engineers, signals and service units were equally diverse in origins. The three regiments and the armoured brigade regiments represented Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec.

Under command of the British Second Army and supported by an impressive array of firepower from artillery, rocket-firing landing craft and naval guns, the Canadians stormed ashore at June Beach, in the centre of the British sector, through rough water, beach obstacles, wire, mines and gunfire.

By nightfall, they had secured a beachhead, which, although short of the planned objectives, was firm enough to withstand enemy counter-attacks.

In the days that followed, the lodgement was strengthened and enlarged until, by June 11, the bridgehead was deemed to secure enough to accommodate new formations that were to pour ashore in the next phase of battle.

The cost in lives had been high, though not as high as had been estimated and certainly not as high as it would have been without Dieppe.

On D-Day alone, Canada suffered almost 1,000 casualties – and a total of 340 were killed or died of their wounds.

The list lengthened during the following days as the Germans sought desperately to drive the Allies out.

The men who fell on the beaches and in the bitter bridgehead battles are buried at the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, which, despite its name, is located in the village of Riviers.

The cemetery contains 2,049 headstones enclosed by pines and maples.

These mark the dead of the 3rd Division and the the mayor and people of Riviers take a special interest in the cemetery. Although it bears another name, they feel it to be their own.

Fine hedges decorate the entrance and the flanking registry buildings have platforms from which the visitor can see the whole area and appreciate the skill and devotion that has gone into the planning and design of this superb cemetery.

Herb Timpe

Osoyoos, B.C.

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