The Canadian landings on the Juno Beach Sector of the Normandy coast were one of the most successful operations carried out on D-Day, 6 June 1944. Yet it wasn’t until 60 years later that the Juno Beach Centre opened to honour the sacrifice of those young Canadian men and women who fought alongside Allied forces to liberate France.
“The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day. Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.” – the centre’s website
Living in Canada with (thankfully) no first-hand war experience, it’s easy to be blasé about those numbers. They’re “just” figures in a book or on a webpage. But when I stop and think, even the smallest number of 359 casualties is staggering.
Temporary Grave Marker
To put that into perspective, 359 is more people than my entire highschool graduation class. And to think that many of those on the front line were similar in age to an highschool graduate.. while I was worrying about my next social event (as most teens do), these men and women were risking their lives for others. It’s almost more than my mind can fully grasp.
That’s why places like the Juno Beach Centre are so important. They remind me of the tragedies of war and the people involved in them; those very people who fought for the freedom I enjoy today.
German Mortar Shell Casing
Helmets found at low tide.
While at the Juno Beach Centre we also took a tour of an old German bunker which reminded me that, regardless of what side of the conflict you were on, the reality of WWII was grim.
Until the end of the year visitors can also take in 2 temporary exhibits: Vimy 1917: A Canadian Battlefield in France and From Vimy to Juno: Remembering Canadians in France. Both were very moving. Having visited the Canadian National Vimy Memorial I appreciated learning more about the WWI battle and its monument.
Our visit to the Juno Beach Centre left me teary eyed and heavy hearted. But I was also left with a feeling of immense pride for the part my country played in the war.
If you’re ever in Normandy, I highly recommend that you visit the centre.