The Courier
The French Legion of Honour – Photo from the the Grand Chancery of the Legion of Honor/ Government of the French Republic

On Remembrance Day, look at the old veterans gathered at your local cenotaph, standing proudly, or seated with a warm blanket on their lap. Try to imagine what they experienced many decades ago when they were young, and the world was at war.

The great invasion to kick the Nazis out of France took place on June 6, 1944. The largest allied armada of warships readied for the battle of Normandy. Those onboard would face an array of deadly obstacles; barbed wire, mines, and heavy concrete fortifications containing cannons and machine guns. 

This was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany’s grip on Western Europe. Many years of preparation had taken place to get the allies ready for this day. Canada was already fighting in Italy, slowly pushing their way up the Italian boot. What had been called the soft underbelly of Europe was instead a meat grinder where battles like Ortona were hard won by the men of Vancouver’s famed Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, Alberta’s Loyal Edmonton Regiment, and Quebec’s Three Rivers Regiment.

The D-Day landings on the French coast and subsequent liberation campaign, saw Canada fighting against an experienced and ruthless enemy.  With every footstep taken, soldiers died and many more suffered injuries, and for some, their injuries would remain with them for their entire lives. The D-day landings itself cost our nation 359 war dead. 

One Second World War veteran is Flying Officer Herbert McGee from New Brunswick. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force with 425 and 434 bomber Squadrons.  Mr. McGee probably had one of the toughest jobs, being a spare tail gunner at the back of the plane. He flew 13 missions over France in August 1944, to places like La Pallice, La Neuville, Falaise and Calais. Mr. McGee survived the war unscathed. The war did not leave him with physical scars but it haunted his sleep for the next 50 years. 

Nearly 80 years have passed, and these brave men and women who were once young have grown old and sadly, very few remain. It is their eleventh hour, probably the last opportunity to properly thank them. The government of France would like to pay tribute to all living Canadian veterans who participated in the D-day landings, Dieppe raid or campaign to liberate France in 1944. If you were in the Canadian army, navy, air force or merchant navy, you may be eligible to receive France’s highest award, the National Order of the Legion of Honour. 

If you would like more information, please send an email to The subject line should say Veteran. I am an unofficial volunteer who is willing to help.

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