The DDay 70 Tour was truly a remarkable experience for all, but for some, it was much more than a Battlefield Tour.
Snatched from Neptune’s mighty hand, And cast ashore in a foreign land, What horros on us befell, As we pushed our way through a living hell. The dead, the dying, twixt sand and stones. A mangled mass of flesh and bones. A battle won at countless cost. With many of our comrades lost. Many years have now flown by. Since the day we saw our comrades die. Our bodies now get frail and weak, But still our buddies graves we seek. There we kneel in silent prayer. To show our grief and shed a tear. Will this now be our last farewell? Only health and time will tell. Did you hear the bugle call For our fallen comrades one and all? We will remember them! [Photo Credit: Ian Cowan, 2014]
Bud Weeks was a radio operator with the 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade when he had arrived to Normandy on D-48, June 6th, 1944. In June of 2014, Bud re-visited France to commemorate with us 70 years remembrance. He has left us with an insurmountable amount of knowledge, stories, and respect for the Canadians we call heroes. His own story, is remarkable all on its own. Read more about Bud’s Story by Orillia born writer Kate Grigg who wrote a special piece in preparation for our tour. Read about it here →
Bud Weeks and Harold Rowden on Tour [photo credit: Ian Cowan, 2014]
Harold “Rowdy” Rowden, also joined us this year for the 70th Remembrance of DDay WW2. At only 15 years old, Harold became dispatch rider in the war. At 20, like Bud, he also found himself along the shores of Normandy, witnessing a completely different landscape from what we lay eyes upon 70 years later. With the serene sands, glistening waters, and lush green, the younger generation can be found exploring and enjoying the serene landscape. But Harold had seen different. He witnessed General Eisenhower bellow over the loudspeaker, his final speech before it was time, the one sentence sticking in Howard’s mind to this day: “Your enemy is battle hardened”… followed by the sinking realization that the only experience he had firing a gun was when no one was firing it back… He says he’ll never forget the sound of the ramp dropping, the moment where he was no longer observing the fire in front of him, he would soon become apart of it. He was one of the lucky ones, although this depends on whether or not you deem surviving the hell these men were experiencing was “lucky”.
And so, here I am, so lucky to enjoy this beach as a little girl, it is difficult to understand what a completely different world this beach once was, and the significance that beach had on my life and the lives of others.
An article on Harold Rowden, by Kate Grigg. [Photo Credit: Samantha Cowan, 2014].
You can try to squint your eyes and look out across the beach, but it is still so difficult to imagine that only 70 years ago, this was a grey, dark, fiery place, full of pain…I’ve tried time and time again. I wonder what impression I would have had about the beaches if I hadn’t heard of these extraordinary men of D-Day who returned with us to share their very real, very sobering moments in their fight for our country.
With all that pain, I was also wondering why anyone want to re-live any of it again.
It was actually in an article about Harold “Rowdy” Rowden that had really took me to understand why. I learned that Harold went back with us because he wanted to be in the place where he was asked what no man should be asked to do. Something he would have done again if it meant protecting a land as great as Canada. To be with the other men who did but fell beside him, the ones he had to leave behind. The ones Harold and every veteran, every soldier carries with him to the end.
Thank you boys, you will forever be a cornerstone in our battlefield tours. If it wasn’t for you, we might have never known what war was capable of. What you had to fight for, over and over again, exhaustedly so, is why we continue to encourage Canadians to take this journey with us, to learn, to remember, and to thank. Im hoping for more stories during the start of the World War 1 Remembrance Day Centennial Tour! You can still follow us as we pay our respects at the largest Remembrance Ceremony at the Menin Gate this year on November 11th. Learn more about November’s events by clicking here.
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