Canadian Prime Minister’s visit to France, June 6, 2009
June 6, 2009
The Canadian Prime Minister attended the commemoration ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy, along side American President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.
The D-Day Landings played a crucial role in freeing France and Europe from the Nazi occupation. The freedom operations, which began in 1941, required a great amount of preparation from the Allied countries, especially from Canada. Canada made a very significant contribution on June 6, 1944: 21,000 troops. In honour of the 65th D-Day anniversary, the President of the Republic and French Minister of Defence, Mr. Hervé Morin, awarded Canadian war veterans with the highest French honour during a commemoration ceremony.
On June 5th, Mr. Okill Stuart was named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by Hervé Morin, at the Hotel national des Invalides in Paris.
Mr. Okill Stuart, born in Montreal, was a weapons officer during the Second World War. He enlisted in the Canadian army on July 3, 1940, and fought in France, the Netherlands and Germany with the 14th Field Artillery Regiment under the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Mr. Stuart left the active duty on August 22, 1945. As founding director of the Juno Beach Centre, he has committed his life to commemorating Canadian soldiers who sacrificed their lives on the beaches of Normandy in the D-Day Landings.
On June 6th, the President Nicolas Sarkozy decorated Mr. Joseph William Don Roach as Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur.
In February 1943, Mr. Don Roach, a Nova Scotia native, enlisted as petty officer-mechanic on board a supply ship that was serving Allied forces operations under the continuous threat of German submarines. On June 6, 1944, and with the Canadian Merchant Navy’s 5th Field Engineer Squadron, he helped transport troops and supplies from vessels, anchored off the shores of France, to the Normandy beaches thereby bringing aid to the many injured in battle.
The June 6th commemoration ceremonies were a continuation of those held in Normandy in May 2008, organized by the President of the Republic and the Canadian Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaël Jean. That year, during a ceremony held at the Canadian Military Cemetery of Bény Reviers, and on behalf of the French people, President Nicolas Sarkozy paid special tribute to all of the Canadian soldiers who, 65 years ago, landed on French beaches to free the French people from the Nazi yoke and to restore their freedom. France will never forget their commitment, nor will it ever forget the many lives given that day.