Meeting Minutes - Micheal Bechthold: Canadians in Normandy June 1944 - Nov. 1 2018
The meeting was opened at 9:55 am by President Martin Alderwick who welcomed all present with a special welcome to the guest presenter, Dr. Michael (Mike) Bechthold. There were 47 members in attendance.
Following opening remarks President Alderwick provided a brief history of how Halloween got started as an event at the end of October.
Announcements Activities – Ray Biffis - Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Sleeman Centre followed by lunch at Diana's. Meet at the Sleeman Centre at 10:30 am in the second row below the windows of the restaurant in the Sleeman Centre. Ron Durst and Martin will present the wreath on behalf of the Royal City Men’s Club as has been the tradition for several years. - Annual Christmas Luncheon on December 6th at the Victoria Park Golf Club at a cost of $45 per person. The last day to sign up will be Monday, December 3, 2018. There are now 22 people paid. - A Valentine’s Day event has been scheduled and more information will follow.
Martin Alderwick also mentioned an event taking place at the GWSA Evergreen Centre on Friday, November 9th. This is being called “The Day Before” and it is a special tribute honouring our military veterans. Guest speaker is Maurice Ferris C.D. – Guelph Legion. Music by the New Horizons Band and the Silvertones Choir. Admission is free and donations are being accepted toward the Guelph Legion Poppy Fund.
Coffee Club Meeting – Andy Curtis - On alternate Thursdays at both the Boathouse or Airpark Café at 10:00 am.
John Sneyd was called upon to introduce today’s guest presenter.
Dr. Micheal Bechthold’s presentation titled: "Saving D-Day: The Canadians in Normandy June, 1944" is about the Canadian experience in Normandy in June 7 - 10, 1944.
Bio: Mike Bechthold holds a PhD in History from the University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia and an MA & Honours BA from Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Mike is the author or editor of eight books and numerous articles. His most recent book is Flying to Victory: Raymond Collishaw and the Western Desert Campaign (University of Oklahoma Press, 2017). He specializes in the fields of military air power (especially tactical air operations in the First and Second World Wars), the Canadian army in Normandy and Northwest Europe, and the Canadian Corps in the Great War. Mike is the Executive Director of the Juno Beach Centre Association and teaches history part time at Wilfrid Laurier University. For 22 years Mike worked as the Communications Director of the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies and the Managing Editor of Canadian Military History, an academic quarterly journal.
Dr. Bechthold opened by saying that Canadians don’t tell our experiences well enough and the role Canadians played in the Second World War. However, he felt we were really punching above our weight. Canada was given one of the five beaches, Juno, on the north shore of France to take and hold on D-Day. We were the spearhead in taking out the end of the German tyranny toward the end of WWII. Today’s talk is about saving D-Day. Mike showed many maps and pictures of the war taken at the time. (See Club website under links).
Three hundred and fifty-nine Canadians died on D-Day, June 6, 1944. But it was in the days afterwards that Canadians really made their mark on the D-Day victory. The Germans were trying to push back to end the threat of losing their empire and the Canadians were at the forefront of stopping that.
The first Canadian troops touched down at 0630 hrs. on June 6th. There was a lot of air support provided for this battle, more than for any other battle in history up till that time. There were medium and heavy fighter bombers along with battleships, cruisers, monitors, and gunboats. The expectation was that all of this fire power would obliterate the German offensive. However, this didn’t go as well as expected. The heavy bombers had difficulty hitting targets because of the weather and the smoke from the battle. For fear of hitting the maritime offensive the bombers held their bombs for longer than they should have and this resulted in the bombs being dropped too late. This caused a lot of misses of German targets however the bombs did tear up a lot of German communication lines.
Mike took us through the battles that took place between 7th – 10th, June 1944. He showed maps and aerial photos of these battles. (These can be found on the RCMC website under “links”.)
This battle was such a great victory but the top brass viewed this as Canadians just doing their job.
Mike encouraged people to get over to France to see the two cemeteries, one at Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery and one at Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery. Each cemetery has over 2,000 Canadian soldiers buried there.
The Juno Beach Centre in France is a museum of the Canadian experience. This is not a government foundation but a private foundation. 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. www.junobeach.org
Dr. Bechthold concluded his presentation by responding to questions from the membership.
Julian thanked Dr. Bechthold and presented him with a token of appreciation from the Club.
Next meeting:Thurs. November 15th. - Gregory Klages "Historical records relating to the mysterious death of Tom Thompson."