A Petrolia veteran will be among the thousands this week who mark the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
On June 6, a coalition of forces from Britian, Canada and the United States – 155,000 soldiers in all – began the invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy. The Canadians – 14,000 strong – were to take Juno Beach. Another 450 were to drop behind enemy lines by parachute. The Royal Canadian Navy supplied the ships and about 10,000 in the effort and the air force provided cover.
The bombing started at 6 am and by 8 am, Canada had established a beachhead at Juno.
The beach became a starting point for the rest of the soldiers who would liberate Europe.
Ted Paisley of Petrolia was just a young man in charge of a group of 10 runners on motorcycles in 1944 when the invasion of Normandy began. He thinks he arrived in Normandy on the 13th – although is hard to remember since they barely slept waiting for their window to hit the beaches of Normandy. “You were kind of in a fog because you don’t get any sleep. You couldn’t tell what day it was.
Paisley, now 89, says the runners would “follow the guns” to the front so they would know where they were, then travel by night to bring them the supplies they needed.
The motorcycles the men needed were waterproofed then “lowered in a hold in the boat” in England. As the transport ship got to just the right spot, the motorcycles were taken from the hold and put on a “floating garage” to bring them ashore.
When Paisley and his men arrived at Juno it was unlike any beach he’d seen before. “There was equipment all over the place.”
The beaches of Normandy were also littered with the dead and wounded. An estimated 10,000 men either lost their lives or were injured there.
Paisley and his son, Dave, will return to that beach this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the invasion. They expect that while it will be difficult to mark such a solemn occasion, it will be meaningful as the residents and governments thank the Allied Forces for what they did in a number of ceremonies at Normandy and on Juno Beach.
Paisley spent only a short time in France. He, like many others, continued the march through Europe right through to Germany until the end of the war.
The veteran also hopes to return to Holland in a year’s time to mark the joyful end of the Second World War for that country.