The Canadian Army’s involvement during the Normandy invasion was a section of coast called Juno Beach. There were five landing beaches in all – two were American and were named Omaha and Utah beaches, then there were two British beaches named Gold and Sword. The Canadians’ beach was in between the two British beaches and was named Juno Beach.
Looking at the map, one can see that Juno was subdivided into sectors. These were named Mike and Nan. The Mike Beach sector was broken up into two subsections named Green and Red, while Nan Beach was divided into three, code-named Green, White and Red. This system was adopted on all landing beaches in Normandy, and it made it easier to organize the landings and their timetable.
For instance, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles landed on Mike Green and Mike Red, while the North Shore Regiment landed on Nan Red.
Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94 in Quesnel has several items, such as hat brass and shoulder flashes, from the Canadian units that landed on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. Some of these are highlighted below.
Royal Winnipeg Rifles (Known as the Little Black Devils)
Winnipeg Rifles landed at 7:49 a.m. on Mike Red and Mike Green. Once ashore, their task was to disable coastal defenses. Houses near the beach were fortified, and larger gun batteries located atop the slopes were aimed at the landing beach. Minefields were laid to cover the exits from the beach and covered with machine gun and mortar fire. The Winnipeg Rifle diary noted: “The bombardment having failed to kill a single German or silence one weapon, these companies had to storm their positions ‘cold’ and did so without hesitation.”
Canadian Scottish Regiment
This regiment is from Victoria, and on their initial assault, they were attached to the Winnipeg Rifles’ right flank and were to knock out a 75mm gun emplacement just west of Courseulles. They landed at 7:50 a.m. and came under heavy machine gun fire. They found their target already destroyed by naval gunfire and moved on to their secondary target, the Chateau Vaux. They stormed the chateau and tossed in several hand grenades, and the Germans quickly surrendered.
Regina Rifles Regiment
The Reginas came ashore on Mike Green at Courseulles, to the east of the river. This was the most heavily-defended position of all the Canadian and British beaches. “A” Company landed at 8:05 a.m., “B” Company landed at 8:15 a.m., and “C” Company came ashore at 8:35 a.m., followed by “D” Company at 8:55 a.m.
The Reginas had secured their D-Day objective in a day of hard, bitter fighting and controlled Courseulles and its small but significant port at the mouth of the Seulles River.
Queen’s Own Rifles
From Toronto, the Queen’s Own Rifles hit Nan White Beach near Bernieres at 8:05 a.m., only to find the defenses barely damaged by the naval bombardment. They received the most casualties of any Canadian unit on D-Day.
“The moment the ramp came down, heavy machine gun fire broke out from somewhere back of the seawall.”
By day’s end, the Queen’s Own Rifles had paid the highest price of any Canadian regiment, with 143 killed, wounded or captured. Despite this, they succeeded in capturing their D-Day objective seven miles inland.
Royal Canadian Navy on D-Day
The RCN (Royal Canadian Navy) was heavily involved all along the landing beaches, carrying out many tasks, from minesweeping to bombarding the enemy’s coastal defenses. They also crewed landing craft, along with logistical support vessels. Two ships in particular, HMCS Algonquin and HMCS Sioux, were directly involved with the Juno Beach assault by bombarding the enemy defenses.
Other hat brass and shoulder flash photos
These belong to other units involved, and we are pleased to have them in our collection.
Doug Carey is with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94.