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Kingston Second World War veteran tells story of landing on Juno Beach

WATCH: On June 6, 1944, Canadian soldiers joined with other Allies in a massive landing on the beaches of Normandy, France. We meet with a Kingston veteran who landed at Juno beach all those years ago.

Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, Canadian soldiers joined with other Allies in a massive landing on the beaches of Normandy, France, on their way to victory in the Second World War.

But it came at a terrible price.

Rolland Durand, known as “Rolly,” was just 23 years old when he landed on Juno beach that day.

23 year old Rolland “Rolly” Durand
23 year old Rolland “Rolly” Durand Global News

“That ship we were on, me and my men, I was a young lieutenant and I had about 90 men under my command,” says Durand. “We were down below in the dark; we couldn’t see anything.”

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At that time, Nazi Germany had occupied France for four years.

READ MORE: D-Day explained: How Canadians shaped the greatest invasion in military history

Just after midnight on June 6, 1944, Allied troops from Britain, Canada and the United States landed along the Normandy coast.

“When we landed at Juno Beach, a bomb landed right in front of our ship,” Durand recalled.

Once off the ship, Durand led the Transport Platoon of the 4th Infantry Brigade to the front line. Their job, he says, was to deliver ammunition and incendiary devices.

“We were not scared,” Durand said. “We had a job to do.”

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“One of them [a soldier under his command] was taken prisoner and I met him after the war in Quebec City and we exchanged our notes.”

Born in a small village just outside Quebec City, Durand was later quoted in Wait for the Waggon: The Story of the Royal Corps of Transport and its Predecessors from 1794 to 1993, written by Leo Cooper.

Wait for the Waggon, a book by Loe Cooper
Wait for the Waggon, a book by Loe Cooper Pen & Sword Books Ltd.

Durand talked about the Canadian push to the Seine on August 26, 1944.

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He was in charge of a convoy that carried infantrymen of the Black Watch Regiment into the strongly-held French village of Bourgetheoulde, 30 kilometres east of the coast.

They managed to take the village.

WATCH: 75 years after Juno Beach, how young we were

Durand married his British war bride Rose, now passed, and they had two children.

Rose Durand
Rose Durand Global News
Rose and Rolland Durand
Rose and Rolland Durand Global News

He continued to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, retiring at age 60 in 1981.

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Rolland “Rolly” Durand
Rolland “Rolly” Durand Global News

 

Now 98 years old, this heavily-decorated Juno Beach solder will spend June 6 quietly at home in Kingston, 75 years after he and others made history on Juno Beach.

“A long life, you know,” Durand says. “To remember so many years that I served.”

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