On June 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of Normandy took place as Operation Overlord, consisting of troops from America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Norway, stormed the beaches of France.
The operation, which was the largest seaborne military manoeuvre in history, initiated the liberation of German-occupied France and signalled the beginning of the end of the Second World War by establishing a western front.
My mother was 10 at the time and growing up in Aberdeen, Scotland. She often speaks of D-Day and how it changed the face of the war.
When I mention Hamilton’s restored Lancaster bomber and the thunderous roar it makes when touring events, as it will today with a flyover of the Canadian Open at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club, she cowers in fear.
The sound reminds her of the hundreds of aircraft — friend and foe — that would fly over head-on missions through the U.K. or that would drop whatever bombs they had left afterwards on the way back into the North Sea.
WATCH: Coverage of the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Global News
For her, the war was an endless series of stories about growing up in conflict. They were often retold many times at family functions over the years — funny in the beginning with tears by the end, and us kids left nervously giggling.
Her stories included:
- Playing hide and seek in blown-up buildings, once uncovering an undetonated enemy bomb which got them in a whole heap of trouble with the local Military Police. (Bombed-out buildings were a no-play zone).
- Watching officials remove the steel railings, and anything similar, from their flat to melt the product down for the war effort.
- Boarding Allied troops in their homes.
- Sitting in farmers’ fields on hay bales in the hills, watching the cities in the distance being bombed at night.
- Scrambling to the air raid shelter in the middle of the night with just their pajamas on and learning how to don a gas mask …
- … then walking to school the next day, only to find the only thing left standing from the attack the night before was the building’s chimney.
With the marking of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, it’s the personal stories of bravery, tragedy and sacrifice of those involved that resonate most, reminding us all of the personal toll our freedom had on their — my mother’s — generation.