This year will mark the seventieth year since 359 Canadian soldiers lost their lives on the sands of Juno beach.
To mark the occasion the Juno Beach Centre is launching the D-Day Tribute campaign to build a wooden marker for each Canadian who died on the beach.
The tribute will stand on the sandy grounds of the Juno Beach Centre for the summer, running from June until November and is designed to engage Canadians to connect with the history of the Allied campaign in Normandy.
Juno Beach Centre Executive Director Jenna Zuschlag Misener wanted to create something to help people understand the important contributions made by Canadian soldiers on D-Day.
“We wanted to do something to symbolize in a visual way the sacrifices made by Canadians on D-Day…we really wanted to drive home that Canada paid a big cost on that day and our contribution was just as important as the other allied countries,” said Misener.
The Canadian contingent on D-Day were unique among much of the Allied force because they were made up completely of volunteers.
“They volunteered to serve. There was conscription in some of the other allied countries but the Canadians that landed on D-Day were all volunteers,” said Misener.
Each marker will be labeled with the name of the fallen soldier, the name of the sponsor, and a QR code that visitors can scan to access information about the soldier who the marker commemorates.
The D-Day Tribute campaign asks Canadians to sponsor each wooden marker for a donation of $500, but will accept any contribution to support the efforts of the privately-run Juno Beach Centre.
The deadline for sponsoring a marker is May 10 but donations to the D-Day Tribute campaign will be accepted all year. The campaign will raise much needed funds for the operation of the Juno Beach Centre.
“We are losing our biggest sponsor, Wal Mart Canada, after ten years of very generous support. In order for us to keep the centre open we need to do fundraising like this,” said Misener.
So far, the response from Canadians has been good with a quarter of the markers already sponsored.
There is also support for the project coming from the regimental associations of the soldiers that landed on D-Day.
Retired Brigadier-General Ernest Beno is one of many members of Canadian regimental associations who supports the project. He is a 37 year veteran of the regular force artillery and believes the plan to create the markers commemorating the fallen is well-deserved.
“It is fitting that we pay our respects to the young Canadians that led the way in liberating Europe,” said Beno.”It’ll be a stark reminder and a very moving reminder to every Canadian.”
The call for support for the D-Day Tribute campaign comes at a time when more Canadians are aware of the history of their military. Despite the passing of many of the veterans of the Second World War, awareness about Canada’s role in the conflict is on the rise.
“Canadians are much more aware of what these people did and they are more aware of all their veterans,”said Beno. “Canadians are much more aware of what their army does.”
Many men from the GTA fought and died on Juno Beach, including Toronto resident Lance Corporal George Edward Dalzell. Born in England in 1905, Dalzell emigrated to Canada with his family early in his life.
His father Arthur was a civil engineer and his mother Eleanor raised him and his sister Margaret Elaine.
After completing grade 11, Dalzell left school and took a job working for the Royal Bank of Canada as an accountant. He excelled in this position working for 15 years in the RBC head-offices in Toronto, Rodney and Windsor.
He had plans to make a name for himself in the dairy and agricultural business after the war.
Dalzell enlisted with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Sept. 19, 1940 and departed for England the next year on July 19.
At the time of the landing in Normandy, Dalzell was working as company clerk of ‘A’ Company. He landed on the beach as part of the first wave of the assault. He died in the ‘Nan sector’ of the beach at Bernières-sur-mer.
Dalzell was buried in the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian war cemetery, four kilometres from where he fell on Juno beach.