Yesterday and today, I toured the Normandy battlefield following in the footsteps of the Canadian 27th Armoured (Sherbrooke Fusiliers) Regiment and 22nd Armoured (Canadian Grenadier Guards) Regiment with two ladies, Thelma Hughes and her daughter Kathy. Thelma’s husband, Douglas Hughes, had served in the Sherbrooke Fusiliers and her brother, Jimmy Mooney, with the Canadian Grenadier Guards.
We began with a visit to the German Coastal Artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer and the area of GOLD Beach where CSM Stanley Hollis won the Victoria Cross. From there we moved into the area of JUNO Beach where we concentrated on the landings of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. This set the scene for our main objective of the tour to follow in the footsteps of Douglas Hughes and Jimmy Mooney.
Thelma and Kathy Hughes at Bernières-sur-Mer on 16th May 2013
We started to follow in the footsteps of Douglas yesterday afternoon beginning with his arrival at Bernières-sur-Mer on D-Day, 6th June 1944. We traced his route inland to Beny-sur-Mer and then onwards through Basly and Colomby-sur-Thaon, where the tanks of the Sherbrooke’s, with the infantry of the Nova Scotia Highlanders, took over as the spearhead of the Canadian advance. Their route continued onwards to a line between Anisy and Villons-les-Buissons, where they halted for the night. It was here that we ended our first day and drove to Bayeux where we stayed overnight.
Today we continued to follow in Douglas’ footsteps as the Sherbrooke Fusiliers recommenced their advance, supporting the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade as they pushed onwards towards Caen on 7th June 1944 into Buron.
Thelma and Kathy Hughes at the Sherbrooke Fusiliers Memorial in Buron on 17th May 2013
We visited the area near the Abbeye d’Adrenne where the Sherbrooke’s were ambushed by Kurt Mayer’s 25th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, part of the infamous 12th SS (Hitler Youth) Panzer Division. It was here that they were given a stiff introduction to battle and their drive to capture Caen brought to an abrupt halt. We paused at the Abbeye d’Adrenne to pay our respects to the Canadian soldiers of the Nova Scotia Highlanders and Sherbrooke Fusiliers who had been captured in the battle and brought to the Abbeye to be questioned by Meyer’s Intelligence Section. They refused to answer the questions, so they were taken out into the gardens and executed.
We continued onwards from the Abbeye d’Adrenne following in the footsteps of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers as they pushed forward again towards Caen and later advanced southwards from Caen along the Falaise Road. We visited the area of Verrières Ridge where the Canadians were again given a stiff lesson in war, this time by the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. We also visited Saint André-sur-Orne where the Sherbrooke’s came face to face with the Tiger and Panther tanks of the 1st SS and got a very bloody nose. Continuing southwards we made our way to the area between Saint Aignan-de-Cramenil and Cintheaux where they British and Canadians caught SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann and his four tanks that were probing northwards trying to locate the British and Canadian advance. Between the Northamptonshire Yeomanry and Sherbrooke Fusiliers Wittmann’s four Tigers were knocked out and destroyed and Germany’s premier tank ace of the Second World War was killed.
It was whilst heading southwards along the Falaise Road that we began following in the footsteps of Jimmy Mooney, Thelma’s brother. This was more sketchy than following Douglas, as Jimmy was killed shortly after entering the Battle as part of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division on 10th August 1944. We drove around the area in which he would have been looking at the villages and surrounding farms before heading to the Canadian War Cemetery at Bretteville-sur-Laize.
Thelma and Kathy Hughes at Jimmy Mooney’s grave in the Canadian War Cemetery Bretteville-sur-Laize on 17th May 2013
Here, Thelma and Kathy placed a photograph of Jimmy with his dog and two poppy crosses at his grave. This poignant note and simple act of remembrance brought to an end our day touring and we returned to Bayeux.
Lt Col Ian R Gumm, at Bayeux, Friday 17th May 2013