In 2006, while members of the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band, Andrew and I embarked on a two-week tour of France and Scotland. Our journey took the band to the sites of some of the most significant events of the Normandy Invasion during World War II.
As Remembrance Day approaches, we thought we’d share our memories of a few of the locations where we had the honour of representing Canada as local residents paid homage to those men and women who sacrificed so much. The first place we played was Juno Beach, where Canadian troops landed under a smoke screen cover on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Before playing, we had a chance to tour the Juno Beach Centre which included a realistic and unsettling simulation of what a ride ashore in a land craft would have been like. Outside, artwork on the pathway down to the beach also reminded us of the perils arriving troops faced.
Local residents were made aware of our performance thanks to flyers the Centre had prepared. As a result, approximately 150 people turned out to see the band play.
During the performance Andrew along with two other pipers ascended to the roof of the Juno Beach Centre and began playing Amazing Grace. It was an incredibly powerful moment when the rest of the band below struck up to join them.
As the grand finale, the band marched down to the beach and stood single file on the shoreline to play Danny Boy. As we stood there, I remember wondering if the Canadians who landed on the beach during D-Day ever thought about us, those who would one day be honouring the sacrifices they made.
After our performance, Andrew and I were taking a picture beside the Canadian inuksuk built in front of the Centre. People who didn’t speak any English kept coming up to us, saying “Une photo” and pointing at their cameras. We happily obliged.
Our trip to Juno Beach opened my eyes to the gratitude French people have for their Canadian liberators, even generations later. I know that come November 11th, they will be thinking of Canada once more.