As D-Day began and allied troops stormed Juno Beach, the amphibious tanks of the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (also known as the Fort Garry Horse) from Winnipeg, Manitoba and infantrymen from the North Shore Regiment of New Brunswick were driving ashore just up the coast in Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer.
As members of the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band, Andrew and I had the privilege of performing in Saint Aubin during their annual “La semaine acadienne” (The Acadian Week) festival.
Before the band arrived, we were told we were to play during a short parade that would lead through the village to “Place du Canada” (Canada Square). Here we’d perform a short concert at the war memorial.
It turned out that we were the parade.
There were no floats, tractors, people on horseback, or other musicians. It was just us. As we marched along, residents joined in behind us. When we reached our destination, the band stood in a circle, surrounded by what felt like the entire village of Saint Aubin (which a 2006 census lists as 267 so it was not at all impossible).
After we played, people thanked us; not for the music but for the role our fellow Canadians had played in securing their freedom so long ago. It’s a humbling experience, to be genuinely thanked for something simply because of your nationality.
Their gratitude continued as the band was treated to a meal at Aubert Hall, a local community centre.
Afterwards, we enjoyed French crepes on the shoreline and watched a fireworks display set to music in celebration of the Acadian culture in France. Walking back to the bus at the end of the night, I spotted this display in a shop window. It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that.
As Remembrance Day approaches, I hope you have an opportunity to quietly thank those that fought so that you can live in freedom no matter where in the world you are.