RETURN TO NORMANDY 1999

 

PICTURES AND STORY BY FRED STRINGFELLOW

 

As a representative of the 8 Recce I did the Normandy Tour
with fellow veterans from Canada.
 
 
I left Kamloops on the 1st of June, arrived at Ottawa, where we all
gathered for a meet and greet prior to departure on the 3rd.
 
 
Starting at Caen on the 4th, we had a hectic tour. However, I did have
time to contact Arlette and Theirry Hollier-Larousse and we had a nice
visit at my hotel. Theirry seemed fine but Arlette said he forgets sometime.
 
 
Dr Richard Alway, son of our Colonel Alway, as Chairman of Historic
Sites and Monuments Board of Canada accompanied us on the tour and
was at the unveiling of the new Canadian Memorial Plaque at Juno Beach.
 


At the Canadian Cemetary at Bretteville Sur Laize I paid
homage to two of my friends - Frank Townsend and
Cliff Cushing (Story in press release).

 

MY LOCAL PAPER

The Shushwap Market News, Sat., Sept. 4, 1999

WWII veterans touch the past

Over 60 Canadian World War II veterans made an emotion-filled journey back to towns along the French coast to mark the 55th anniversary of D-Day and the battle of Normandy campaign. Local area resident, Fred Stringfellow, was one of those chosen by veteran's affairs to represent his 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment. photo submitted

ADDED NOTE BY FRED: Here I am with Arlette and Theirry Hollier-Larousse of Louvigny (CAEN). Our RHQ was located in their Manor during the Normandy Campaign. Theirry was only a teenager then but was a devoted member of the French Resistance. He assisted many of the allied pilots to escape via the Underground route. Today they are host to many visiting Canadian veterans.

By Joyce Bradley

Market Newsstaff

Fred Stringfellow of Anglemont recently undertook a journey which vividly rekindled memories of his time in the 1940's serving with the 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars).

Along with 60 Canadian veterans and 60 youth sponsored by veterans affairs, Stringfellow, 76, traveled to France to mark the 55th anniversary of Canada's role in the June 6 D-Day landing and the Normandy campaign.

There he met others who had served their country and together they traveled by bus to various sites on the Normandy coast: Bayeux,Villons-Les Buissons, St-Andre-Sur-Orne, Caen, and Beny-Sur-Mer. They visited cemeteries, cenotaphs and military museums and at various locations along the route they took part in heartrending ceremonies commemorating their fallen comrades.

In Caen, Stringfellow kneeled to place small Canadien flags on the graves of his friends, Frank Townsend, 22, and C.J. Cushing, 24.

"They were good guys." says Stringfellow, of the war-time friendships formed so many years ago.

For Stringfellow, it was a time to "touch base with the past" and in some ways to put the ghosts to rest.

Like his fellow veterans, he found it an extremely emotional pilgrimage through time although the sad memories were tempered with bright moments of reminiscing with those who shared bonds forged during trying times.

This was Stringfellow's first trip back to the Normandy coast although he had been to Holland in 1995 for the commemoration of that country's liberation.

Born in Saskatchewan, Stringfellow enlisted in 1940 because, he says there was no work and at the time it looked like a fun thing to do. two of his brothers also joined.

Stringfellow says he preferred the Recce Regiment "because you could ride instead of walk and I was interested in machinery."

Ride he did - driving trucks, scout cars, Bren-gun carriers, jeeps, half-trucks, motorcycles and more, throughout England, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. The regiment provided vital information for the divisional commander and assisted in the liberation of Caen and ended in Germany with the capture of Oldenburg.

Stringfellow recalls his regiment having "many close calls. We drove over land mines held down by machine-guns, houses were blown up around us, we were shelled by artillery."

After the war he returned to Canada and became involved in trucking, a lumber business and working in BC parks. Stringfellow now enjoys golfing, bowling, fishing, traveling and activities at his local seniors' centre. He and his wife, Jessie, have six children (his oldest son served in the Navy for five years) and 18 grandchildren.

He also keeps active as a veteran of the 8th Recce Association and says he will be making a report on his trip to Normandy.

A regimental reunion is being organized in Vernon July 28-30, 2000. veterans from Canada, the U.S. and abroad are expected to attend and youth will also be represented through the Army Cadets with a parade being planned to kick-off the event. Previous reunions have been held nationwide, usually at three year intervals. The last time the reunion was held in Vernon was 1976.

Tom Mason in Vernon is the person heading up the year 2000 reunion and he can be contacted at (250) 542-2805.

WE HAD A CEREMONY AT JUNO BEACH

TANK MONUMENT AT JUNO BEACH

DEDICATION OF A NEW CANADIAN PLAQUE AT JUNO
BEACH
. SHEILA COPPS DID THE HONOURS HERE

AT Chateau d'Audrieu NEAR CAEN WE PAID
TRIBUTE TO THE FRENCH RESISTANCE

At the Canadian Cemetery at Beny Sur Mer I placed a memorial flag at
the grave site of Gunnar Wium, who lies alongside Russell Owchar.
Both had received a direct hit in their slit trench on our first night of
action at Le Mesnil, on the outskirts of Louvigny in the Caen area.

DISPLAY AT MILITARY MUSEUM SHOWS
8 RECCE BADGE WITH 14TH CANADIAN
HUSSARS AND SEE THE BLACK BERET

ABBAYE d'ARDENNE STORY

Tuesday, June 8, 1999                 The Province - National news A19

Small garden holds a
gloomy battle reminder

By Steve Berry - Staff Reporter

VILLONS-LES-BUISSONS, France -

As the names of 21 murdered Canadian soldiers were solemnly read out in a small garden here yesterday, gusts of wind shook rain from the green canopy above.

It was as if even the trees were crying for the dead men, prisoners of war who were executed by German SS troops in June 1944.

As each name was read, a Canadian student placed a single maple leaf at the base of a monument erected in their honour.

The men had been taken prisoner by the 12th SS Panzer Division as the Germans counterattacked in the weeks following D-Day. As many as 156 Canadian prisoners of war may have been executed by the SS in scattered groups across the countryside.

Here, the men were held in a collection of medieval buildings in the Abbaye d'Ardenne, including a Gothic church and farm houses.

When the Canadians refused to give more then name, rank and serial number, they were led up a short flight of stone stairs behind the church and into the tiny garden, where they were executed.

The Germans told them they would all be killed.

"Lined up together at the base of the stairs, hearing their comrades being murdered one by one before they entered the garden, they all shook hands as a gesture of comrades in friendship," said Jacques Vicco, whose family owned the land since the 1920s and who were in the French Resistance.

"The Canadian soldiers here were the victims of this ideology of death," said Vicco. "They joined the second world war's long list of martyrs."

After the service, Vicco said: "what happened here was a reflection of what happened during the war, democracy and freedom versus fascism."

Cliff Chadderton, 81, was a captain with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles when news of the atrocity first got out months after the killings. Some of the dead were his closest friends. The event has haunted him ever since.

"This has been with me since 1944."Can you imagine the courage of these men when they heard their friends being shot and yet they too refused to tell the Germans anything but name, rank and serial number?" said Chadderton, who later in the war rose to acting major.

"The whole story of the bravery of the ordinary Canadian is in that garden," said Chadderton, who, as chairman of the National Council of Veteran Association in Canada, has made a one-hour documentary of the killings and works to keep the story alive with other writings.

Former ordinary Canadian soldiers, 60 of them, older now, are touring part of northern France to commemorate the 55th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy campaign. Sometimes the crowds are large. Usually the veterans outnumber the French.

There are five youth delegates and five cadets from across Canada traveling with the veterans.

Today's events, especially the scene in the garden, was deeply affecting for these youngsters.

"There's evil in there," Ryan Price, 17. said of the garden. "It's like a presence that gets inside you. When I walked out there I couldn't smile."

Ryan, of Sidney, B.C., said he was especially disturbed when the names of the men were read out, some of whom were barely in their 20s.

 

 

NATURALLY I HAD TO HAVE A PICTURE WITH
SMOKEY SMITH VC WHO WAS WITH US ON THE TOUR.

 

MY ROOM MATE AND TRAVEL COMPANION
STANLEY EGERTON OF DOWNSVIEW FROM
THE CANADIAN SCOTTISH. A GREAT GUY.

On the 11th, we went by ferry to Portsmouth and returned
to Ottawa on the 13th and so on home.
 
I can honestly say that I couldn't have spent a nicer time
with a greater bunch of fellow veterans and the memories
of the tour will be treasured forever.
 
FOR FULL COVERAGE - PLEASE USE THE LINK TO
VETERANS AFFAIRS CANADA
www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=feature/normandy
 
 
WHEN I GOT HOME AFTER THE TOUR I RECEIVED THIS LETTER:
 
OTTAWA
 
June 23, 1999
 
Dear Mr. Stringfellow:
 
Just a short note to say thank you for everything you have done
for our country, Canada. You faced almost insurmountable challenges
during the Second World War, but rose to those challenges and
showed that those who truly believe in democracy will, in the end,
be victorious.
 
As a federal Member of Parliament, I must say how humble I was to
be in your midst. The free world owes you a tremendous debt of
gratitude.
 
Your friend and admirer,
 
Hec
 
Hector Cloutier, M.P.
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke