On June 6 on the coast of France there will be fireworks and music as a large gathering of Canadians mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Juno Beach Centre.
Originally conceived of in the mid-1990s by Canadian D-Day veteran Garth Webb, the museum and information centre was opened in 2003. The centre is situated directly on the beach in Courseulles-sur-Mer and bills itself as “the only Canadian museum in Normandy.” In 2012 the centre had more than 65,000 visitors.
“It will be an all-day event with bands playing and fireworks,” said the centre’s executive manager, Kevin Eyre. “And we’re hoping to have a significant number of veterans returning.”
In preparing for the event, the centre is arranging subsidies to entice Second World War veterans to make the trip and has commissioned a new short documentary to help visitors understand what happened on the beach.
“On June 6 we are premiering a new film we had made called They Walk With You, which tells the stories of the Canadians and when they landed and fought through Normandy,” said Eyre. The film will be shown in the centre’s theatre.
“This is the story of what the soldiers felt and what they went through,” said Eyre. “You’re standing right on the site of where Canadians fought and died, and this film helps reinforce the historical importance of the actual site.”
Dignitaries from both Canada and France are expected to attend. One of the anniversary events will be the dedication of the esplanade in front of the centre to Webb.
Webb, who landed on D-Day as a lieutenant with the 14th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, was the driving force behind the creation of the centre after noting during a trip to Juno Beach in 1994 that there was really nothing at the site to commemorate or explain Canada’s involvement.
In 2005 he received the Legion of Honour from the French government. Webb died on May 8, 2012, at the age of 93.
To mark the anniversary there will be concerts by the Canadian groups Cataraqui Brass and the Brideau-Gagnon Blues Band. In addition, students from Garth Webb Secondary School in Oakville, Ont., will meet the students of Collège Quintefeuille, Courseulles-sur-Mer, for a game of dodge ball on the beach.
For more information go to: http://www.junobeach.org/Centre/index.html