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Trail Blazers: Quiet wartime contributions from Trail citizenry

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives

by Sarah Benson-Lord

Trail Museum and Archives

This week, Trail Blazer’s recognizes the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the term associated with allied landings on the beaches of Normandy in northern France on June 6, 1944.

The Canadian War Museum states 14,000 Canadian soldiers participated in D-Day.

The Royal Canadian Navy was a major player, as well, supplying 110 ships and around 10,000 sailors.

This led to the lengthy Battle of Normandy, which finally saw the German line breached and saw the tide turn.

U.S. General Eisenhower delivered the following order to the allied troops on the morning of the invasion, which incidentally was delayed by a day due to poor weather.

Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied expeditionary force:

You are about to embark on a great crusade.

The eye of the world are upon you and the hopes and prayers of all liberty-loving peoples go with you.

In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one.

Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened.

He will fight savagely.

But in this year of 1944, much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940 and 1941.

The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats in open battle, man to man.

Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground, our home fronts have given us overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and have placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.

The tide has turned and free men of the world are marching together to victory.

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.

We will accept nothing less than full victory.

Good luck and let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

The Trail Times was swift to report what it could about the invasion, including the directive above.

A chronology of the events was published, as well as various accounts of the RCAF and even Winston Churchill himself.

Images of paratroopers dotting the skies and soldiers disembarking Higgins boats graced the pages of the paper for many issues to come.

As the days went on, the city began to learn of her boys who participated in the raid, including Lawrence May, aboard the HMCS Prince Henry, George Patterson, aboard HMCS Huron, his brother Thomas Patterson and David Jones, both aboard HMCS Sioux, among others.

The pride in those households must a have been profound.

The Cominco Magazine, first published in February 1940 as a way to connect with servicemen overseas, took the opportunity to salute the troops and highlight the company’s role in the war effort on the cover of the July 1944 issue.

Using an image from famous cartoonist Mendoza, sent to Cominco by their British sales reps, Editor Lance H. Whittaker spoke to the foreboding cover:

It is doubtful whether any war material has been more important, more vital to victory, more essential to the planning and development of the invasion, than zinc.

It is in almost every conceivable item of a soldier’s fighting equipment and the thousands upon thousands of tons of it that we have poured out over the last four years are now going to work where it can be most effective.

Whittaker clearly understood the role of homefront morale; with supplemental workers teeming through the plants (thank you, ladies), D-Day was an incredible opportunity to boost spirits of both folks at home and the 2,200 smeltermen overseas in active service.

At this time, although quite covertly, P9 was contributing to what would officially end the war a year later, with the production of heavy water for the US Army.

Operation Overlord, the code name assigned to the battle that began on D-Day, was in the works for about nine months.

It last nearly three months and over 5,000 Canadian soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice, with more than 18,700 casualties.

While the battlefront was across the globe, Trail’s citizenry quietly made notable contributions to the six-year long shadow in our collective history.

Read more Trail Blazers:

A story of unrequited love and murder, 95 years later

Fires raged in the summer of 1917

Looking at the pioneers of leadership

From the roaring 1920s to the war years

Remembering the Silver City Serenaders of Song

A Summer Place

Gyro Park, the perennial summertimehaven

Ceremony honours Trail airman, 17, and 22 others killed in Second World War

Remembering a young man from Trail who went to war and never came home

Long-lost poem recounts life of an air gunner

Colourful memories in ‘Silver City Linings’

Big Fish Tales

Great ol’ classics on four wheels

Memories of Dixie Lee linger

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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