WWII

Dieppe at 75

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe raid by the Canadian army. Very controversial, as to what was achieved, it is none the less, a key point in history.

The Canadians were tasked with storming the Dieppe beach, obtaining information, and getting out. It didn’t go so well, and was considered a disaster by many historians. Others consider this raid as a testing bed for what eventually became D-Day. No matter what the opinion, it was a key attack.

This year, I was able to visit Dieppe on our tour of Belgium and northern France.

On our visit, the day we were to arrive at the August 19th 1942 Memorial, we were running very late. The day before, we went back to Vimy to see the tunnels and trenches that were not open due to the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy ridge. And we had to drop some other travellers of our group in Arras. So we were there over two hours late. From what I could gather, the people at this memorial were waiting especially for us! The woman was very upset at our tardiness, and my girlfriend spoke to her in French and explained our situation. It seemed to mollify her. Her husband, one of the owners of the memorial, was still very welcoming. We soon learned why.

Turns out, his mother was in occupied Dieppe. The day of the raid by the Canadians, leaflets were dropped, saying “stay in your homes, be safe. This is not a raid. We are the Canadian army. We will be back”. The French held to that hope. He said, “and then in 1944, you fulfilled your promise…you came back”. As such, he holds the Canadians in very high esteem, because we came back and liberated Dieppe. Very powerful. The museum/memorial, which is an old theatre, is full of memorabilia, photos, portraits of Canadian infantry. While the old theatre held its own appeal (being a theatre type, and he allowed us to go on the stage and such), I felt both very honoured to be Canadian, and unworthy. I had no connection to the raid or liberation. Its amazing how much this man held Canadian citizens in such high esteem.

We kept our promise. We came back.

That still sticks in my memory. Photos were not permitted of the artifacts (see the link above for more information), but the man allowed me photos of the theatre itself. Maybe on a later post. We went down to the beach. These photos are of our trip down. Its no wonder the soldiers had a tough time on the rocky beach. Just walking normally was difficult; never mind having to run up it with an enemy firing at you!

And what sticks the most with this, is that the men who participated in this raid were volunteers; not professional soldiers. They gave up their lives to fight for freedom.

All photos taken with the Fuji X100T.

On the beach. Rocky, and difficult to walk on.

A soldiers view. How can anyone manage this?

Birds-eye view of the beach.

A short visit

There are two flying Lancaster bombers in the world. One in the UK, and one in Canada. This year, the Canadian one, VRA, went to England to fly with the other for a couple months. By all accounts, the tour was a big success.

Lancaster VRA is based in Hamilton, Ontario, near my hometown of Dundas, such that, to me, the Lanc is a piece of my home. As such, I watched as it left Hamilton for England. I waited outside my house in Ottawa in hopes to see it fly by. Sadly, the day was very cloudy, but I heard the engines in the distance. I followed its tour on Twitter, as photos were tweeted of its journey. On its return, I followed it again, thanks to modern technology. It was through this, that I learned it would be stopping over at a small airport in Gatineau, just on the other side of the Ottawa river in Quebec. It was staying for the night and heading on its final leg in the morning.

My excitement was palpable. My favourite WWII aircraft, and bit of home, was stopping HERE! My girlfriend managed to calm me down. On saturday, their departure was delayed, and my plans to see her come in were unraveling. I had a show to do downtown (on crew, not on stage). I may not get a chance to see her. And as we were waiting outside my GF’s parents house in the east end of the city, I saw my chances dwindling. I was following on radar and there was no way we could get over there in time. Then in the distance, I heard *that* sound. I said to the air, “there she is”, and shortly after she appeared over the treetops, escorted by a P-40 and P-51 fighter. My GF said, “do you want to go see it?”. I didn’t think we could make it over there, see her, and get to the theatre downtown in time.

To cut it short, we went.

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Glad we did too. So nice to see VeRA (as she has come to be known). And it being a small airport, there was little warning, and the gathering was only some two dozen people, and we could get right up close.

Lancaster VRA

Exhaust on the cowlings. Well weathered for her journey.

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The crew even made a speech to the crowd. The cost for the trip is close to $750,000.

The crew who made it all possible.

The crew who made it all possible.

So glad I chose…my GF pushed me into making the trek. Why? Because as they were closing up, the airport crew made a very important statement. They were leaving at 10am the next day.

Well, Sunday morning was planned. We would be there to see her take off.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. We got there about 9:50am. And because we hung around to the very end (something I tend to do for most things), not too many knew about the takeoff time. So there were maybe a dozen people there to see her off.

Lancaster starting engines

Firing up engine #1.

And being a small airport, the security and personnel was light. As such, I was nice and close as VeRA fired up her engines and headed out

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All four engines running. What a sound.

 

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Heading out. Great to be so close.

As she taxied by, I got behind for a few shots. The wind from the engines was incredible.

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And she’s off.

 

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Soon after she was on her way, but not before she came around for a flypast, then on to YHM and home.

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As I watched her disappear I felt pride. For our country and the happy British people who saw two lancs flying, some for the first time in 60 years, for the crew for the great job, and for my hometown girl.

To me, living in Ottawa, she is a little piece of home. And after following her for the past two months, I’m glad she stopped in so I could say hello, welcome back, and good job.