Showing posts with label Memoirs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Memoirs. Show all posts

Sunday, June 6, 2010

'In a Company of Heroes'

As I mentioned, my brother was down this past week for a visit.

He's always putting me on to movies I've missed, usually bringing 2 or 3 from his massive collection down with him for us to watch. Often buying me one he thinks I particularly would like or need to have.

This time, he didn't bring any movies with him. Unless you count the entire six seasons of Get Smart on DVD which he bought down here and now brings back on every visit. He only watches it down here. It's kind of cool, reliving a piece of your childhood that way.

But the first night he was here, he asked if I had ever watched "Band of Brothers" on HBO. No, I hadn't but I had often seen it in the Guide. I really should watch it, he said, it was excellent. The following morning what was on TV but the entire Band of Brothers series, starting with the very first episode.

He convinced me that I could run my few errands the following day, that today this is what we would do. Unfortunately, the phone kept ringing. Then a friend came to the door. I kept returning to the show but after a few hours, I commented that although I was still following the story I had missed enough to still not really know who all the characters were.

Shortly thereafter, I apparently having missed something my brother considered significant, something that I had to see so I could understand and appreciate something that would come later, he proclaimed that he was hungry. We should turn off the TV and go out for lunch. No, really. That's what we should do.

I was a little perturbed. After all, he was the one who had wanted me to watch this, convinced me to give up the day for it and then here I was being essentially told that I couldn't watch the rest of it.

But we went out for lunch. And later, while I ran some errands he stopped in at the Future Shop. Nothing new there, it's one of his favourite places to browse, so I didn't think much of it. When we returned home, he handed me the DVD set of Band of Brothers. "Gee, thanks, but you didn't have to do that." "I know but now you will be able to watch the whole thing."

We started with where we had left off and made it through Part VI before he left, leaving me with four parts left to watch. But as I listened to talk about D-Day, Normandy and the assault on the beaches that would be going on at the same time as Easy Company went about their mission, I turned to my brother and commented on the Canadians at Juno Beach.

And I must admit that it was nice to finally (for once) have knowledge of something that he was a little more fuzzy on - he wasn't entirely sure of the Canadian soldiers involvement in D-Day.

I was.
It was about 2:30 p.m. when Westhaver, Westie to his buddies, landed on Juno Beach for an allied invasion that was the beginning of the end for the German forces pummelling Europe.

He’d joined the army in May 1942, flew to England in August of that year and trained for six or seven months to become a wireless operator with the Army Signal Corps. He and his fellow servicemen spent months more practising for battle on the beaches of Wales, "almost like a rehearsal for a show."

But no amount of training prepared the young men, many just 21 or 22, for what they encountered on that strip of Normandy sand.


Sailing over the English Channel to get there, Westhaver huddled with British commandoes, who sharpened their knives for battle.

"But there wasn’t much talk," he says. "I think they were all like me because we had never been in action before so we didn’t really know what to expect."

The then-21-year-old spent his first few moments of action wading through bodies.

"The water was up around my shoulders . . . and here the water was full of dead Canadians floating by with their heads down and you could see Canada on their shoulder. . . . So I had to push these guys out of the way to get into the beach," he recalls.

"There were dead bodies everywhere, laying on the beach and everything. So I’m running up the beach — and I’ve thought about this many times — all of a sudden I see an airplane coming.

"Now I used to build airplanes when I was a kid, I was always interested in airplanes. This airplane had two engines, two motors and all of a sudden sparks started coming out of the wings and I’m looking at it . . . coming at me. And all of a sudden it dawned on me, ‘He’s firing at us.’

"This was a German, this was a German airplane so . . . there was a hole there and I ran and jumped in the hole. I landed on top of a dead Canadian."

He shakes his head, but like he did that day, he keeps going.

"As soon as the aircraft went over you could hear the guns going . . . but it was a very confusing day because there were bullets flying everywhere. . . . You’d hear them over your head and the Canadian Navy, they were firing over our heads into the German lines . . . and you could hear these great big shells going over your head — whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa — and I used to think, ‘Oh my God, let’s hope that they keep going.’ "

This dangerous chaos is what D-Day veterans of many stripes have described over the years.

But fewer of them are around these days to talk about the horror and heroism.

Nova Scotia vets Earl Gouchie and Irving Cromwell, now gone, lived the horror then and — off and on — for the remainder of their days.

On the eve of the 60th anniversary of D-Day six years ago, Gouchie, a former sniper, could still smell the blood of his fallen comrades, hear the rat-a-tat-tat of machine-gun fire and feel the artillery shells groan.

Cromwell, his hand still trembling from the "shell shock" of a long gone war, recalled a fear frozen in time — as if he still stood on that beach, on that day, as the bombs and soldiers fell.
It's hard to comprehend, to get your head around, what it must have been like for those young men, for those boys. In fact, I think it's a lot easier not to even try.

And yet, be that as it may, we owe them at least that much, don't you think?

I'm going back to watch some more of Band of Brothers. It's the least I could do.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Kind of makes those other shows look rather lame in comparision, dones't it?

Sand artist, Kseniya Simonova, who moved audiences to tears as she won Ukraine’s Got Talent, has become an online sensation with more than two million hits.

Miss Simonova, 24, drew a series of pictures on an illuminated sand table showing how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during World War II.

One video clip of her work on the television talent show has been viewed by two million users alone.
H/T to Lex

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sixty-Five Years Ago

D-Day. The invasion of Normady.

We have heard those words bandied around a lot today as the 65th anniversary of the "liberation of Europe".

A day with many fine speeches.

But let us never forget Juno Beach.
Juno Beach, an eight-kilometre-wide stretch of sand and bucolic fishing villages, was where 14,000 soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division battled their way ashore against fierce resistance from 7,100 Germans of the 716th Infantry Division.

The Canadians overran the port of Courseulles-sur-Mer, France and two smaller villages to the east - Bernieres and St. Aubin. By nightfall on June 6, 1944, they penetrated further inland than either the Americans - or the British.
And although I'm no fan of the man, I must say that I did appreciate his words today.
"On this stretch of beach, code-named Juno, Canadian soldiers undertook what would prove to be one of the defining operations of our proud military history," Harper told a crew of dignitaries and veterans at Juno Beach.

"Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen had pushed further inland than any other allied troops.

"Together they had breached Hitler's . . . Europe and effectively turned the tide of a war as bitter and bloody as any the world has ever known," said Harper.

The prime minister said that the soldiers fought for peace and freedom, the same things Canadians today are fighting for in Afghanistan.

It is no exaggeration to say that the course of history itself changed that very day," Harper said. "A triumph of this magnitude was not without sacrifice, of the 15,000 Canadians who took part in that initial assault, nearly 1,000 were killed or wounded. Over the course of the Normandy campaign, over 5,000 had paid the ultimate price.

"Through their bravery, skill and sheer determination, the shackle of the Nazi oppression was shattered and humanity was rescued from a future of tyranny, racism and cruelty."
All of them.

And might I suggest that you take a few minutes to peruse the first few videos to the far right of this page. And end with this nice piece from the UK Guardian.

By the by, as to Sarzosky's apparent desire to have today's ceremony limited to only President Obama and himself, to the exclusion of Canada and Britain, might I remind le president that his country was happy enough to see us there in 1944.

Something which the French people themselves do not seem to have forgotten, even if their leader has.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Blue Jay and Kit Kat Go To Springforth 2009

On Friday May 8th we took a bus to Moncton New Brunswick. On the way there we stopped at Irving. Me and Kit Kat shared a chocolate milk. Then we had supper on the way there. When we got there we went to Mw Baptist Church. Our worship band for the weekend is Tim Milner. At the end of the night all of us went to Lewisville Baptist church.

The next morning we went to McDonalds for Breakfast. Then we went to Mw Baptist Church. Then we went to Pizza Delight for a lunch buffet. We went back to Mw Baptist church again. At the church we sang worship songs with the band and listened to speakers. When it was over Pastor Jon went on the bus with us on the way back. The bus drivers name was Paul. We picked up the Sr High students at ABU. (Atlantic Baptist University).

Then we went to the mall to shop. When we got there Pastor Jon gives us instructions. We got an hour and a half to shop and eat supper. At 6:15 we went back on the bus to go home. We went to Truro for a pit stop. We had a great time this weekend. The Tim Milner Band was great. We went home with tired faces.

~ The Blue Jay

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Real You ... Check Six

This could be great fun. And might just make you think a bit.
The idea is to write your memoir in just six words. Although it strikes me that those six words may well be very different at different times in your life.

Mine? Right now, that's easy.
Too much, too fast, too late.

But my personal favourite: Found Love After Nine Months

So what do you think? Are you up for it?
What's yours?

H/T to Bob Kraft's P.I.S.S.D.

Cross-posted at The Flight Deck