D-Day memories linger for Victoria residents, 70 years on

Former radar technician remembers rumble of thousands of aircraft along the English coast on June 6, 1944

Leslie Saul

Sally Walker recalls the rumble of thousands of aircraft flying over her radar station somewhere along the Dorset coastline on June 6, 1944.

Walker and her fellow Royal Air Force technicians stepped outside to watch, unaware they were witnessing the beginning of the largest seaborne invasion in history.

“I remember the two big Hengist and Horsa aeroplanes, these enormous (partially) wooden gliders built to take the airborne troops. They were so impressive,” she says from her Fairfield home.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, or D-Day, when more than 156,000 Allied troops – including 14,000 Canadians – stormed the beaches of Normandy and changed the course of the Second World War.

Canada’s troops were charged with taking taking Juno beach, one of five beaches heavily defended by the Germans along France’s coastline.

Amongst the 50 Canadian naval destroyers was HMCS Gatineau, a former Royal Navy ship transferred to Canada in the run-up to D-Day.

Gatineau sustained some damage during the invasion but still made it back to English ports, where 18-year-old Winnipeg native Leslie Saul joined its ranks.

“We headed over to northern Scotland, then back to Ireland and then the English Channel, where we were patrolling and protecting merchant ships,” said Victoria resident Saul, now 89. A few near-misses with German U-boats occurred, but Saul returned safely to Canada following Victoria in Europe (VE) Day on June 8, 1945.

After the war ended, Saul followed news of Gatineau and learned she had sailed through the Panama canal to Victoria, where it was dismantled at Capital Iron’s shipyard in the Inner Harbour in 1956. (The hull was then barged up-Island to Royston and sunk to create a breakwater for a lumber operation. Its remnants can still be sighted today.)

“I went to see (Gatineau’s hull) after I was married,” Saul said. “She went through most of the war and got into some action. And you get very attached to your ship as a sailor, it’s your home and your shipmates are there. So it was very sad to see her sunk there.”

Seven decades on, and the memories of the Second World War still linger for many in Greater Victoria.

IMAX D-Day screening free to vets, serving forces today

Veterans, active forces and cadets in uniform or with medals receive free admission to IMAX Victoria’s D-Day: Normandy 1944 screenings at 10 a.m., 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. all day today. The 10 a.m. screening features a short talk prior to the film on the significance of D-Day.

Just Posted

Police actions under investigation following Langford arrest

IIO investigates officer-related incidents that result in serious harm

Victoria woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

Victoria council looks to self-impose carbon tax on staff airfare

A new carbon pricing fee would put additional funds into the city’s Climate Action Reserve

Gas stations could push to 167.9 cents a litre this week

Analyst says high prices are due to supply and demand

United Way celebrates volunteers, contributors in Greater Victoria area

$4.7 million was raised in 2018 thanks to the work of hundreds of people

WATCH: Cougar saunters through Metchosin yard

Spring cougar sighting caught on camera

Wanted by Crime Stoppers

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Do you think the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris should be rebuilt?

Images of one of the word’s most iconic landmarks were seared into… Continue reading

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Island Cup set for East Sooke on May 3-5

Off-road racing event expected to attract over 50 racers

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read