D-Day service in Amherst comes to an end

Dave Mathieson
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Since their first gathering in 1947, members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders have been remembered for the sacrifices they made on D-Day. It is with heavy hearts that Mary Lynn Chapman and Ray Coulson announced that the annual D-Day remembrance ceremony at the Amherst Cenotaph has come to an end.

AMHERST -  It was at the beginning of the Second World War that an entire battalion trained in Amherst for the D-Day invasion, which occurred June 6, 1944.

June 6, 2013, will mark the first year that the North Nova Scotia Highlanders (NNSH) Memory Club will not lay a wreath to honour the 486 North Novas who died during the Second World War.

"Over the last number of years the number of North Nova veterans has continued to decrease," said Mary Lynn Chapman, former secretary of the NNSH Memory Club. "The few who remain are well into their 80s and 90s, and most are dealing with serious health issues."

The very first North Nova Highlanders reunion was in 1947. Up until the1980s and 90s, they would still attract 600 or 700 veterans and family members who gathered for the annual reunion, coming from throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Western Canada and as far away as California.

"They would come every June 6 for a service, and then we'd adjourn to a local restaurant for a social where we'd have guest speaker," said Ray Coulson, curator at the Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum.

Coulson said it's sad that they won't have a ceremony this year but says it's the sign of the times.

"We'll miss the camaraderie with those guys," said Coulson.

After war was declared in 1939, the North Nova Regiment was formed in Amherst. It was an amalgamation made up of soldiers from three rifle companies from Nova Scotia and one rifle company from PEI.

The battalion trained in Amherst and Debert, boarded a troop ship in Halifax, and arrived in England on July 29, 1941.

They were then transported to Aldershot in southern England, where they trained for D-Day.

The North Nova's became part of the 9th Canadian Brigade that landed in the Juno Beach area on June 6, 1944. Known as the Normandy Landings, it was the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

They suffered four casualties on the first day, with the first casualty being Ralph Tuttle, who was from Brookdale.

"My dad picked up the bodies after D-Day," said Chapman, whose dad was Don M. Chapman. "And Ralph Tuttle was a good friend of my dad's."

The next day, June 7, was much more devastating. At the end of the day there were 210 casualties, including 175 missing soldiers, many of whom had been taken prisoner.

By the end of the European conflict, the North Novas had lost 486 soldiers, who are now buried in Commonwealth war cemeteries in Northwest Europe.

Chapman has travelled to the Netherlands where she has visited almost all the North Nova gravesites, taking photographs of them.

"Schoolchildren are assigned to certain graves," said Chapman. "They look after it, and then their children and their grandchildren look after it."

Chapman said it's with a heavy heart that they don't continue the D-Day tradition in Amherst but says their memory will not fade away.

There is the Commemorative Mural in downtown Amherst, the Cairn outside the Col. Layton Ralston Armoury and numerous artifacts on display at the NSHR Museum.

"They left a legacy for the citizens of Amherst," said Chapman.










Organizations: North Nova Scotia Highlanders Memory Club, NNSH Memory Club, Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum North Nova Regiment Normandy Landings NSHR Museum

Geographic location: Amherst, California, North Nova Nova Scotia New Brunswick Ontario Western Canada Halifax England Aldershot Southern England Juno Beach Brookdale Northwest Europe Netherlands

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Recent comments

  • Sine Darragh
    May 27, 2013 - 00:19

    I am hoping after speaking with some friends and family to have something June 6. My Dad is one of these brave men and wasn't sure how to tell him there wasn't gonna be anything as he has been asking me for almost a month now if I had heard anything. These veterans are getting older and frailer but it is time for the younger generations to help, if my Dad is wanting this to happen I will move heaven and earth to do it, because he and his comrades fought so we could, if a 91 year old man can show while he can, so can some of the younger generation.

  • Bucky Buchanan President Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Unit Moncton NB
    May 26, 2013 - 19:36

    We are currently looking into this story. A ceremony will happen, even if we have to come up and do it ourselves. More to follow. Bucky 1-506-962-1477

  • Alison Arsenault
    May 23, 2013 - 12:03

    It is so sad to read that there will not be a service this year. As the daughter of one of the aging vets I understand why they are not able to lay a wreath in memory of their fallen comrades. However I feel that their family members should be able to continue the tradition in their place. We owe them so much,

  • Charlie Joseph
    May 23, 2013 - 05:59

    Hey know it all. Read slowly and try to understand those big words a bit better. They are not doing the reunion because THE VETS ARE FRAIL AND UNABLE TO ATTEND, so it defeats the purpose and all logic to have a reunion if no one can attend. There is nothing being stopped by imaginary enemies of Veterans. As an aside Amherst has more people showing up to mark November 11th, than all of Toronto at Old City Hall in my decades living there. Amherst is wonderful in respecting Vets. Stop insinuating otherwise.

  • Chuck
    May 22, 2013 - 23:24

    I salute these men, the brave veterans of D-Day and beyond from the North Novies. Yes, it's sad the tradition won't continue and I hope Mary Lyn Chapman, Ray Coulson and other, interested Canadians from Amherst can find a way to another annual commemoration of a proud, tested and decorated Regiment - for today's children, and those yet to come so they will know of the patriotism, bravery, sacrifice and yes, even suffering, of these many men they'll never know. But men who gave of themselves for others, and the peace we and the children have because of their unselfish acts. God Bless each and every one of those Vets.

  • know it all
    May 22, 2013 - 21:23

    Another slap in the face to the remaining members still alive - we own these people our lives - show some respect and keep it going until the last has gone and continue it to show we care