Filmmaker taking veterans back to Normandy in 2014
Allan Cameron speaks to North Nova Scotia Highlanders re-enactors during a visit to Authie, France last year. The filmmaker, who created a DVD chronicling the regiment's experiences in Normandy, is organizing a trip next year back to Juno Beach to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1944.
AMHERST – Ray Coulson has spent years recounting the wartime experiences of one of Nova Scotia’s most famed regiments.
The curator of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum will get to follow in the footsteps of the Second World War regiment next June when he goes to France as part of the Return to Normandy 2014 project that’s being organized filmmaker Allan Cameron and his Veterans Voices of Canada initiative.
“I’m really looking forward to it. For years I have been talking about what the men did over there. It will be great to see for myself what it was like,” said Coulson, who will join Cameron and a group of veterans for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.
The regiment was formed in Amherst in 1939, had its headquarters in the Col. James Layton Ralston Armoury and trained on Park Street before going overseas. Members of the North Novies were among the Allied soldiers that came ashore in the largest amphibious invasion in history and fought throughout northwest Europe until the war’s end in May 1945.
“These young men sacrificed a lot. They were in the prime of their lives and they had so much to look forward but they gave it all up to go overseas and fight for their country and their freedom. Lord only knows how things would’ve turned out had they been unsuccessful,” said Coulson.
Coulson visited Holland with veteran Earl Gouchie in 1995 as part of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of that country. He said the veterans were still treated as heroes a half-century later and many there know more about Canada’s war effort than Canadians.
The regiment paid a high price with 486 members losing their lives.
Cameron said he got to know a lot of the regiment’s history while researching his own family history and filming a documentary featuring the North Novies. Both h is uncle and great uncle served with the regiment. His great uncle, Ernest Glenmore Hill, was killed in the Normandy campaign.
“June 6, 2014 will be special for the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and its veterans. It will be the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Europe and it will also be special because many of the veterans are in their late 80s or early 90s. It may be the last time they are physically able to travel to France,” said Cameron.
Cameron said he will be joined by Coulson, Nova Scotia Highlanders First Battalion members George Manthorne and Scott Moore and re-enactor Jonathan Harrison. There will also be a videographer filming the excursion.
He has embarked on a year-long effort to raise the money to fund the cost of taking some veterans from the North Novies with him.
“These men were 18 or 19-years-old when they served. Now they would be as young as 89 or 90 and as old as 93 or 94. Many of them are not physically or mentally capable of going over
He said the tour will include taking part in ceremonies on Juno Beach, while a series of wreaths will be laid at key places where the North Novies fought in the early days of the Normandy campaign, including at the Abbaye d’Ardenne at Authie where 13 North Novies were murdered by the Germans in the days after the Normandy landing.
“When we launched the DVD last year in Truro I was given a bottle of 10-year-old Glenora scotch-whiskey by the battalion commander and we’re going to crack it open on the beach and drink a toast to those men who fought and died and to those who have died since then,” Cameron said.
Cameron, whose DVD The Fighting North Novies: Into the Fire chronicled the regiment’s experiences in Europe, is donated 1,000 copies of the DVD to be sold to raise the money.
“I’m looking to take over two to three veterans along with a caretaker. It’s going to cost about $2,000 a person to take them over there,” he said. “We’re not looking for handouts, but would welcome individual or corporate donations.
“We need to know what our guys did over there. We often hear about what the other regiments did, but we don’t tend to talk about what this regiment did and the price it paid.”
Copies of the DVD are available at the regimental museum and Cameron said donations can be made to Return to Normandy 2014, c/o Allan Cameron, 94 Wildrose Dr., Sylvan Lake, Alta. T4S 2L8.