Tilly-la-Campagne in France will soon have a piece of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders history in its town hall to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the community's liberation during the Second World War.
AMHERST – When he visited battlefields around Normandy, France last month Ray Coulson was surprised to see no mention of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders in the community of Tilly-la-Campagne.
After all, the regiment engaged in a vicious firefight with Nazi soldiers 70 years ago today with dozens killed in a single day of fighting and many more wounded.
“It really was a surprise because when I walked into the town hall I really expected to see something mentioning the sacrifice of the North Novies in liberating the town, but there was nothing. There were things from other regiments that fought there, but nothing from the North Novies,” said Coulson, the curator of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum in Amherst. “I spoke to a woman there and she said the town would be honoured to have something from the regiment.”
Coulson was in France in June as part of the Return to Normandy 2014 tour organized by filmmaker Alan Cameron, whose great uncle Ernest Glenmore Hill was killed at Tilly-la-Campagne.
Enter Mary Lynne Chapman, the secretary of the former North Nova Scotia Highlanders Memory Club and the daughter on D-Day veteran Donald Chapman, CD.
Chapman was a transport driver who carried ammunition during the battle for Tilly la Campagne. After landing with North Novies on D-Day and fighting through the Normandy campaign, he served through northern France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.
“He was one of only 11 North Novies who saw service in northwest Europe that was not wounded, killed or taken prisoner during the war,” Chapman said. “He had a few trucks blown up by the Germans but he always managed to avoid getting hit.”
Her father, who joined the regiment at the age of 19 when war broke out in 1939, died in 1997.
Chapman agreed to provide a plaque bearing her father’s name and the regimental badge to Coulson to send to France along with a book containing some history of the regiment, an excerpt from Will R. Bird’s book No Retreating Footsteps detailing the battle for Tilly as well as some information on her father and the names of the North Novies killed in the battle and where they are buried.
“A number of years ago a North Novie from P.E.I., Leaman Murl, designed these plaques to be placed in all the legions on Prince Edward Island and one year during a reunion he brought one to Horace Boucher. My mother approached him to ask if he’d make one for my father and he was thrilled to receive his special birthday present,” Chapman said. “When mom and dad passed away I gave a lot of memorabilia to Ray for the museum. When he got back from France he asked me if he could send dad’s plaque to Tilly as a tribute to the ordinary soldiers who fought and died there.”
Chapman said her father was one of those ordinary soldiers and she knows he would be honoured to have his plaque hanging in the town hall at Tilly.