Bringing home a piece of the past

Amherst woman has keepsake from her father’s grave in France

Darrell Cole
Published on July 25, 2014
Ray Coulson, curator of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum, and Nova Tambeau look over some items he brought back from France, where Tambeau’s father, George Dahr was killed in fighting around Tilly-la-Campagne in July 1944. Among the items Coulson brought back was a shotglass with North Novies logo containing sand from Juno Beach and clay from the grave of her father – Pte. George Dahr.
Darrell Cole -

When Ray Coulson returned from France last month, he brought with him sand from Juno Beach and clay from the grave of Nova Tambeau's father, who was killed on July 25, 1944 at Tilly-la-Campagne

AMHERST – Nova Tambeau never met her father, but now she has a piece of his memory to hold on to and cherish in the form of a glass of sand from Juno Beach and clay from his grave.

“I was just 18 months old when he went overseas and I was four-and-a-half years old when he was killed,” Tambeau said. “Mom did her best to keep his memory alive and told my sisters and I a lot about our father and what kind of guy he was.”

Pte. George Dahr was killed by German machine gun fire on July 25, 1944 during the battle for Tilly-la-Campagne. He’s buried in Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.

He was one of 57+ members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders killed in a single day of fighting in the later stages of the Normandy Campaign to close the Falaise Gap and seal off German divisions fighting west of the Seine River.

When Ray Coulson, curator of the Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum, got back from the Return to Normandy 2014 tour several weeks ago he looked up his former neighbour and presented her with some photos from Dahr’s grave and the shotglass.

“As we went from cemetery to cemetery we were placing a poppy and flag, as well as a Glengarry on the grave of every North Novie. I knew what cemetery George was buried and I went looking for his grave so I could do this,” Coulson said. “It was the right thing to do, to bring the sand back from the beach and the clay from her father’s grave.”

Coulson said Dahr’s grave is at the back of the cemetery close to the wheat field where he died 70 years ago.

Tambeau said she was speechless when Coulson presented her with the shotglass and the photos.

“It was moving, very emotional,” she said. “It means so much to me to have this.”

Coulson said Dahr was 36 years old when he was killed at Tilly-la-Campagne. He said a lot of the members of his company called him dad because of his age and he was someone that was always looking out for his comrades.

Coulson said Canadian General Guy Simonds developed a system using spotlights reflected off clouds to light up the enemy positions. Unfortunately, it also silhouetted the approaching Canadian soldiers who were gunned down by the German defenders.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell