When I saw the coast of Canada disappearing from sight when we left Halifax, I didn’t want to cry, but I couldn’t stop myself.
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I am Lorenzo Tremblay, sergeant in the Régiment de la Chaudière. I was present at the landing in Normandy at Bernières-sur-Mer on June 6, 1944. I lost my father when I was 11 years old. There were ten children in my family. We didn’t have any work. So I decided to enlist. We left, ten of us from my hometown. I operated a Bren .303 light machine gun and a flame-thrower. There were sixty-four of us in the platoon, which was Number 4 Platoon of the Chaudière’s support company.
We prepared for the Normandy landings. We embarked at Southampton [England] on June 5th, at five o’clock in the evening. We spent the night on the water and we arrived in front of Bernières-sur-Mer at around seven o’clock in the morning. After that, the real fighting began. We were in real action. We couldn’t approach land right away. They took us to shore in barges. We fought our way through to the other side of Bernières. We spent the night behind the village of Bernières. The action started on that day and continued until May 4, 1945 [the surrender of Germany], Victory Day. If I took the time to explain to you everywhere that I had been, we would be here for the entire day!
I had been in two or three places before Carpiquet. I was in Carpiquet for almost a week. We went through Rots - Colombelles, Rots and Carpiquet. At Carpiquet, it was terrible because the English [Canadians] had taken it but they were too quick to celebrate and the Germans counter-attacked. It was us, the Régiment de la Chaudière who had to win back Carpiquet. We took a real beating; we lost a lot of people.
I had switched teams with a sergeant who had just come back from an attack. There were attacks every day and for each one we would switch sections. There was a sergeant whose name was Gagnon. He had come back from an attack and he was sick with the flu. He asked me if I could replace him during the next attack and then he would replace me during two others. I accepted. While I was out on the attack instead of him, our own planes hit the wrong target; they dropped bombs on our positions. Armand Gagnon came from a place near Rivière-du-Loup. Sergeant Gagnon was killed. He had taken cover under a Bren gun carrier and the carrier was hit [on August 14, 1944 in the advance towards Falaise].
I have an amazing memory. I remember everything. Even at my age, I can still recollect everything that I have done, from A to Z. I kept a journal and I noted important points, like where we had been and what we were going to do there or what we had done. I got married before leaving Canada; I was really in love with my wife. I really missed her. That was all mixed in with my history.
We went to Vimy, near the same area where the First World War [1914-1918] had ended. Then we moved to Nijmegen [Netherlands] where we spent the winter. I went through tunnels [at Vimy]. We didn’t engage in combat there, but we did some exploring. We realised that it wasn’t the [same] war as 1914-1918, that it was another kind of war. It was a motorised war. [1939-1945] In 1914-1918, they didn’t have any planes or bombers. They didn’t have the kind of equipment that we had in 1939-1945. It was hand-to-hand combat in 1914-1918. It’s a memorial. It gave you the chills when you saw that monument. They didn’t make any big memorial for our war.
When I go to sleep at night, I dream that I am still fighting in the war. I am caught in the middle of a bombing. It’s hard to explain, but it still happens quite often. It had an impact on me. I wasn’t that old. When I saw the coast of Canada disappearing from sight when we left Halifax, I didn’t want to cry, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was thinking to myself, I may get to see my country again if I’m lucky. I was very lucky to be able to come back. There weren’t many of us who returned from D-Day.
I have been back to France twenty times, on every anniversary. I tried to find the families I had known but I couldn’t locate any of them. I did make friends who put me up. For example, I am in constant communication with a guy named Kost from Amersfoort, Holland, and with a guy named Mandrillon in Paris. We have also been in almost constant communication since the war.