Francis Leblanc's Medals (L-R): 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; Canadian Volunteer Service Medal; War Medal (1939-45).Francis Leblanc
Francis Leblanc's Medal for invasion of Normandy from France.Francis Leblanc
Portrait of Francis Leblanc in Uniform, at 17 years old, in England.Castle Studios, Cardiff
Francis Leblanc in Moncton, New Brunswick, November 2009.Historica Canada
"When we landed, there was nobody on the beach. Oh, about half an hour later, the beach was just littered with soldiers, dead and dying, both."
Yeah, this German plane came over and dropped the bomb. And when they did, it was one of these bouncing bombs. It landed in the courtyard and then hit the building. And it took out a section of the building where all the troops were. There was quite a few of them that were killed, quite a few of them just injured.
We could hear this one guy hollering for help. We dug in, in the rubble and everything, we came to where he was, but we couldn’t get him out because there was a dead soldier laying over him. And we had to cut his leg off in order to get the man that was alive out. So we finally did; and we hauled him out through the little passageway and when we almost got all the way out, the whole thing collapsed on us. And I kept them alive by taking the dust out of their mouth and everything. And when we got back onto the street, Colonel Lyons, our colonel, turned to Major Slack and he asked him to write up a military medal for me and another one for the officer. Major Slack wrote the medals up, but he didn’t write one for me. He wrote it for himself and he never went near the place. So he got the medal and I didn’t.
And we loaded up in Southampton [England], and all the troops, that was one of the jump off points. And we were on this big ship and there was around 1800 troops onboard. And we sailed for France. And when we got there, and the invasion was supposed to be on the fifth, instead of the sixth. But there was a big storm in the English Channel and we couldn’t get the Normandy invasion started. So there was a lot of boats that swamped and everything, but we were on a big ship.
They had everything aboard that ship that we wanted or didn’t want. They had chocolates and they had chicken, they had steaks, they had everything. Like a condemned man, his last meal. We had everything we wanted. The next morning, on the sixth, we all came out on deck about 5:30 in the morning and got in the LCPs, Landing Craft Personnel, held 18 men, three rows of six and we got onboard and then we made a flotilla going around in a circle. Then everybody lined up and off to the shore we went. And that’s when hell broke loose.
So when we hit the beach, we got within pretty close to the beach and they lowered the door in front and they said, okay, start going. So I was in the centre row in the back and the right hand row went first. And the chap on the right hand side, he wasn’t supposed to go right away. He was supposed to wait until I went and my webbing caught. And I was a couple of seconds slower. When he seen this, he jumped in front of me and when he jumped in front of me, he was on the landing thing and the machine gun cut him in half. So I was supposed to be there, but I was lucky.
We went in the water and went over across the beach and then we ran across and up the beach, up to the sand dune. And we waited for the [Royal] Winnipeg Rifles because that’s who we were supposed to go in with. So we went in with them. I was laying up against the sand dune and I turned around; and I looked down the beach and here was the beach master [marshalled landing troops and equipment]. He had fallen, so I was wondering why. So I ran down and he’d been shot. I bandaged him up and I come back up again; and the funny part of it was, and I still can’t understand why I did it, I run through the machine gun fire, coming in first,and then I ran through the machine gun fire again, going back down to help this guy. I ran so fast that I passed my own shadow. And I never got hit.
When we landed, there was nobody on the beach. Oh, about half an hour later, the beach was just littered with soldiers, dead and dying, both.