Havelyn Chiasson wearing cap and badge of The North Shore Regiment.Havelyn Chiasson
A Soviet DB-3 aircraft crash landed on Miscou Island, New Brunswick on April 28th, 1939. The aircraft, named "Moscow" and piloted by Vladimir Kokkinaki and Mikhail Gordienko, was on a record-setting trans-Atlantic flight when the crew was forced to ditch the plane due to bad weather.
Havelyn Chiasson (right) with his brother Clyde (left) in 1945.Havelyn Chiasson
Pre-Second World War German currency.Havelyn Chiasson
Havelyn Chiasson in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, September 2011.Historica Canada
"We captured a mile of beach that first day; that's all we had was a mile of beach, a mile long and about a half mile wide and that’s where we spent the first night. "
When we boarded the ships they pulled out the maps and put them out on the tables in the big mess hall aboard ship and said, ‘You know, this is D-Day, we’ll be landing in France’. And so it was a six hour trip across to the coast of France so we got up there in the morning, about five o'clock in the morning, and the big guns opened up, the navy guns. The artillery opened up that was there aboard ships. And the planes came in; bombed the beaches, and then we came down out of our big ships into our landing crafts.
There would be about 3,000 landing crafts that you could see - 36 men to a craft - and then the orders for it; of course, the order for them to hit the beach as soon as you could. And these boats were all operated by navy men, experienced navy men so when you hit the beach... when you got the place where you hit the beach a big ramp went down and the 36 men piled out.
But sometimes they hit a reef and the ramp would go down, several would be drowned with all their equipment. Others would swim to shore, some would be killed from the artillery and the Germans, of course, had opened up with everything they had there. We hit our beach at St Aubin, St Aubin-sur-Mer, that's where the North Shore [Regiment] landed. We captured a mile of beach that first day; that's all we had was a mile of beach, a mile long and about a half mile wide and that’s where we spent the first night.
But the sad... people talk about war - you know, how did you do this without falling apart? The first day - you know, we were together for like five years or five and a half years; we were just like brothers, and then all of a sudden here is all these people you know dead - you know dead or wounded; most of them dead. I think we lost 100 people killed that morning on the beach besides the wounded, so it takes quite a jolt out of you the first day.
But then after the first day, you know, the battle is over and you say, ‘What about Jim’? ‘Oh, he was killed’. You don’t think anything about it. And of course, you couldn’t do anything because, you know, here would be a brother, as I would call him, would be wounded real bad right there and you’d want to stop and bandage him up or do something before the orderlies - you weren’t allowed to. You had to go on. That wasn’t your job. I had bandaged up a lot of fellows and a lot of my friends did too when you were stopped, but when you were on the advance you couldn’t; you couldn’t do anything like that, you couldn’t stop and help anybody.
We captured that airport at Carpiquet, the North Shore Regiment, that was the worst... one of the worst battles of the war, and then Caen was the next; that was another one. Then the Falaise Gap, we fought there in the Falaise Gap. We closed all the different regiments, closed the Falaise Gap - it was just like mountains on both sides and the Germans - I don’t know how many hundred thousand Germans were caught in that Falaise Gap - but after we closed that then we went on fighting through.
The Americans captured Paris, the Third Division went up the coast a week after Dunkirk, Boulogne, Calais and the Canadian army captured that. Then we went onto Antwerp [Belgium]. We hit and captured that port in Antwerp but previous to that the American paratroops division landed in Nijmegen [Holland], captured that bridge Nijmegen - that was a very important thing - they captured that bridge. Then they got into trouble; they were having a hard time holding it, so they sent the North Shore Regiment up there from... we had just finished I think in Calais and Dunkirk - they sent us up on the 17th December, they sent us up to relieve the American Paratroop Division. So we relieved the American Paratroop Division and then the Canadian army held all that front for the winter - we stayed there that winter; held all that front.
And then they had capture the port at Antwerp in Belgium because all the supplies that had come in down through Normandy, all up through France, they knew that. So we captured the port at Antwerp then all the supplies came across there from Calais - it was only 20-something miles across or 30 miles across from…[Portsmouth] from England across was 30 miles to Antwerp. And then that winter, all the supplies were brought in there for the big drive in the spring. And the big drive in the spring, the first town we captured was Kleve; the North Shore captured Kleve, and then we went on and fought through Holland. We captured a Friesland town. Then we went on into Germany and we were fighting in Germany when the war ended.
May the 5th, about four o’clock in the morning the Colonel jumped into my dugout and said, ‘Send out this message’, and that was the last message that went out from the North Shore. ‘Ceasefire, don’t fire unless you’re fired upon’. And then these Germans started coming out with white flags and there were 200 of them.
But previous to that, when we saw the flags, two German officers came over and said they would surrender. The Colonel said, ‘How many men have you got out there’? He said, ‘200’. He said, ‘Bring them in’. The German Colonel spoke good English and he said, ‘No, I won’t’, he said. ‘The only way that I will bring my men in’, he said, ‘Is if you send two officers with me because if I step out here and start back to get my men they’ll shoot me in the back’. And the Colonel said, ‘No, we won’t do that; the war is over’. So he gave them two officers to go back, then they brought the men out, so that was the end of our war.