Grade 11 students at Fredericton High School filed into the Tom Morrison Theatre May 16 for a screening of a new Heritage Minute from Historica Canada commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and the role of NB North Shore Regiment.
"History happens right here and it involves New Brunswickers," social studies teacher Andrew Rutledge told the students as they arrived.
Anthony Wilson-Smith, president and chief executive officer for Historica Canada, introduced the film clip, featuring the story of 47-year-old Major Archie MacNaughton and members of the A Company from the North Shore Regiment in New Brunswick, who landed at Juno Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day and soon encountered enemy machine gun fire at Tailleville.
"What you will see, changed the world that day," Wilson-Smith said. "It changed lives and it changed communities. Fourteen thousand Canadians were part of the biggest invasion in war history. The next time you see a veteran remember they were once like you. A lot never got a chance to get any older."
Brandan Savage, a history teacher at Miramichi Valley High School, told students his grandfather Bill was with Major MacNaughton on D-Day, serving as signaller for A Company. Before his death in 2007, he told his grandson what happened at Tailleville. MacNaughton and several others in their nine-member troop were killed in action. Savage's grandfather was shot in the chest and listed among the dead, but Allied patrols discovered he was still breathing while scouring the area for survivors.
"These events I hold very close to my heart and they are very close to what I do," Brandon Savage explained. "It is a story of quiet heroism and tragic loss. We can't let this be forgotten. There is a cost in human lives."
Major MacNaughton had a wife, children and a farm at home in Miramichi. A veteran of the First World War, he volunteered for the Second World War even though he was considered too old, believing he had a responsibility to serve his country and take care of young troops on the battlefield. He wrote letters home saying he was glad to be there and play a role, regardless of the outcome.
"It was nice to see a common man and understand what he went through," said student Dianna Kopp. "To see him, a farmer from New Brunswick, it makes you understand how real it really was."
Dr. J. Marc Milner, a military historian, author, and Director of the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick, told the students "the burden on November 11 is not just to remember the dead passed down to us after the war." It is also to make sure war never happens again, that Canada remains a kinder country and a good place to live.
"History teaches us this kind of lesson," Milner stated. "It's a wake up call to stay engaged."
The new Heritage Minute on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day will be released publicly on May 30. CBC National News will air a broadcast preview on May 29. Some 2.5 million viewers are expected to view it within the first 30 days of the official launch.