I started the day out by heading back to Canada's Juno Beach Center ( http://www.junobeach.org/). This time though I made plenty of stops to explorer the area near Juno Beach. Once I got to the Juno Beach Center I went in for a visit. The place is quite impressive, probably more so then their web site. The center tells the history of Canada surrounding the events of WWII and it's a place for visitors to learn about today's Canada. One thing I thought was quite interesting was some of the wording on a large sign near the exit. That sign provided a summary of what Canada is today and welcomed the visitors to Canada and it stated that:
"Canada is neither France nor Great Britain; and it is not the U.S.A. either..."
Click here for the full text of this sign.
Two things I was interested in finding at the Canada's Juno Beach Center were:
I found this tank on the way to the Juno Beach Center. The interesting thing about it is that it belonged to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. George Labbee originally joined the South Saskatchewan Regiment when he began his military training but later he joined the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and that's who he was with during the D-Day invasion and the days to follow.
The information at the Juno Beach Center is clearly focus on Canada's involvement in WWII in Europe. The center is quite large and it took me a few hours even for my very selective visit, so it was a bit disappointing to see that all there was on the 1941 Battle of Hong Kong was what is shown in the picture below. I guess in the grand scheme of things Canada's involvement is Hong Kong was small compared to that in Europe and this site is after all for Juno Beach, so maybe the treatment is appropriate?
The next three photos show the path taken by the Canadians after they made it on to Juno Beach.
The description for this photo says "Canadian soldiers eat aboard a ship on the way to the D-Day invasion in Normandy". Could one of these guys be George? If not, I imagine he was in the same situation and ate a meal with a similar look on his face.
The description for this photo says "Personnel of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade landing on "Nan White" Beach on D-Day at Bernieres-Sur-Mer." The North Nova Scotia Highlanders and George Labbee where part of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade.
The description for this photo says "Canadian soldiers advancing through the streets of Courseulles-Sur-Mer on D-Day." The North Nova Scotia Highlanders and George Labbee advanced through Bernieres-Sur-Mer a few kilometers east of Courseulles-Sur-Mer, but it would have been very similar.
After I left the Juno Beach Center I followed the path that the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and George Labbee had taken to get to the south of Caen where George was killed on July 25, 1944, and then I continued on to Canadian Military Cemetery near Bretteville-Sur-Laize to find his grave. I had to make a few detours due to the modern day roads in Normandy. I also bi-passed Caen after making a quick stop at the Caen Memorial to save a bit of time. The following map show my route:
A close up of the area near Cintheaux:
A close up of the cemetery:
This is the beach at Bernieres-Sur-Mer where George landed in Normandy. The photos that follow where taken between here and the Canadian Military Cemetery near Bretteville-Sur-Laize along the path shown above.
A church at Bernieres-Sur-Mer.
More of Bernieres-Sur-Mer.
South of Bernieres-Sur-Mer.
One of many memorials along the route. This one is at Beny-Sur-Mer.
A church at Beny-Sur-Mer.
Another memorial at Basly.
South of Basly.
Another memorial at Anisy.
Passing through the town of Cintheaux a few kilometers south of the cemetery.
The parking lot at Canadian Military Cemetery near Bretteville-Sur-Laize. This large maple leaf is sure to show up in there when the satellite photos of the area get updated.
The Canadian Military Cemetery near Bretteville-Sur-Laize and Cintheaux.
When you enter the structure above you find a large plaque on the right that describes Canada's involvement in WWII and Europe and the soldiers buried in this cemetery.
On left there is a small compartment that contains a list of everyone buried in the cemetery, a map showing how to locate the graves, as well as a guest book. It is here that I confirmed that my research paid off and I had in fact located George's grave. This wouldn't have been possible without the help of my mother, some relatives on here side of the family, a girl at the Juno Beach Center, and the Veterans Affairs Canada web site (http://www.veterans.gc.ca/) that now provides access to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (http://www.cwgc.org/) data on soldiers like George Labbee, L154237.
This is George's grave marker.
He is in the back of the cemetery just to the right of the second maple tree from the left. I sat on this bench for a bit, said a prayer, and thought about George's family, some of whom have passed on not knowing what happened to him. According to the information displayed at the Juno Beach Center, 45000 Canadians were killed in action in WWII, so I image the family members of many of the men buried in this and other cemeteries throughout Europe and around world ended up in the same situation and never knew what happened to their loved one.
Another photo from the front of the cemetery, George's grave is in the back in the middle.
Looking through the guest book, there are quite a few visits everyday to this cemetery. And many, like me, are from Canada visiting a relative's grave.