D-DAY VET ARRIVES IN FRANCE 45 YEARS AFTER NORMANDY
By Erin Ellis
From the Kelowna Daily Courier
Monday 12 June 1989
Art Frey took communion on June 4, 1944 aboard the Canadian destroyer HMCS Algonquin.
The planned D-Day assault by D-Day forces had thrown the able seaman back to his Lutheran roots. We all knew there were going to be certain casualties to get through it. I felt good after I had communion . I knew we just had to get our work done. Two days later , he was in the midst of an unprecedented assault on the coast of Normandy.
Last week, the 67 year old Kelowna, BC resident set foot in France for the first time ,45 years after viewing the shattered shoreline from the Algonquin. More than half a lifetime away from struggle which eventually left more than 5,400 Canadians buried in Normandy, their graves are still neatly marked by gleaming white headstones. His name was drawn from thousands of Canadian veterans who volunteered to represent Canadian forces in a pilgrimage to Normandy sponsored by the federal government through the Department of Veterans affairs. He and 38 other Canadians attended about 20 commemorative services in towns where fellow servicemen fought and died.
"Thank goodness somebody remembers our dead soldiers. Thank goodness they're looking after our heroes over there" said Frey after returning from France on Sunday. Many of the seaside towns with poetic names have now returned to their formal role as tourist resorts. Today it looks like there never was a war noted Frey.
But in June 1944, the seas between LeHavre and Cherbourg held wave upon wave of Canadian, British and American landing barges, troop carriers and ships of all descriptions. More than 15,000 Canadian soldiers landed on the beaches that day with the aim of moving about 16 kilometers inland to take control of a key railway line.
The Algonquin was in the forefront of the Canadian sector of the invasion charged with the duty of shelling the coast in preparation for landing troops. Above, airplanes and dirigibles dropped tons of bombs on the shores in an attempt to take German gun installations. Assigned to help maintain the ship's electrical system, Frey spent much of June 6, 1944 repairing lights jarred loose by the incredible gunfire unleashed on the shores of Normandy. When he looked through field glasses, he saw the burned remains of seashore avenues which took the brunt of D-Day's fury. Almost half a century later "French residents of those towns aren't interested in commemorating D-Day because they believe it is a glorification of war", he said.
"The majority of people that we met welcomed us, but we did see some signs that they didn't want us around. But for me, it's remembering. It's honoring fellow comrades who died."
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