By Jesse MacLeod
In honour of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, this week’s post will highlight our digitized collection of official war diaries from that campaign.
On June 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France began as men and materiel landed on the beaches of the Normandy coast. What followed the successful landings was a costly campaign to force the Nazis out of France, with heavy Canadian involvement. In less than 3 months, the Nazi forces in Normandy were defeated and Allied operations began focusing on moving towards Germany. Every unit from the battalion level and up was required to keep a daily account of their activities, titled the ‘War Diary/Intelligence Summary’. The amount of detail included ranges considerably from unit to unit, but overall they present a compelling account of the operations which led to the liberation of France, and subsequently, the rest of Northwest Europe.
The Canadian War Diaries of the Normandy Campaign Collection is a fantastic way to explore this exceptionally important episode in our national history. By engaging with this material, you can get inside the mindset of the soldiers and commanders who fought and made the crucial decisions which led to the Allied victory in Normandy. A great place to start is the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, which was the initial Canadian division to land in France on the morning of 6 June. For those with an interest in local history (Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge), it should be noted that the Highland Light Infantry was one of the battalions of the initial landing force. The 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade also landed on D-Day, but we are still in the process of acquiring/digitizing most of the diaries for the units involved, thus they are not yet available.
No other online archival resource offers such a comprehensive collection of the Canadian war diaries from the Normandy Campaign, and we here at the LMH Archive are proud to present it to you for free.