Today we visited Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed on D-Day. It was surreal to stand on the beach and imagine the Canadian soldiers running up that stretch of sand almost 73 years ago. As we were taking in the view, two planes (likely rehearsing for D-Day) flew directly overhead. It was neat to see the planes flying so low and to hear some of the sounds the men who landed there would have heard. I walked to the water’s edge and put my hand in the water, so I would be able to say that I touched the water at Juno Beach.
We took a tour led by a Canadian student named Madeleine. She was a fantastic guide, both knowledgeable and fun. I was impressed by her interpretation especially for a group of historians, which I’m sure would have been a little intimidating. We walked through old German bunkers that were used to protect the area, and learned about how they were constructed. The first bunker we walked through featured many flaws, such as a large rectangular window for ventilation and sunlight. However this design allowed for grenades to easily be thrown down inside the bunker by the Allies. The design was later improved for other bunkers to provide ventilation through a small circular set of openings. Madeleine gave a demonstration by throwing a rock through the top circle to imitate a grenade, and showing how the rock comes back out the second lower hole. Therefore, the grenade would return to the location where it was thrown from and blow up the grenade thrower rather than those inside the bunker. It was a really interesting innovation! We also learned that the slave labourers used by the Germans to construct the bunkers would often weaken them by placing bricks the wrong way or mixing sand into the concrete.
Following a tour of the beaches we went through the museum. It was aimed at a much younger audience, but I would recommend the centre for anyone with younger children as it was very engaging with the use of technology!