Day 11: Abbaye D’Ardenne

The most difficult part of today was our visit to the Abbaye D’Ardenne. This was the site of the murder of 11 Canadian Prisoners of War on 7 June 1944 during the Normandy Campaign. The Canadian soldiers had been captured by the Germans, and taken to the regimental headquarters of SS commander Kurt Meyer at the Abbaye. Upon the soldiers’ refusal to give up any information other than their name, rank, and number, they were forced outside and shot in the head. A few of the bodies were later discovered to have sustained serious beatings prior to being shot. There are accounts that the Canadian men shook hands with their fellow comrades before being led into the garden, knowing what was to come.

These Canadian men were denied a proper burial at the hands of the Nazis and placed in an unmarked mass grave. The bodies were later discovered by the inhabitants of the Abbaye and laid to rest in the local Commonwealth cemeteries, with the exception of one soldier whose body has not been located. Kurt Meyer was later convicted of war crimes under the Geneva Convention which prohibited the killing of Prisoners of War, but his sentence was commuted from the death penalty to life imprisonment and he was allowed free in 1954.

It was chilling to stand in the garden in the exact place these Canadian soldiers were murdered. There is a permanent banner that hangs along the wall of the Abbaye with the photos and names of each of the 11 men murdered on 7 June as well as those Canadian POWs later shot by the Germans in the same location. This allowed me to associate the atrocities with actual people, and reading of their individual stories was heartbreaking.

I would like to end by listing the names of each of the Canadian soldiers. We will remember them.

North Nova Scotia Highlanders:

Private Ivan Crowe

Private Charles Doucette

Corporal Joseph MacIntyre

Private Reginald Keeping

Private James Moss

27th Armoured Regiment:

Trooper James Bolt

Trooper George Gill

Trooper Thomas Henry

Trooper Roger Lockheed

Trooper Harold Philip

Lieutenant Thomas Windsor

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