Sacrifices significant as Canadians took part in D-Day invasion and Normandy campaign

Allen Olimer
Allen Olimer

 

Bracebridge memorial

Memorial in Bracebridge that includes Allen C. Olimer

freid-firevcans-norm-300casualt

Photo take after the bombing, August 8, 1944

Courtesy: Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives

The D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations are under way.

I’m glad to see some veterans can still make it for the ceremonies.

But it’s also important to remember the sacrifices made on the beaches in France and those who are buried in a foreign grave.

During the Normandy campaign, about 5,000 Canadians died.

One of them was my uncle, Allen Olimer. He was killed in August, 1944 during a mission gone horribly wrong in which Americans fired on the Allies, mistaking them for the enemy.

Allen Olimer is buried in Brettville-Sur Laize Canadian War Cemetery, grave marker I.A.1. He was 35 years old at the time of his death.

He was a member of  the Fort Garry Horse (aka 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment) which was part of the independent 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade which included the 1st Hussars of London and the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment of Sherbrooke.

So significant was the D-Day invasion and the Normandy campaign that the beaches at Normandy are still referred to on maps and signposts by their invasion codenames.

 

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20 thoughts on “Sacrifices significant as Canadians took part in D-Day invasion and Normandy campaign

  1. In “foreign fields”, but not exactly foreign graves…thanks to the Imperial/ Commonwealth War Graves Commission conceived at the end of the First World War to ensure all in the Empire family of nations who Fell overseas (and whose remains were located) would have a dignified equal resting place.
    Mr. Olimer, as with all our Canadian military war dead 1899 through today has a personal Identity file maintained by Vets Affairs, online-only and interactive, where JPEG images can be contributed to enhance their personal stories. Peacetime and shortened military service…
    – “Canadian Virtual War Memorial”
    In memory of Trooper Allen Olimer August 8, 1944 France
    Military Service Number: B/52190 Age:35 Army Unit:
    Royal Canadian Army Service Corps Division:10th Armoured Regiment
    Additional Information:
    Son of John and Ann (nee Jack) Olimer of Bracebridge, Ontario. Brother of Victor, Melvin, Alvin (Allen’s twin) and Laurence.
    Cemetery: BRETTEVILLE-SUR-LAIZE CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY; Calvados, France Grave Reference:I. A. 1.”
    –Happily someone has posted a photo of him in uniform and a site image.
    This could be enhanced by pre-war family photos if they are available as the loss was to them, not just to his military unit.
    -Kathy, this decade-old registry, still unique in military memorialization, is so neglected by our media it is a disservice to the public. One wonders if most have no family history in our wartime military to feel the pain.
    If you can do something to point people to the VWM to look for their own long-dead kin, it would be wonderful. To those alive pre-war for whom these were real people they knew, time is running out to dig out old photos and clippings and forward them to a lost kinsman or woman’s file.
    [Note: the site has been “improved”, still uses the purple CEF graphic, and is a bit slow, but worth using or even browsing to see who died for us…

    ” Went the day well ? We died, and never knew…”

  2. Do you want a photo of his gravemarker ? People like to display them on t VWM files.. Now working co-operation with the CWGC, the ‘Great War Photographic Project’ can provide one (about $8 as I recall it).

  3. Would be great to get a photo of the grave. I’ll check into this. Thanks. I would love to go to France and see it myself but I don’t know if that will ever happen. Next best thing then.

  4. This volunteer photographer project now embraced by the CWGC is interesting in itself. If you order a photo, a reminder to add it to your soldier kinsman’s VWM file for future inquirers. What would be interesting is his place in context – who also fell that day at that place.
    I still think there is a role for media to show the public how we Canadians can Remember with a focus on individual identities, not just faceless dead of war. We too had losses…]
    I think you can also send over a remembrance for the grave, perhaps on the fatal anniversary – see what the Canadian Legion service offers. And there are voluntary overseas groups who visit cemeteries for those can’t.
    If you do get overseas, stand on the UK side of the Channel, French coast only a long swim away, and ponder the 4 years they endured under threat of Nazi invasion between the retreat of the BEF from the continent mid 1940, the massed military/naval/air return to the Continent, our side now supplemented by the engagement of the USA overseas since ’42.

  5. Checked out the names of the Fort Garry Horse who died on that date and found, Search-linking the unusual THORNSTEINSON suname with OLIMER, images of the regimental plaque out west. Any pix of a monument in northern Ontario ?

  6. Did you see this stunning comments of the parents of the France-raised Mountie in Friday’s Globe? His seeing the parallel It helps relate to one’s own losses on their ‘foreign fields’…
    ‘… Friday, France was in the midst of commemorations of the D-Day invasion.
    Jacques Gévaudan says he could not help but think of the blood Canadians had spilled on French soil. On the eve of the 70th anniversary of that historic day, his son, Fabrice, left his blood on the soil of Canada.
    “For me, this coincidence is a symbol,” Mr. Gévaudan said, his voice breaking. “My son gave back, he gave back to his adoptive country. But it is a sad exchange”.’

  7. There used to be a Classified section in the Death notices in newspapers titled “On Active Service”. Could even find “In Memoriam’ ads with the same theme. Would be interesting if newspapers had a low fee Classified section as the anniversaries of the Great War progressed, where one could buy a line or two to recall those who Died This Day overseas.
    Gord – have another look at that incident that killed Kathy’s kinsman where Canadians were located – it sounds like a mass of US and RAF bombers moving across the land, the odd one “short bombing”. Dropping the load too soon in all the confusion. No doubt the men on those allied planes were distressed. and there was an investigation and consequences. You may be thinking of single plane “friendly fire” situations of more recent times.

  8. Kathy – can you get a closeup of the panel with Olimer’s name?
    Gord – found this…”The American 8th Air Force had twice bombed their own troops on 24–25 July causing 136 deaths and an additional 621 casualties..”. Just a thought, but could they be less experienced in the chaos of flying over the continent.. these were mass flights, nearly a 1,000 huge bombers maybe, some with a lad just your age at the bomb sight.

  9. What I have learned about what went wrong on Aug. 8, 1944 from Gord Crossley with the Fort Garry Horse Museum and Archives is this:
    On 8 August 1944, the B Echelon vehicles of the FGH and other Canadian and Polish units were arrayed in the open south of Caen, near the modern village of Ifs. A planned bombing raid on Caen went wrong when the colour of the flares to be dropped by the pathfinder aircraft turned out to be the same colour that day as the flares to be fired by our troops to identify themselves as friendly to overflying allied aircraft. Due to this unfortunate coincidence, our bombers drooped their load on the Canadian troops below. The troops sent up more flares to warn the bombers off, but that just brought on more bombs. Frantic radio communications made it to divisional headquarters, then to England, then from Army HQ to the air force, where the message was passed for the bombers to stop dropping on that area. There was no direct radio contact at the time from the ground troops to the aircraft. Unfortunately many troops were killed as they were in unarmoured vehicles, parked in the open. Many vehicles had full loads of fuel and ammunition for the tanks, and their explosions and fires contributed to the damage. 125 Canadians and Poles were killed and 131 were wounded.

    On the forum Canada at War, someone posted this account of Aug. 8, 1944 after another man and myself mentioned our relatives who died that day:
    The American bombers made their runs “through intense and accurate flak” which destroyed nine of them. Good concentrations were obtained on three of the four main areas attacked; the fourth, Gouvix, could not be positively identified and was bombed by only one Fortress. Of 678 bombers sent out, 492 actually attacked, dropping 1487.8 tons. That the bombing was valuable to the operation there is no doubt, but it was marred by what the U.S. air force historians term “gross errors on the part of two twelve-plane groups”. The misfortune is thus explained: “In one case, faulty identification of target by the lead bombardier led him to drop near Caen, although fortunately some other bombardiers of the formation cautiously refrained from dropping with him. In the second instance, a badly, hit lead bomber salvoed short and the rest of the formation followed in regular routine.” The areas struck, far behind the fighting line, were packed with Allied troops moving up or waiting to move up, many of them sitting in vehicles and of course expecting no danger. The divisions that suffered were the Polish Armoured Division in its assembly area near Cormelles and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division which was coming forward.
    The casualties caused by this bombing, including the Poles’, were estimated three days later as about 65 killed and 250 wounded. Four medium or heavy guns, some 55 vehicles, and a considerable amount of ammunition were also lost. The Canadian unit hardest hit was probably The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment,which was bombed as its convoy was moving through Faubourg de Vaucelles. It lost about 100 officers and men, and one company was wholly ineffective for the operations of two days later. Both the 2nd Canadian and 9th British Army Groups Royal Artillery suffered, as did the tactical headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Major-General R. F. L. Keller, the divisional commander, was wounded and evacuated. Brigadier Blackader of the 8th Brigade took over the division temporarily.

  10. “Friendly fire” in the news again today…This seems to have had the element of calling in ‘protectors’ but of course the outcome was not a deliberate attack on allies.
    That’s quite a story, Kathy – imagine the chaos on the ground trying to call them off, with the military communications of the day.
    Would like to see the headlines in ’44 re the incident. May pull up the Toronto Star’s “Pages of the Past” archive for August, a hour is cheap.
    Not sure I can capture an image though – just a list of dates the story ran.
    Casualty lists may identify those Canadians soldiers Trooper Olimer lived and worked with who died with him that day.
    Again – “Went the day well? We died and never knew..” Only a year later the war would be finished in the Pacific as well as Europe.. Deaths not in vain…

  11. On the Canada at War forum I found a comment about John Frederick Barber, who also died that day. He was from Shillington, which is near Matheson. My uncle ran a store in Matheson before he enlisted. I can only surmise that they would have known each other. Barber’s nephew is on the forum seeking information.
    This is what he wrote about what happened to his uncle:
    There was a man who stayed with him after he was hit until he passed, and my uncle was able to tell him about his family in a small village called ‘Shillington’ in northern Ontario, Canada. That soldier sought out my uncle’s family when he returned to northern Ontario, and told them of those last few minutes. If anyone has heard of my uncle, or of this story, I would most gratefully love to hear from them. Perhaps a family member has heard a story from a grandfather or uncle that resembles this event? My uncle John left behind, not only his family here in Canada, but a new sweetheart and one year old baby in England.
    Shillington is such a tiny place. On my father’s side, my grandfather and some of my uncles, all very musical, used to play at dances in Shillington.

  12. What isn’t coming up is John Barber’s age to compare with that of Matheson merchant Allen Olimer, in the pre-war years. The Great War Photographic has an image of the former’s CWGC marker which could provide it.
    Has anyone tried the public library up there for information about area casualties of that date? Too bad the name of the thoughtful messenger, also from the north country, seems not to have survived in the Barber line … It appears he was also on the scene of this bombing accident – a medical person perhaps. The anecdote could well have been passed along down his own family lines in later years and in the same region.
    The death story might even linger overseas with Sapper Barber’s child’s descendents. Born c1943..

  13. As to the number who died that day, on anniversaries such as August 8, the VWM runs a list of all who fell just under the Search form. Not just in this incident…
    Are you trying to figure out how many in the same unit as he was attached to died with him? Were there any other local men ? There’s an honour roll on the Fort Garry website -you can check each name against his own VWM file and see who also was raised in the Ontario North and with visiting range of Matheson. Remembering Allen was 35 in ’44 and any living of his own generation would be over l00 now, the 20-somethings younger.

  14. Found the Toronto Daily Star page image 1944, August 9, page 1. From 6 to 30 US bombs were believed to have hit the Canadians’ area. No sign of Casualties reports from the Fort Garry Horse, most coverage naturally about Ontario units. Search of surname OLIMER unproductive.

  15. This website gives some idea of the complexity of things on the ground when US “short bombed” by a couple of miles that day: Map included.
    [ Canada Attacks! Operation Totalize – Flames of War
    http://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby. ]
    Not only our troops got hit – others got it worse. Re Canadian Trooper Olimer, it rather depends on where he was standing and with whom, when the overhead accident took place and whether he was killed instantly or died of injuries later. WW2 regimental war diaries would be more informative but not accessible yet that I know of. Interviews with incident survivors would exist, even old vet memories, something might come up now you have publicized the date and place and a personal family story about it.
    RIP.

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