Under heavy fire and an overcast sky, they landed on Juno Beach in Normandy, France, on the morning of June 6, 1944.
The North Shore Regiment, made up mostly of farmers, fishermen and blue collar workers from northeastern New Brunswick, fought tirelessly throughout a treacherous German onslaught.
By the end of the day, the soldiers had gained control of heavily fortified German posts in the French towns of Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer and Tailleville.
“We were one of the only units that managed to meet are D-Day objectives,” Lt. Col. Stephen Bass, commanding officer of the unit, now called the Royal New Brunswick Regiment, said in an interview from Bathurst. “We lost quite a few people.”
The regiment had four companies of about 200 men each, or around 800 in total, he said.
“We suffered 120 causalities on that day,” he said. “About 33 of those were fatal.”
On the 67th anniversary of D-Day, a local member of the legislative assembly is in France to pay tribute to the North Shore Regiment’s epic battles on Juno Beach.
Southwest Miramichi MLA Jake Stewart was a keynote speaker at a commemorative event in Tailleville Sunday and is attending ceremonies in the Normandy region today.
“The North Shore New Brunswick regiment was a group of volunteers from the northern part of New Brunswick made up of every day folks,” he said. “It was also the only truly bilingual regiments in the whole army.”
Stewart paid for the trip out of his own pocket – with no government funds or support – out of his desire to pay tribute to the New Brunswick regiment and fallen soldiers.
“They lost a lot of good men around D-Day and that’s why I’m going,” he said. “That regiment was incredibly special. There was a lot of turmoil in our history in terms of language divisions and things weren’t always rosy but these guys banded together and fought together.”
A few credits shy of a history major, Stewart said he has always been interested in military history and the role of Canada’s army promoting peace and freedom around the world.
There is also a personal connection as his grandfather was part of the Nova Highlanders infantry in WWII.
Stewart said he has met WWII veterans in the Blackville, greater Renous and Miramichi region and will be proud to stand on soil where the historical battles that shaped history took place.
The North Shore Regiment dates back to the 1870s when it was known as the 73rd Northumberland Battalion of Infantry. The unit was formed to support the North Shore, Kent, Northumberland, Gloucester and Restigouche counties.
In 1914, it was one of the first Canadian units to go to battle in WWI.
After the Great War, the unit was renamed the 2nd Battalion Royal New Brunswick Regiment (North Shore).
During the Second World War, the regiment was attached to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.
The North Shore Regiment earned high praise for the soldiers’ courage, determination and self-sacrifice and many medals for bravery.