Ceremony at the Pourville Memorial (France)
Hautot-sur-Mer, France, Monday, August 20, 2012
On August 19, 1942, members of the South Saskatchewan Regiment and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders landed at Pourville to begin Operation Jubilee.
Despite overwhelming odds, the horrific noise of machine gun fire and explosive shells, and the death of their comrades-in-arms around them, they pressed on.
The veterans and soldiers with us today can no doubt picture the scene clearly. But for those of us who can’t, imagine, if you can, the sweat and blood and fear and bravery and determination of the soldiers that day. And imagine the lone figure of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, waving his helmet and shouting to be heard above the clamour, “Come on over! There’s nothing to worry about here.”
That rallying cry began a headlong push into enemy territory—followed without hesitation by many of his fellow Canadians. Although they were pushed back, they managed to get further inland than anyone thought possible considering the opposition.
Lieutenant-Colonel Merrit, even though he was wounded, thought only of the well-being of those under his command. He stayed behind to hold off pursuit as the unit was evacuated. He was captured as a prisoner of war, eventually returning home.
His bravery and gallantry earned him the Victoria Cross, the highest military honour that could be bestowed.
As we gather at this memorial, 70 years after that fateful day, we are reminded of his sacrifice and the sacrifice of every soldier there that day.
As commander-in-chief of Canada, I am always humbled by the bravery of soldiers that I meet. In this role, I also have the responsibility of telling the stories of our veterans to others, to make sure that the next generation of Canadians remember such battles as the one that took place on the shores of Dieppe and Pourville.
We are joined today by veterans of the Second World War, Canadians who were here in Dieppe, who understand the meaning and the importance of a free and just society, because that is what they fought for.
In addition, we have with us the soldiers of today, who carry on the great tradition of professionalism, duty and honour. They owe so much to those who came before them, just as we owe much to all soldiers, past and present, for their service.
We gather to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dieppe raids to pay respects to those who served and to remember those we lost on that day. I hope that when you leave here, it is with the urge to retell the story to others. Because as we do so, we make certain that we never forget and that history lives on from one generation to the next.