Fourth off landing craft ramp at Juno Beach

From our November 2012 issue

By Garth Combs – Airdrie, Alta.

I was born on Sept. 10, 1922 at Deloraine, Man., and joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles Regiment on Jan. 6, 1942. I was a rifleman in 7th Platoon of ‘A’ Company, trained in Canada for five months and then was sent to Aldershot, England.

I went into action on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, France and took part in the D-Day Invasion on Juno Beach. We had to battle 10-foot waves in very rough seas. When the ramp of our landing craft was lowered, I was fourth out of it and a huge wave hit me and I went under water. We carried an average of 80 pounds of equipment.

Luckily, I surfaced. I was a non-swimmer and got to shore somehow. I could see machine gun fire arcing towards us because it was laced with tracer rounds and it was like a water hose spraying our front and ramp area.

There was fierce and intense blasting of German machine guns, mortars, and artillery fire. As I was running on the beach I could see some of my buddies lying dead or wounded.

I had to get past the gun posts and hopefully into the village to dash inland. We cleared the villages of Graye-sur-Mer and St. Croix-sur-Mer.

On June 7, ‘A’ Company of the Royal Winnipeg Rifless crossed the roadway from Bayeux to Caen to be the first unit of the invasion force to reach their objective along with the Regina Rifles.

I was wounded on June 8 and sent back to England. I later rejoined my regiment in Belgium and continued to fight until the end of the war. I feel very humble and fortunate that I was spared when many of my buddies weren’t.

I returned to Canada, was discharged in 1946 and started farming.

In 1951, I married Jill Lebeau of Glenora, Man. who was teaching in my district called Thirlstane. We have 3 children. We moved to Gibsons, B.C. in 1969 and after retiring in 1988, we moved to Airdrie.