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Summerland veteran served in D-Day landing

Dick Norris was on one of the first ships to reach Normandy on June 6, 1944

A Summerland veteran who participated in the 1944 Normandy landing on D-day June 6, will lower the flag at the ceremony of the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Summerland.

The ceremony will be held Thursday, June 6 at 11 a.m. at the cenotaph in Memorial Park in Summerland. It will include a flag lowering, placing a wreath and placing 80 memorial candles on the cenotaph.

Able Seaman Richard “Dick” Edward Norris will lower the flag. The flag will be raised again on Friday.

Norris reported to the HMCS Discovery in April 1942, when he was 17. By May, he was in Halifax and shipped to Britain.

In June 1944, Dick was assigned to Landing Craft Large (LCI L) No. 285, one of the first to reach Juno Beach.

Norris was the gunner-assistant on the forward 20m Oerlikon gun.

On his first run ashore on Juno, Norris was the lead man trailing a floating guide rope which the embarking soldiers used to guide them from ship to shore.

READ ALSO: Summerland D-Day veteran receives award from France

“Our job, with 30 ships in all, was to land troops and armour faster than the Germans could respond,” he said. “Overhead were round-the-clock bombing missions, countless tons of ammunition were delivered per raid, along with long-range naval bombardment, inshore salvos by destroyers and frigates.

“We were all expendable. Like all landing craft, each one had one shot only at disembarking the troops on the beach. Some LCl (L) were damaged, sunk, burned out and abandoned; the beach was littered with wrecks.”

Three days later, floating pontoon docks were floated in place and larger ships delivered troops. Their job was done.

Norris was reassigned to HMCS Hawksbury on convoy escort from Scotland to Newfoundland and on to Halifax.

In December 1945, he returned to his family in Gibson’s Landing, B.C. He met Kathleen Isobel Joyce (1927-2023) who served in the C.W.A.C.; at a University of British Columbia course in Vancouver in 1946 and they married in 1947. They have six children, 13 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.

Norris returned to Juno Beach in June 1999, representing the RCN association.

“Standing among the thousands of headstones I was moved to angry tears and guilt because of the crushing loss,” he said

“We were a small part of the 7,000 ships, 11,000 Aircraft and over two million men that formed the greatest invasion in history.”

In 2019, Norris received an honour from the French government for his role in the D-Day landing.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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