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Regina Rifles statue officially unveiled in France

Bretteville-l'Orgueilleuse, Normandy, France -

A statue dedicated to the Royal Regina Rifles Regiment has been officially unveiled in France just ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Many family members of Regina Rifles servicemen travelled to Normandy to witness the unveiling.

Alan Bird was one of them. His father Charles served with the Rifles and landed on Juno Beach on that faithful day, 80 years ago.

“They came to a place, to a beach that was very traumatic for many of them, very scary. To land into a battle that was beyond their comprehension of that day and only a handful were fortunate to make it to that wall,” he explained.

“I thank the creator above for the blessing of my dad being one of them to make it – to carry on and bring home the stories we share.”

The Regina Rifles were instrumental in the landings at Juno Beach, one of five beachheads stormed by Allied forces on June 6, 1944 as part of Operation Overlord.

D-Day, as its known, is considered the largest combined land, sea and air invasion in history and marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Her Royal Highness Princess Anne attended the ceremony in her capacity as the colonel-in-chief of the regiment.

The eight foot tall bronze statue was created by Cochrane, Alta. based sculptors Don and Shirley Begg.

“It’s a huge honour for us to commemorate in bronze, which will last for a thousand years, what those Canadian soldiers did to liberate France,” Shirley told CTV News. “It’s an incredible honour.”

The memorial had a first look viewing in Regina in April and was the subject of a special ceremony on Peepeekisis Cree Nation before being flown to France.

“So many Peepeeksis Cree Nation and File Hills veterans signed up for the Regina Rifles,” Alan explained.

“Our ancestors, our fathers, our mooshums making us proud to help liberate France during World War Two.”

Both Don and Shirley said that Canada’s contribution to France was apparent during their visit.

“Just look at the flags, all over France. Canadian flags on people’s lawns, balconies, windowsills,” Shirley said. “Someone here said to me, ‘In France, we remember what the Canadians did for us.’”

“Its really an honour for us and for the Regina Rifles," Don added. "They were the first ones to get as far up the beach as they did, and its just made it so we have the life we have today.”

Following the unveiling, Alan said that his visit would end with a moment of reflection and ceremony – on the very sands his father stormed eight decades ago.

“Seeing all the people here today honouring this monument there’s a good feeling in my heart,” he said. “Now I’m going to go to the beach … We’re going to have a smoke for all the warriors that were here and all of them here today.” Top Stories

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