WELLINGTON COUNTY – In Fergus, the D-Day invasion “provided much excitement and upset the normal flow of life, though it had been long expected,” according to the Fergus News Record of June 8, 1944.
“Most Fergus people learned of the invasion when they turned on their radios in the early morning. The streets seemed strangely deserted in those early hours, because so many were staying indoors to hear all they could.”
At many places of business, employees crowded around radios throughout the day to hear the latest news, while some places even closed as a result of the slow day to allow employees to get back to their own radios.
Students not writing exams were also afforded the opportunity to listen to an address from King George at 3pm, as well as speeches from other military and political figures. That evening, a united prayer service, organized by the Fergus Legion, was held at St. Andrew’s church.
Limited information is available about local boys who participated in the D-Day invasion, as well as the subsequent fight to advance to Caen.
But newspaper records recount a handful of stories of Wellington County residents involved in the invasion in early June.
According to the June 22, 1944 edition of the Mount Forest Confederate, Private Irwin Lytle was killed in action on June 6 at the age of 23, and it was “supposed he met his death on invasion day.” Lytle, a Mount Forest resident, arrived overseas in the spring or summer of 1943.
The June 28, 1944 edition of the Elora Express highlighted the story of John Hasson, of Ariss, who was killed in action on June 10 at the age of 20.
Hasson, a gunner with an artillery unit in the 3rd Canadian Division, died “taking part in the invasion,” and could very well have landed on Juno Beach four days prior to his death.
He joined the army in February of 1943, trained in Listowel and Ipperwash and arrived overseas in July of that year.
The Fergus News Record reported on June 15, 1944 that three locals were counted among the casualties in the “battle of Normandy.”
Flight Lieutenant Gordon Thring, of former Eramosa township, was reported missing in France on June 6, but five days later his parents received word that he was safe and located somewhere in the United Kingdon.
Trooper William Griffin, 28, of the Belwood area, was wounded in the arm on June 8 “while taking part in the invasion.” Griffin, whose brother, Grant, was also in the Army, enlisted in 1942 and “was driving trucks or transports.”
Private James Henderson, of Fergus, was more seriously wounded. His wife Alice received word on June 15 that he sustained head injuries in France and was suffering from “an intercranial hemorrhage.”
It is unclear exactly what happened, though Henderson’s name is not included on the Fergus list of war dead from WWII.
– Source: Valuing Our History columns by the late Stephen Thorning