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The Lasting Legacy of War Amputees

On June 6th, 1944, a pivotal moment unfolded, as thousands of Canadian soldiers stormed Juno Beach in Normandy, in the heavily German-fortified coast of France. As the world prepares to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, The War Amps pay homage to the Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice during the invasion, and the resilience of those who returned home severely wounded physically, many missing limbs, and those wounded psychologically.

These were young men from small towns and inner cities, embodying the true spirit of citizen soldiers, during the Second World War. Driven by patriotism, a sense of duty, adventure, or an honest love of God and community, they enlisted with the Canadian Army, unaware they would become the vanguard of the Allied invasion of Europe.

Among them were individuals like Ron Reid, Gavin Hickey, Bob Ross, Jim Parsons, Bill Neil and Dave Ingram.

Ron Reid, of Torbay, Newfoundland, suffered severe injuries upon landing on Juno Beach. Amidst relentless enemy machine gun and mortar fire, he lost his left leg above the knee.  

Gavin Hickey, hailing from Durham Centre, New Brunswick, was a mere 19 years old when his regiment stormed Juno Beach. Wounded during the battle for Carpiquet, he lost his left leg below the knee and his left hand.

Bob Ross of Niagara Falls, Ontario, was injured during heavy enemy shelling, at the Battle of Hill 195, resulting in the loss of his leg above the knee. Many years later, he reflected on his experience and shared, “It was an ordeal. I don’t think I would do it again, because, maybe I couldn’t come back the next time.”

Jim Parsons, a local of Sherbrooke, Quebec, landed on Juno Beach on D-Day and fought his way inland. Later that year, he lost his left hand and forearm due to an injury. He received a Mention in Dispatches for his bravery, while hauling his troop commander out of a burning tank, despite having a badly shattered arm.

Bill Neil, from Winnipeg, and Dave Ingram, of Edmonton, Alberta, were also severely injured during the invasion. Bill, wounded in the Battle of Falaise, when his armoured car was hit, lost his left arm above the elbow. Dave lost his left leg above the knee and part of his right heel, after stepping on a landmine, during a sniper patrol.

When they returned to Canada, these brave soldiers became members of The War Amps, which was started by amputee veterans returning from the First World War, to help each other adapt to their new reality as amputees.

Rob Larman, a Senior Advisor at The War Amps and a leg amputee himself, said, “In the Battle of Normandy, many Canadians died or suffered wounds they had to carry for the rest of their lives. As we mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, it’s important we never forget.”

The War Amps award-winning Military Heritage documentary - Juno Beach (2 minutes) offers a glimpse of Canada’s D-Day contribution and can be found on The Standard YouTube channel or on The War Amps YouTube channel.

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