Remembrance at Fred C. Cook Public School
Fred C. Cook Public School welcomed World War II veteran Jim Parks to their Remembrance Ceremony on November 10. Parks, 93, was among the Canadian soldiers who landed on Juno Beach on D-Day, in 1944.
Parks showed students a film clip from Season 2 of The Amazing Race Canada, in 2014, where he joined host Jon Montgomery at a Pit Stop on Juno Beach on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.
He spoke of his memories, of landing on the beach as part of the 7th Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. Men, packed like sardines into the landing craft, were supposed to quickly disembark, set up their mortars, and help clear the beaches for the troops behind – but it didn't turn out that way.
Parks' craft was hit by 2 shells, and a mine. The men had to scramble out of the boat 150 yards from the shore, in rough water and high waves. By the time he reached the beach, Parks had lost his weapons.
He came across a soldier, an acquaintance, who had been mortally wounded. “I ended up taking his weapons,” Parks said, and making his way up the beach, past barbed wire and a German pillbox, where machine guns could fire 1,200 rounds a minute.
His Brigade lost 159 men on Juno Beach that day – and 216 more, killed, wounded or captured, two days later on June 8, when the men were surrounded by Germans in a small Normandy village.
“A buddy of mine, we were surrounded pretty badly,” Parks told the students. There wasn't room for everyone on board a transport carrier; his friend volunteered to stay behind and provide cover – and was was killed. He was 23 years old.
Parks shared other stories, and photos – including a photo of 7 young men, fellow soldiers, all of whom were killed or captured within days of the landing at Juno Beach.
Parks himself was only 15 when he first signed up. “A lot of people added a few years to their age,” to be able to enlist, he told the students. He had been in the Reserves, and was able to persuade the authorities that he was 18.
He was 19 on D-Day.
Each class at FCC created a paper wreath to decorated the stage. Students sang songs of war and peace, read poetry and the statistics of war, and saluted the contributions of women to the war effort – working in factories, on farms, and flying airplanes to the European theatre of war – to mark Remembrance Day.