Recalling D-Day: Charles Dalton
At 0800 hours on June 6th, 1944, the brave Canadian soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division first stepped onto the sands of Juno Beach in Normandy, France. Many of these men lost their lives storming the 10km wide beach, but because of their tremendous sacrifice Operation Overlord was a remarkable success.
One of the brave men present that day was Major Charles Osborne Dalton who led ‘B’ Company of The Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment. At 0812 hours that morning, the Queen’s Own came ashore on NAN White section of Juno Beach. Although Major Dalton has since passed away (in Toronto in 1999), he was able to leave us with a vivid image of the events through his testimony when he recounts those momentous first events on Juno Beach: “When I said, “Follow me!” and dashed down the ramp into 6 feet of water, I disappeared.” Recollections such as this were commonplace for those desperately trying to exit the landing crafts on June 6th, 1944.
Finally, after reaching the beach, Major Dalton was faced with a new fear. “We scrambled up the beach and when I looked back, I was horrified to see that there was nobody following me . . . I thought they had gone to ground, but in fact they were lying at the water’s edge and Germans were firing at them as they lay wounded.”
As the minutes passed, casualties continued to mount for ‘B’ company, as well as for the rest of the units involved in Operation Overlord that were spread across the five Normandy beaches. While trying to clear a strong fortification with firing machine gun (a pillbox), Major Dalton was struck in the head by a shot from a German Officer’s 9mm pistol. After taking the pillbox, his wound would prevent him from any further participation on D-Day. The remaining soldiers of ‘B’ Company continued to fight until 1200 hours.
There were enormous losses. In fact, according to Dalton “within 10 minutes, of the 120 men I had with me, we were all wounded or killed.” Those numbers only account for a small fraction of the soldiers present.
In total, Canada suffered 961 casualties, a number that includes 340 fatalities, and accounts for 4% of the 24,450 Canadian soldiers taking part in Operation Overlord. Without the sacrifice made by these brave soldiers, Canada would not have been able to achieve their goals during the Normandy Invasion.
For more information:
To learn more about Col. Charles Osborn Dalton, visit the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum.
Main photo: Canadian soldiers disembarking onto the beaches of Juno on D-Day. (Credit: D-Day Footage of Juno Beach /Valour Canada)