Summerland D-Day veteran receives award from France

Dick Norris and others landed 150,000 soldiers on the beach within the first hours of the attack

A Summerland veteran has been recognized by the French government for his military service on D-Day.

Dick Norris was working on one of the first 10 ships to land at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944.

Norris enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy in April, 1942, when he was 17, and served until Dec. 21, 1945.

Norris grew up in Desolation Sound on the B.C. coast, the fifth of 10 children. Before the war, he was a commercial fisherman and had experience handling small boats in rough weather.

“I had been living around boats all my life,” he said.

Shortly after enlisting, he was training in Scotland.

He and others had to land 150,000 soldiers on the beach within the first hours of the attack.

The voyage from Southampton was rough, with a full gale blowing, Norris recalls.

The boat he was on did not have a name, but only the number 285.

Recalling the invasion, Norris said efforts had been made to stop the German air force, “but they got through all right,” he said.

Norris still has pictures of the D-Day landing and recalls the spot where his ship landed.

When the D-Day landing took place, Norris was 19 and the youngest member of the crew of his ship.

When he returns to France for the ceremony, he will be 93.

Norris has returned to France since the war, and while there have been many changes, he was still able to find one of the buildings on the beach at the time when he landed.

The long delay between the D-Day landing and the presentation of the award 73 years later puzzles him.

“I’m still grinning,” he said. “Why after all this time.”

The distinction is the highest national honour in France.

“It is awarded in recognition of your personal involvement in the liberation of our country during World War II,” Nicolas Chapuis, ambassador of France to Canada said in a letter to Norris. “Through you, France remembers the sacrifice of all your compatriots who came to liberate French soil.”

Norris said he is accepting the commendation on behalf of his father who served in World War I and three brothers who served in World War II.

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