Chilliwack to remember D-Day veterans on 76th anniversary of Normandy landing

Thousands died June 6, 1944, coming ashore on beaches in France while facing heavy German resistance

Saturday is the 76th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. On June 6, 1944 Allied boats brought thousands of troops across the English Channel to the shores of France. Thousands of soldiers gave their lives to establish a foothold in Europe, and from there Allied forces moved out, pushing back the Nazis, liberating Europe and eventually ending the Second World War.

“John Robotham was a young man when he went to Europe to fight in WWII, and he remembered fallen comrades right up to his death at the age of 99 last April.

Chilliwack’s John Robotham came ashore at Juno Beach that day, one of five landing points for the Allies. He and his colleagues in the Canadian 3rd Division Petrol Company faced heavy fire from artillery shells and machine-gun nests as they came ashore, but within hours they overwhelmed two battalions of the German 716th Infantry Division.

More than 21,000 troops were part of the offensive, and it’s estimated that 1,200 men died during the Juno Beach assault, but Robotham was not one of them.

READ MORE: Chilliwack takes a moment to remember D-Day

READ MORE: Seventy five years later, Canada’s role in D-Day landings endures

Over the following weeks, he and the Allies pressed on through France, Holland, Belgium and eventually Germany.

When the Second World War came to an official end on May 8, 1945, Robotham was still standing. He boarded a boat back to England, and then joined hundreds of Canadian soldiers on a jubilant cruise home, across the Atlantic Ocean.

He was just 24 years old then, married to his wife Irene with his entire life ahead of him. Every year he marked the anniversary of D-Day by remembering fallen comrades whose lives were cut short.

“May we all remember and pay tribute to our comrades who have passed on,” he once wrote, recounting those days. “We will remember them.”

On April 22 of this year, Robotham passed away at the age of 99.

He was survived by four children – Donna, Rick, Julie and Dan – along with 19 grandchildren, 34 great grandchildren and seven great great grandchildren and too many nieces and nephews to count.

According to Veteran Affairs Canada, there are now less than 7,500 surviving Second World War veterans living in British Columbia.


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