A Kamloops veteran has been awarded a medal from the French government 75 years after he helped liberate the country on D-Day.
Lloyd Funnell has been given the Legion of Honour medal by France.
“At first, I thought it was too much for me, because the rank and file don’t get in that position — but, occasionally, they do,” Funnell, who turns 100 in October, told KTW.
Originally from Manitoba, Funnell served as a soldier between 1941 and 1945. He married in 1951 and lived in various places across Western Canada before settling in Kamloops.
A millwright by trade, Funnell worked for a trailer company and at Mica Dam before starting his own construction and renovation business.
Funnell has two daughters and two grandchildren.
Son-in-law Joe Koziol said Funnell only stopped working three years ago due to health issues. He has lived for about a year in a care home on the North Shore.
In 2004, Koziol accompanied Funnell on a trip to France to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day. He said he will never forget watching Funnell soak it all in.
“It was very special,” Koziol said, noting Funnell is slated to receive another honour from Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod.
Funnell said he appreciates the recognition.
But does he think it’s a big deal?
“At first I didn’t realize what it is, but I guess so, hey?” he said.
The D-Day assault
Just after midnight on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — 24,000 Canadian, British and American troops descended from the sky on Nazi-controlled Normandy, France.
The invasion of Normandy is widely considered one of the turning points in the Second World War, as the allies smashed through Adolf Hitler’s supposedly impregnable Atlantic Wall and began the westward march to Berlin to meet the Soviets coming from the east.
Canada started the war with a regular army of 4,200 soldiers. Eventually, about 1.1 million-Canadians would serve in uniform. They were everywhere, be it bombing German cities, escorting naval convoys across the Atlantic or fighting house to house in Italy.
But D-Day was the big one, the attack everyone had been waiting for. And, while two of the Normandy landing beaches were assigned to the Americans and two to the British, the fifth — an eight-kilometre stretch code-named Juno — was all Canadian.
Years of preparation and training following the hard lessons of Dieppe — the disastrous raid two years earlier in which 900 Canadians were killed and nearly 2,000 captured — were put to the test when the first landing craft hit the beach at 7:45 a.m.
The casualties in that initial wave were heavy as the Canadians advanced into a maelstrom of German fire. By the end of the day, 340 would be killed — more than twice the number who died during Canada’s entire 13-year war in Afghanistan. Another 574 were wounded.
Yet the assault was a success. The Canadians advanced farther than anyone else on that first day while Canadian pilots guarded the skies and more than 100 Royal Canadian Navy ships manned by 10,000 Canadian sailors guarded the English Channel or ferried troops and equipment to shore.
— with files from Canadian Press