Hadley, Jack

Jack Hadley (Toronto Star photo)
Jack Hadley (Toronto Star photo)

Jack Hadley recalls the choppiness of the waves as he approached the beaches in his landing craft. “Everybody got sick,” the Toronto-born veteran recalls with a hint of amusement, “one guy got sick and the smell made the next guy sick.”

Hadley’s regiment, the Queen’s Own Rifles, was tasked with capturing the small village of Bernieres-Sur-Mer as part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division’s assault on Juno Beach. As they approached the shoreline Hadley remembers, “it was very very quiet, it was eerie … I looked at my buddy and we said this is it, we’re going.”

Supporting artillery and naval fire had missed the German defensive positions on the beach and in the town. The tanks that were supposed to land before the infantry had been delayed due to choppy waters. So the Queen’s Own Rifles were dangerously vulnerable when they landed.

For Hadley, the ramp on his landing craft dropped and like so many young men that day he suddenly found himself dodging a hail of artillery, machine-gun and mortar fire as he made his way up the beach, “we lost two guys running up the beach, we got to a wall and our corporal was gasping and dying, we propped him up against the wall and he died right away.”

Hadley followed his lieutenant through a gap in the wall and set up a machine gun to provide covering fire for his platoon. He remembers: “We made our way down the beach slowly and carefully and I couldn’t believe it, there was this 88-mm gun sitting there pointing down the beach … the gun crew was running down a slit trench and I put a couple of rounds down it and the crew surrendered.”

The Queen’s Own Rifles would suffer the most casualties of any Canadian regiment on that day, 143 killed; yet by 9:30 a.m. they had liberated the village of Bernieres-Sur-Mer. Hadley’s war would come to an end a month later at the battle of Carpiquet Airfield when a bomb exploded sending shrapnel into his neck and shoulders.

Hadley’s brother, also a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles, was killed June 21: “He went out on a night patrol and never came back.” Hadley will be visiting his brother’s grave this June [2014] as part of his return trip to Normandy for the anniversary.

From a Toronto Star article 1 June 2014.

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