Originally published online by Cape Breton Post, June 4, 2014
Sergeant Joseph Meagher may have many memories from his service in the Second World War but the one he’ll never forget was the day word came the war had ended.
“It’s always a good feeling to know you’re going home,” he said quietly during an interview at Taigh Na Mara, where he now lives.
Meagher was a sergeant with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, an infantry regiment of the Canadian Army. He has many stories he often shares, including the day the troops went in on the first wave at Juno Beach on June 4, 1944, using pipe bombs to blow holes in the barbwire as the soldiers moved inland fighting pockets of Germans. Juno Beach was one of five beaches of the Allied invasion of German occupied France in the Normandy landings. Meagher said the spirit of the troops was high.
“We were firing bullets, it was our job,” he said. “On the beach, bullets would be flying at you. It’s a part of your life you’ll never forget.”
In a story documented by the regiment, just before nightfall the troops came to a farmhouse with a German anti-tank gun in the window. Meagher came up with a plan — half of his section would stay there and the other half would walk around to the back of the farm. Once in place, the other section would open fire to keep the Germans busy. During the gunfire, Meagher’s section went in the back, wiping out the Germans and destroying the anti-tank gun. As the troops were leaving, the men heard a noise from the cellar. The soldiers shot the lock off the cellar door and found a French family.
“The family did not have much food but had a lot of wine.”
Meagher, now 96, describes himself as “just a spring chicken.”
With a bit of a smile he remembers all too well the soldiers hearing the war was over and that it was time to go home. Meagher went to Ontario working in the gold mines there before returning to New Waterford years later.