“IN MEMORIAM. ON THE NIGHT OF 7-8 JUNE 1944, EIGHTEEN CANADIAN SOLDIERS WERE MURDERED IN THIS GARDEN WHILE BEING HELD HERE AS PRISONERS OF WAR. TWO MORE PRISONERS DIED HERE, OR NEARBY, ON 17 JUNE 1944. LEST WE FORGET.”
Next we made a stop to the Ardenne Abbey Massacre occurred during the Battle of Normandy at the Ardenne Abbey, a Premonstratensian monastery in Saint-Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, which is approximately 4.5 km from Caen, France. This location has very important significance to Canadian history because this is where in June 1944, 20 Canadian soldiers were illegally executed in a garden at the abbey by members of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend.
During the Normandy Campaign, then SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer, commander of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, used the Ardenne Abbey for his regimental headquarters, as the turret allowed for a clear view of the battlefield.
Both the method by which the killings were carried out and upon whom the blame rests remain points of contention. Some basic facts, however, are certain. During the evening of 7 June, 11 Canadian prisoners of war, soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and the 27th Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment), were shot in the back of the head. This was a flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions (of which Germany was a signatory) and therefore these actions constituted a war crime.
Of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders were:
- Private Ivan Crowe
- Private Charles Doucette
- Corporal Joseph MacIntyre
- Private Reginald Keeping
- Private James Moss
Of the 27th Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment) were:
- Trooper James Bolt
- Trooper George Gill
- Trooper Thomas Henry
- Trooper Roger Lockhead
- Trooper Harold Philip
- Lieutenant Thomas Windsor
The following day, 8 June, seven more POWs from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders were also executed:
- Private Walter Doherty
- Private Hollis McKeil
- Private Hugh MacDonald
- Private George McNaughton
- Private George Millar
- Private Thomas Mont
- Private Raymond Moore
On 17 June, two more Canadian soldiers, Lieutenant Frederick Williams and Lance Corporal George Pollard, were also believed to have been killed at or around the abbey.
After liberating the Ardenne Abbey on 8 July, members of the Regina Rifle Regiment discovered the body of Lieutenant Williams; Lance Corporal Pollard was never found. The bodies of those killed on 7 and 8 June were not found until the winter and spring of 1945, when inhabitants from the abbey accidentally discovered remains throughout the premises. Examinations of the remains revealed that the soldiers had either been shot or bludgeoned directly in the head. All the remains were taken to the cemeteries at Beny-sur-Mer or Bretteville-sur-Laize, except for Private McKeil, who was taken to Ryes War Cemetery.