Seventy years after flying over Normandy and helping liberate the Low Countries, Earl Ingram is being honoured by the French government.
The 95-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) veteran is one of 600 Canadians who served during the Second World War to be named a Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest national order of France. Medals are being awarded in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Ingram is the third veteran from Lloydminster to receive this distinction, which took place at a ceremony at the Legion Hall on April 18.
“It wasn’t (just) me, there were thousands of others and I’m basically accepting this medal for them,” Ingram said. “I wish they were all here tonight, but I don’t think there would be enough room for all the canes and walkers.”
Ingram is originally from Wolseley, Sask. He joined the RCAF right out of high school in 1940 and was sent to the United Kingdom in 1941, shortly after the Battle of Britain. He was stationed in England for over two years before being part of the invasion of Normandy.
He first landed at Beny-sur-mer Airfield, which is now the site of a Canadian war cemetery. He has vivid memories of casualties returning from the front lines at the Battle for Caen.
“We were quite close to the battlefield at Caen, and we lost quite a few men. They came to the cemetery, which was just beginning, and you brought them in on a three-ton truck wrapped in a blanket and with their dog tags on their shoes, which isn’t the best thing to watch. And we watched that every night,” Ingram said. “Once (the Allies) could get through Caen, then it was easier. But that was my worst sight. Just to think that they were alive in the morning and buried at night.”
Ingram says the war went much smoother for the Allies after D-Day and he has good memories fighting along Europe’s northern coast. He says he could feel that the war was coming to an end.
“We went from France right into Belgium, liberated it, and then we went right into Holland and liberated it, so it was good,” he said. “Holland is below sea level and the Germans bombed and ruined some of the dikes, so Holland was all water. We were in rubber boots all the time (and) in a tent. It was cold and dreary but it was just another place, really. Where are we going tomorrow?”
See “Veterans,” Page 6
After the German capitulation Ingram set sail for home, receiving an appreciative reception. The Statue of Liberty greeted him as he arrived at the New York Harbour. From there he traveled by train to Montreal and then headed back west. After being discharged from service, Ingram says the government gave him $1,000 and offered to help pay for his education. He took up the offer and studied to become a pharmacist. He moved to Lloydminster in 1951 for his “first job” at Moxley Drugs and stayed here ever since.
He says he made some lifelong friends in the war, but not many of his comrades remain. The Canadian War Museum estimates that there are only 1,000 living veterans of the Second World War, and Ingram shares his medal with all of them.
“If they recognize me, they recognize the people who were with me, too. It’s not mine alone,” he said.