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Normandy Remembered
Personal Glimpses of Normandy Past

World War II Reminiscences
by Albert Cunningham

Albert Cunningham has served for many years as the chairman of Normandy Parish Council, but his service to Great Britain began in 1942 when aged 18 years he enlisted in the Canadian Army.

For the first year he remained in Canada, but then he served in a special unit and although still remaining in Canada was trained to use poison gas.

In 1944 he was transferred to Aldershot and was mainly employed on road building because he was an engineer. He helped build the Leatherhead by-pass and is the last survivor of those who built Dunsfold Aerodrome. He was also involved with the Liphook railway. He was stationed in Ewhurst where he met his future wife.

At the end of the War he went to France where he helped repair and build roads and bridges, including the Caen by-pass which had been destroyed by the Germans. He was stationed in Rouen.

Caen by-pass

Defensive position near Ranville 7th June 1944, with Horsa gliders in the background

(The signs, in German, say Bypass)

He then went to Lier in Belgium and then to The Netherlands before going into Germany to Emden just across the Dutch border. The Germans had blown up a vital road link across the Ems Canal as they retreated and many allied soldiers had been killed. The bridge was half a mile wide and it was part of his Unit's job to maintain the pontoon bridge so that it could be used for road traffic and then "disassemble'' it for canal traffic.

Bailey bridge over the Dortmund-Ems Canal

Bailey bridge over the Dortmund-Ems Canal,

April 1945

After the War the Canadians were given a form to state their preference whether to return to civilian life and return to Canada or stay on in Germany. As he had become engaged to his present wife who lived in Ewhurst, he did not want to return to Canada, so he stayed in Germany working as an engineer. Later on he became a medical orderly which earned him a promotion to Lance Corporal.

He had the unenviable task of using drivers who were suffering from "shell-shock'' when carrying out his various projects.

Of the Canadian forces who stayed in Britain, there are very few left alive today, at one time there were 20,000 branches of the Canadian Forces Society, now just two.

In Normandy, we are very grateful that Albert survived his time serving in World War II as he went on to serve the Village of Normandy as an extremely able and effective Chairman of our Parish Council.

His time not on the "front-line" fighting, but doing valuable work keeping the "war effort'" going, is not "glamorous" but "vital behind the scenes" work, which we can still see today as we travel along the Leatherhead by-pass or visit Dunsfold Aerodrome.

Thank you Albert.

Dictated by Albert 22nd July 2014.
Compiled by Sandra Grainger

Wikipedia Links
Canadian Armed Forces
Dunsfold Aerodrome
Dortmund-Ems Canal

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