From Moose Jaw to Normandy: S/Sgt. Scheske’s D-Day Anniversary Journey

Staff Sergeant Chad Scheske of the Moose Jaw Police Service experienced the trip of a lifetime travelling overseas to Europe as part of a Royal Regina Rifles Regiment (RRR) contingent to honour and commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day in early June. This tour was organized by a small group of dedicated individuals and was spearheaded by L. Col. Ed Staniowski (Ret).

D-Day took place on June 6, 1944, on the beaches of Normandy, France, and is commonly referred to as “Operation Overlord”. Operation Overlord was the largest air and seaborne invasion in history and opened the way for the defeat of the Axis Powers in Europe during The Second World War.

As a retired Royal Regina Rifles Regiment Sergeant, Scheske was honoured to be invited on what they called a “Tour of Honour.”

“The support I received from the (Moose Jaw Police) Service was remarkable. I was very honored to be thought of, and I wasn’t just a forgotten soldier from the regiment,” says S/Sgt. Scheske. “To go over and retrace those steps is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

The MJPS did not provide funding for the trip.

The Royal Regina Rifles “Tour of Honour” contingent consisted of active soldiers, veterans, and people with ties to the regiment through family or friends and donors.

The trip began on June 2, when the contingent departed Regina, with a brief layover in Toronto, and landed in Paris, France, on June 3.

On June 4, the group left for Courseulles-sur-Mer, three hours northwest of Paris, along the English Channel.

The regiment then took a battlefield tour of Pegasus Bridge, a historic structure built during the Second World War.

“Pegasus Bridge is a spot where British soldiers landed gliders and took this bridge to prevent the Germans from accessing the beaches before D-Day began,” explains S/Sgt. Scheske.

From there, the contingent explored Juno Beach, where RRR members and other Canadian military landed in June 1944. Scheske also toured the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s Second World War Museum in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War.

On June 5, the group made their way to Bretteville, France, which became their home for a few days. Within the town of Bretteville, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne (Colonel in Chief of the Royal Regina Rifles Regiment) unveiled an eight-foot-tall bronze statue of a soldier landing on the beaches of Normandy. The statue of the soldier was commissioned over a year and a half ago by a couple from Alberta named Don and Shirley Begg.

“It’s a very important place in the (Royal) Regina Rifles Regiment history because that is where the Rifles pushed off the beaches,” says Scheske.

“That story in itself is amazing. The simple fact is that these soldiers landed on their landing crafts and were met with heavy German resistance: machine guns, mines, and mortars. They, then, were able to push inland and make the 20-kilometre journey to Bretteville, where they secured the town and then dug in for heavy German resistance; it was quite amazing.”

Following the statue unveiling, a commemorative event parade took place. S/Sgt. Scheske assisted with security.

“Because I am bilingual. I wound up working the front gate with the French police. It was a very secure area, and because I am bilingual, I was able to help get certain guests in. I spent some time in my (Moose Jaw Police Service) tunic working at the gate, which was something that I hadn’t expected to do, but it was great to put my French to good use.”

On June 6, the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the soldiers currently serving RRR served at the official ceremony down at Courseulles-sur-Mer, but unfortunately, Scheske and most of the contingent couldn’t attend.

The next day, though, they were given a battlefield tour of the beaches of Courseulles-sur-Mer and were on the hallowed ground where thousands of Canadian soldiers stood.

“It’s just the fact that so many guys left Canada where it was safe, stepped into a foreign country, and died never having a family or kids. And they did it for people they didn’t know; it’s heroism.”

Scheske even mentioned bringing back a jar full of sand as a keepsake to remember the trip and what it represented.

While in Bretteville, Scheske participated in mess dinners, parades, candle-lit ceremonies, and dances to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Their next stop on the trip was the Leopold Canal in northern Belgium, which was another historic battle in The Second World War. The Battle of Leopold Canal was crossed after heavy fighting in early October 1944. This would let Canadian soldiers build a new bridge to cross the canals and head northwest toward enemy strongholds.

Additionally, Scheske toured the Canadian Polish War Museum and took a battlefield tour of the Leopold Canal.

“The canal itself is maybe 10 meters wide at most, but steep banks on both sides, and the Germans were on one side, and we were on the other side, so they could have been much more than 50 meters apart, and the fighting that went on over the day, trying to take the other side of the canal was very intense. It was taken, which then allowed the Rifles to push their way into Holland.”

Following the Leopold Canal, Scheske and the group stopped in Ypres, Belgium, to visit the Menen Gate, which is a giant archway.

“It’s large and probably 50 meters long, and inside is inscribed the names of Canadians from the First World War who weren’t buried anywhere. It was astonishing just the amount of lives lost and never recovered.”

The contingent’s last leg included visiting the Carriere Wellington Tunnels, 8 kilometers of underground tunnels in Arras, France, and the Vimy Ridge memorial.

Prior to departing back to Canada, the group visited a cemetery just outside of Mons, Belgium, where Pte. George Price of Moose Jaw was buried. Pte. Price was the last commonwealth soldier killed in The Second World War.

On June 13, Scheske and the rest of the group returned to Canada after a memorable trip.

While on the trip, Scheske had the opportunity to represent not only the RRR but also the Moose Jaw Police Service, which meant a lot to him.

Aside from the historical value of the trip, Scheske is bringing back the knowledge of what it means to be a leader.

“We didn’t just send Privates and Corporals out there; we sent leaders. We had officers who led their men from the front and died right beside their men. That’s an important concept in any sort of leadership, and you need to lead from the front.”

He hopes to bring that leadership knowledge back to his current position within the Moose Jaw Police Service.

Scheske ended by saying that though it was an emotional trip, it was one he will never forget, and wanted to thank the RRR for inviting him.