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The youngest Ally to die in Normandy was a Quebecer

Photo: Soldier Fund Gérard Doré Soldier Gérard Doré

Lisa Denis in Ottawa

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  • Europe

Nothing is yet won a month after the landing, the 80th anniversary of which is being celebrated this week. The Allies must advance inland to liberate strategic points. These weeks of fierce fighting will kill many soldiers, the youngest of whom is a Quebec teenager.

Measuring 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 140 pounds, Gérard Doré, born in Val-Jalbert, made a good impression on recruiters when he enlisted in Quebec City on April 7, 1943. The recruiters, who described the Saguenay native as “energetic” and “action-loving,” saw in him the “potential of a good soldier, even a good non-commissioned officer,” historian Frédéric Smith told Le Devoir. But his imposing stature is a deception: the young man is only 15 years old.

Wanting at all costs to serve in the army, Gérard Doré lied about his age, subtracting three years from his true date of birth, becoming 1924 rather than 1927. The officers, who believed they were facing a 19-year-old man, sent to England in May 1944, where he joined the ranks of the Fusiliers Mont-Royal (FMR) two days before the landing. The regiment did not participate in this military operation, and went to France only a month later, on July 8.

I had taken steps to get him out of the army, but I didn't believe that he would be sent to the fire so quickly, at that age, although he was very courageous and that he absolutely wanted to defend the homeland

— Marie-Anne Doré

Alongside three other French-speaking Canadian units, the FMR engaged in “fierce fighting” on July 20 to liberate two farms south of Caen, still occupied by the Germans. The Allies would eventually recover the land on July 25, at the cost of numerous losses, including Gérard Doré, fatally shot by the enemy two days before the end of the mission.

In Roberval, where his family lives, the news is a shock. The father, Isidore Doré, does not believe in the death of his son, who enlisted without his “knowledge”, according to his military file. “Didn’t he write one last letter ? Didn’t he just disappear ?,” he asks the Ministry of National Defense.

“I had taken steps to get him out of the army, but I did not believe that he would be sent to the fire so quickly, at that age, although he was very courageous and that he absolutely wanted to defend the homeland”, wrote his mother, Marie-Anne Doré, two years later.

Killed at the age of 16 years and 11 months, Gérard Doré is considered the youngest Allied soldier to die on the Western Front during the Second World War. He is buried in the Canadian cemetery of Bretteville-sur-Laize, in Normandy.

Read also

  • Our complete file on the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings

The massacre of the Dieppe raid

Although he “did not serve long”, it is certain that the teenager showed recklessness, because “after the disaster of the Dieppe raid, it took a certain courage to still want to go to war”, underlines Frédéric Smith.

Operation Jubilee, in August 1942, in which 6,100 men participated, including 5,000 Canadians, was a “catastrophe”, particularly dramatic for the FMR, who were “decimated”. Of the 584 soldiers of the regiment who left England, only 125 returned.

All this did not help the “promotion of voluntary enlistment” in Quebec , continues the historian. But the bloody offensive, which aimed in particular to “test amphibious assault techniques, in addition to seizing intelligence and equipment”, made it possible to draw certain lessons for D-Day, carried out two years later.

Unsung Hero

The courage of Gérard Doré earned him a commemorative monument at the entrance to the cemetery where he rests, in France. A street in a small town in Calvados also bears his name. But in his native region, this “hero” is “not yet super recognized,” admits Maxime Lamontagne, general director of the Domaine-du-Roy Historical Society, in Roberval.

The youngest Ally to die in Normandy was a Quebecer

Photo: Gérard Doré Soldier Fund The grave of Gérard Doré at the Bretteville-sur-Laize military cemetery, in Normandy, in 1992

For several years, the archive center has been paying tribute to the soldier and trying to “make him known a little more” through exhibitions. “It’s part of our mission to make known the regional history of the area, but also the great people. »

“There are very, very few sources in Quebec that will talk about this soldier and the French-Canadian contribution to the world wars,” confirms Mr. Smith. He also mentions Gérard Doré in his recent work Des Québécois en Normandie, which aims to give the participation of Quebecers “the echo it deserves.”

Because military history “is perhaps a little less followed or fashionable [in Quebec] than in English Canada,” says the author. “For French Canadians, war is usually synonymous with a loss of collective freedom,” he explains, referring in particular to the “trauma of the Conquest” and the “First World War, during which French Canadians felt like they were being used as cannon fodder.”

But the “feats of arms of the French Canadian military”, previously passed “in silence”, have gained visibility over the last thirty years, according to Mr. Smith. Many veterans, having come to terms with their trauma, have “opened up to their grandchildren, as if there was a kind of will that, despite everything, we do not forget what is happening.” had passed.”

“The duty to remember, especially with the disappearance of the last witnesses, is increasingly a collective responsibility. »

This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116