Modern high-tech inventions help re-tell the history of the Second World War in a new way to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at the Lethbridge Military Museum through December.
The Lethbridge Military Museum unveiled its latest temporary display to the media Sept. 4 showing off a new 3D printed model of the Bernières-sur-Mer battleground at the east end of Juno Beach, including to-scale soldiers, pillbox shelters and landing vehicles, where some of Canada’s heaviest fighting of the war took place on June 6, 1944.
The museum also highlighted its new virtual reality headsets provided by Valour Canada which allow the person wearing them to take an interactive virtual tour of Juno Beach and other aspects of Canadian military history in the Second World War.
The 3D model is only on display until December, but the VR headsets will be a permanent fixture of the Lethbridge Military Museum.
As for the temporary display highlighting local connections to D-Day, Honorary Lt. Col. Rick Casson of 20th Independent Field Battery said it was appropriate and important for members of the public to come down to see it.
“D-Day is an important day in the history of the world,” he stated. “It’s an important day to remember in the history of Canada and in our military. It was the beginning of the end of the war. It was a terrible battle. We lost over 500 of our soldiers that (first) day, and in the months that followed 5,000 Canadians died here (in Normandy). It’s important to stop and remember that.”
Second World War veteran Pete Lewko came down in his wheelchair to be present for the unveiling. While not with the first wave of Canadians who landed in Normandy, Lewko saw the aftermath of battle first hand when he touched down on Bernières-sur-Mer later in the campaign. He appreciated the time and effort put into making the model.
“This is just fabulous,” he said. “It is nice to see something like this in Lethbridge. I would advise anybody just to come out and have a look at it.”
Model maker Brent Devos, whose mother worked with the Dutch underground resistance against the occupying Nazis during the war, said he first started the model project as a setting for a war game based on the battle, then realized later he had created something which resonated powerfully with local veterans.
“It makes me feel good, the work I put into it,” he said when asked about seeing his work featured at the Lethbridge Military Museum. “I hope it might help the younger generation visualize and have something concrete to look at to get a sense for the importance of (D-Day). So many men died. Seven out of 10 of the Queen’s Own Rifles died on that first wave. Many of them didn’t even make it to the beach. It was really horrible and it was hellish.”
Valour Canada president Peter Boyle was also on hand for the unveiling. He was showing off the VR headsets his organization provided to the museum.
“Valour Canada, our goal is to connect youth to their military history and heritage, and we have moved into the virtual reality environment,” he said. “That allows us to immerse youth in the history as well as the story of the veterans. To have these headsets available in museums and schools across the country is our objective, and partnering with the Lethbridge Military Museum is a great step in that direction.”
The Lethbridge Military Museum is open to the public every Wednesday between noon and 4 p.m.
Those groups or individuals wishing to book a personal tour of the museum on a different day can visit to the museum’s website at http://www.lethbridgemilitarymuseum.org to connect with the organization.
Find more information at the Valour Canada website, http://valourcanada.ca.