Boys of the Clouds
An Oral History of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion 1942-45Book - 2005
Boys of the Clouds tells the fascinating stories, in their own words, of over seventy veterans of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion during the Second World War. The Battalion, part of the British 6th Airborne Division, was among the very first Allied soldiers to land on French soil on June 6, 1944. Despite a widely scattered drop, they managed to take and hold all their objectives on D-Day, and continued to hold off German counter attacks through that fateful summer.
After suffering heavy losses in Normandy, the unit returned to England in September 1944 to refit and train for the next airborne operation. This training was interrupted when they were hastily sent to defend against the German offensive in the Ardennes, commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge. They were the only Canadian unit to take part in this action. After the threat had passed, and the German offensive halted, they once again returned to England to prepare for the next drop.
This finally came on March 24, 1945 when the Allies were able to cross the Rhine in a massive combined airborne and river crossing operation, the largest the world has ever seen. Success came quickly on the drop zone and within three days, they embarked on a hectic journey that would take them from the Rhine River all the way to Wismar on the Baltic Sea by May 2nd, where they linked up with Russian forces. This historic meeting signified the end of the war in Europe.
The Battalion then had the honour of being the first Canadian unit to return to Canada as a complete group. They landed in Halifax to a tumultuous welcome and were awarded the key to the city.
Follow their arduous and often hilarious journey and discover why they joined up, what the parachute training was like, especially their first jump, what it was like jumping into action for the first time in Normandy, the conditions in the Ardennes, crossing the Rhine and the fateful trek to Wismar to end the war. It's all here, in their own words.