Michel Vincent (Primary Source)

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.


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Michel Vincent carrying the Canadian flag at Omaha Beach for the commemorations of the 59th anniversary of the Allied landing in France. 2003.
(Courtesy of The Memory Project/Michel Vincent)

"On their shoulders, in a semi-circle, we could read ‘’Canada’’. Our liberators, sensing our fear, cried out to us in French ‘’Don’t be afraid,’’ and with tears in our eyes, we opened the shutters and clapped and thanked our liberators."

Transcript

My name is Michel Vincent. I was born in 1934 in Algiers, Algeria, which was a French territory at the time. I remember from 1942 the anguish of nights of bombing. The morning of November 7, 1942, the noise of the guns had eased off a bit; you could hear bursts of machine gun fire in the distance; the port of Algiers was covered with Allied boats and armed soldiers with flat helmets were coming up Lafayette Street where we were living. Happy, but still worried, we hid behind the closed shutters, looking out into the street and opening them once in a while to see the first soldiers. On their shoulders, in a semi-circle, we could read ‘’Canada’’. Our liberators, sensing our fear, cried out to us in French ‘’Don’t be afraid,’’ and with tears in our eyes, we opened the shutters and clapped and thanked our liberators. Knowing that we had very little, they gave us boxes of military rations.

These soldiers, with the British and the American armies, gave us back our freedom. This memory and my living thanks have stayed with me to this day. When it was my turn to serve my country, I served France for several years in a painful war. I chose Canada, where I was warmly welcomed in 1960. In guise of thanks and as a French war veteran, I had the privilege and the honour of participating in several memorials along with French veterans, and of carrying the Canadian flag in the south of France. The American and Canadian troops grouped in the unit ‘’the Devil’s Brigade’’, allied with the Free French Army coming from North Africa, liberated several cities and territories in that region in the year 1944.

I composed the following poems as a modest testimony to thank, by my presence, the courageous friends, Canadian veterans who showed their merit in serving and in making the ultimate sacrifice, to liberate us. I will read the poem:

Les soldats de la gloire
Ils étaient vêtus de courage
Leur cœur battait la liberté
Ils ont débarqué sur les plages
Dans la guerre précipités
Ils luttaient contre l’infernal
Leurs fusils serrés dans les mains
Leur destin faisant face aux balles
Dans un espoir de lendemain
De la bataille en Normandie
Ils sont allés jusqu’en Hollande
Ils débarquèrent en Italie
De la bravoure sur demande
Pour le 8 mai de la victoire
Parmi ces braves vétérans
Les Canadiens de la mémoire
Sont à leurs côtés défilant
Ils regardent vers la lumière
Leurs larmes sont sur leurs médailles
Elles avaient abreuvé la terre
À l’époque de ces batailles
Leur musée va ouvrir ses portes
Car nous leur devons cette histoire
En ce jour ce qui réconforte
C’est qu’ils soient ici dans la gloire.

This poem was written by Michel J.F. Vincent on May 8, 2005. I thank you, and I hope that all Canadians, along with their children, can honour the memory of these courageous soldiers who died in order to give our world freedom. Thank you.

Another poem by Michel Vincent:

DIX-HUIT JUIN 1940

Maginot contournée, les défenses enfoncées,
Les blindés ennemis déferlaient sur la France. . .
Sous le feu de l’enfer, nos forces dépassées,
Reculaient vers le sud enchaînées de souffrance. . .

L’appel du dix-huit juin vint redonner l’espoir;
L’hymne national fut chanté sur les ondes. . .
Quand la population refusa la nuit noire;
Les forces françaises s’organisèrent à Londres. . .

Partisans de courage et résistants de gloire,
Sur le sol de France aux heures les plus tragiques,
Au long de la guerre resteront dans l’histoire;
Au côté des Alliés et des soldats d’Afrique. . .

Quand le drapeau français flotta dans le ciel bleu
A côté de tous ceux de nos pays Alliés;
De nombreux combattants avaient les larmes aux yeux,
En silence pour ceux qu’ils n’ont pas oubliés. . .

Michel J.F. Vincent
Tous droits de diffusion réservés à l’auteur
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