Boys of the Clouds: An Oral History of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion 1942-1945
- 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.
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About the Author
- Gary Boegel was born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He attended Bell High School in Nepean, where he credits two of his history teachers, Mr. Michael Laurie and Mr. G. Gauthier, with nurturing his passion for history. After high school, he attended Carleton University in Ottawa, graduating in 1992 with a BA in History. After joining the workforce for a few years, he returned to school to take a post-diploma course in International Trade at Algonquin College, graduating, with honours, in 1997. Gary presently works for a local technology firm that specializes in procurement.
- His love of military history can be attributed to a number of factors. As a child, his older brother, Steve, was constantly reading books about the Second World War, with a particular interest in the air war. There were always books and model airplanes around which naturally peaked his interest. His grandfather, Private A. Avery, who he was always very close to, was a veteran, having served with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders during the war. He was wounded in action on October 21, 1944 in Breskens, Holland. Gary always enjoyed listening to his grandfather tell war stories. As he got older, he also made a point of talking to as many veterans as he could as he found it quite fascinating to hear their remarkable tales of war. He soon realised that it would be a worthwhile project to try and record their stories for future generations. After meeting a 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion veteran, Sergeant Nelson N. MacDonald, and recording his stories, he decided! to focus his attention on this particular unit. The result is Boys of the Clouds, which took approximately ten years to research and complete.
- Gary lives in the Ottawa area and has been with his soul mate, Carrie, since 1989. They were married in 1996 and do not have any children as of yet. Gary enjoys collecting military and nautical antiques, playing guitar, renovating their house, traveling, woodworking and spending time with his wife.
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