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Margie MacNaughton, her father Archie, and the cost of D-Day – Active History

This is the second in a collection of posts marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the finish of the Second World Warfare as part of a partnership between Active History and the Juno Seashore Centre. If you need to contribute, contact collection coordinator Alex Fitzgerald-Black at [email protected]

Editor’s word: On Might 30th, 2019 Historica Canada launched a brand new Heritage Minute honouring those who participated in D-Day, the June 6th landings in Normandy 75 years ago. Jen Sguigna, who consulted on the venture, provides her readers insight into both the man at the centre of the Minute and the household he left behind. You possibly can watch the heritage minute right here.


The story of Archie begins with an inventory: Canadians killed on D-Day.

John Archibald MacNaughton, Major in the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment. Hometown: Black River Bridge, New Brunswick. 47 years previous.  Killed in motion on 6 June 1944.

The record stops the place Archie’s life stopped, with no acknowledgement of the lives that went on with out him.

Main Archie MacNaughton, Second World Struggle (c. 1939). Photograph courtesy of the MacNaughton household.

His daughter Margie, now in her eighties, tells a narrative of her father that may’t be present in conflict diaries and army histories. She remembers him proudly: Beloved husband, adored father. Revered in his group and devoted to his household farm. His robust sense of obligation.

I first found a mention of Archie in an East Coast group publication. Set beside a photograph of Archie, a short article recounted the story of his younger cousin Helen and how she discovered about his dying. I reached out to the editor to try to request a replica of the photograph. Meanwhile, army history sources added the first layer to Archie’s story.

Born 1896 in Black River Bridge, New Brunswick, he enlisted in the CEF in 1915 and arrived in France shortly after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, serving with the 26th Battalion. He survived the conflict and returned residence, married, and had two youngsters. Every summer time, he attended militia training camp. He returned to the military full-time when conflict broke out in 1939 and was promoted to main in the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. He went abroad in the summer time of 1941.

Archie maintained a grand popularity in the North Shores. His ‘A’ Firm all the time did nicely in inspections and typically gained in sports activities competitions. The youthful men regarded him as a father determine. However, he was previous for a combat officer and was provided alternatives to retire or return residence to serve in the Forestry Corps. He declined, refusing to desert his boys before the impending operation.

On D-Day, the North Shores have been one of the assault battalions of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division that landed on Juno Seashore. Archie was injured quickly after he stepped onto the seashore, however continued onward, main the surviving members of ‘A’ Company via Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer and on to Tailleville. The village was reported to be clear, they did not anticipate resistance. A soldier threw a smoke bomb and Archie gave the order to maneuver. The lads moved on the pop of the grenade, earlier than any smoke offered cover, and a German machine gun fired at the uncovered group. Archie was killed immediately, together with Privates Harold Daley and  Arthur Strang. Signaler Bill Savage would later credit score Archie with saving his life. Padre R.M. Hickey described him posthumously as a legend within the North Shore Regiment.

Archie and some of the boys from ‘A’ Company. Photograph courtesy of the MacNaughton family.

This snapshot of one half of Archie’s life, his army service, was as a lot as we’d anticipated to seek out: the official document confirmed a courageous man with a dedication to obligation and loyalty to his males. It is an exceptional story, however it isn’t the entire story.

The publication editor did more than present a photo: he related me with Archie’s household, who eagerly shared the story they knew. They offered photograph scrapbooks, army paraphernalia (together with Archie’s personal swagger stick!), numerous data and clippings, and – most significantly – over 200 letters written by Archie throughout the Second World Conflict. On prime of all that, I found the Canadian Struggle Museum holds Archie’s First World Struggle letters. It was an unimaginable, sudden outcome: an enormous collection of letters from one man’s perspective, his correspondence via two world wars.

Archie was a prolific writer: he coated lots of of pages in his neat, clean cursive writing. Throughout the First World Conflict, he wrote to his father and his sisters, describing his every day coaching and all the things he had to carry and wear. He asked about news from house and business on the farm. In one letter, he asks a few native woman named Gracie; he’d lately seen a photo of her and observed she was wanting properly. When he returned residence, he took over work on his household farm, married Gracie, had a son (Francie) and a daughter (Margie), and built them a home in Black River Bridge, New Brunswick. He taught Sunday faculty — his class wrote him a cheerful, teasing letter hoping that he’d still train them despite the fact that he was now a busy, married man!

Margie, Archie, Grace, and Francie pose for a proper portrait before Archie heads abroad. Photograph courtesy of the MacNaughton household.

When the Second World Conflict started, Archie went to Chatham, NB, for training, returning residence when he might. Grace, Francie, and Margie took one final set of household pictures with Archie in his uniform before Archie left Canada; later he smiled at the digital camera at a practice station in his uniform, holding his swagger stick. He wrote letters residence about how comparable his two journeys to England have been, besides that this time he had personal quarters. He asked after the lambs and mourned the dying of his father from across an ocean.

While coaching his males in England, Archie met Lieutenant-Common Andrew McNaughton and they discussed their widespread Scottish ancestry. He kissed the Blarney Stone on depart and stayed with distant relations thrilled to host him. He debated a suggestion to retire but finally would not abandon his boys when it came time to storm the beaches. The soldiers of ‘A’ Company have been like sons to him and he was a father to them. On 4 June 1944, Archie wrote a ultimate letter to Gracie. He gave delicate steerage for the future and wished he might inform them more. He informed Francie and Gracie to all the time do what they love. “I am awful glad I was in it. No matter how things go.” Two days later, he was killed. Many who knew him wrote to Gracie with condolences and tales.

Archie kisses the Blarney stone on depart in March 1944. Photograph courtesy of the MacNaughton family.

With Archie gone, Gracie didn’t know what to do. She’d stored the farm going for Archie: Francie was too younger to take over and she couldn’t proceed to manage it herself. Notes from the photograph scrapbooks recommend she ultimately moved the household out west. Gracie would go to Archie’s grave in the 1960s, her silver cross seen on her coat and tears visible in her eyes.

In September 1963, Grace was lastly capable of journey to France to go to Archie’s ultimate resting place. Photograph courtesy of the MacNaughton family.

The letters give us insight into a much bigger story about the family that Archie left behind and what the loss of a husband and a father meant to them. Seventy-five years later, Archie’s daughter, Margie, nonetheless aches when she thinks of her father.

Margie has a picture of her father as a youth, a newspaper clipping that famous his enlistment. She remembers choosing blueberries and leaping into her father’s arms when he returned from farm work. She remembers their dog Browny. She remembers the closet her father constructed particularly for her inside of her very own bed room. She remembers sitting around the table with her brother, listening to her mom read her father’s phrases aloud. Typically he wrote directly to her. He despatched silver teaspoons residence to Gracie and small presents for her and Francie. Her nine-year-old brain couldn’t understand what happened when he was killed: how might he not come residence? She didn’t understand that the last time she saw her father can be the last time she noticed her father. He informed her he couldn’t come residence but as a result of the boys he led can be scared with out him; she informed him, “But Daddy, I’m scared too.”

Margie lived a full and successful life, remaining lively whereas she raised her household. After suffering a stroke that left her partially paralyzed, she wrote a short collection of cookbooks to assist others prepare dinner one-handed. Margie knows, greater than something, that her father was a superb man. She wonders how she would have been totally different if Archie had come house. She hopes that she is half nearly as good as he was.

In 2017, Margie proudly wore her mom’s silver cross to a From Vimy to Juno event in Montreal. Her father’s story was prominently featured. Photograph courtesy of the MacNaughton household.

Archie and some of the boys from ‘A’ Company. Photograph courtesy of the MacNaughton family.

As the memory of the Second World Struggle grows more distant to Canadians immediately, it is very important keep in mind that time doesn’t erase the loss. Tales about Canadians killed in Normandy are also the tales of the households and communities who endured those sacrifices. Tales of loss and perseverance echoed throughout the nation as the conflict progressed and more Canadians have been killed an ocean away. Archie’s story reverberates even now. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren have unfold throughout the country and round the world, however they still find out about their grandfather, killed far from house in Normandy.

When the Juno Seashore Centre Association got down to inform the stories of Canadians killed on D-Day, I assumed we’d find 381 stories that ended on or near a seashore in Normandy. But Archie’s story didn’t end on Juno Seashore; it turned Margie’s story too and continues to resonate across the generations.

After finishing her MA in Public History at Western University, Jen Sguigna labored with Canada’s History and Historica Canada earlier than landing at the Juno Seashore Centre Affiliation. Now the JBCA’s Program Supervisor in Canada, she fortunately spends her days learning and sharing tales like Archie’s.