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Ardenne Abbey massacre

11-08-2018

The Ardenne Abbey massacre occurred during the Battle of Normandy at the Ardenne Abbey, a Premonstratensian monastery in Saint-Germain-la-Blanche-Herbe, near Caen, France. In June 1944, 20 Canadian soldiers were massacred in a garden at the abbey  by members of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend over the course of several days and weeks. During the course of the Normandy Campaign an estimated “156 Canadian prisoners of war are believed to have been executed by the 12th SS Panzer Division (the Hitler Youth) in the days and weeks following the D-Day landings. In scattered groups, in various pockets of the Normandy countryside, they were taken aside and shot.” The perpetrators of the massacre, members of the 12th SS Panzer Division, were known for their fanaticism, as a result of the majority of the division’s personnel being drawn from the Hitlerjugend or Hitler Youth.

During the Normandy Campaign, then SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer , commander of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment , used the Abbaye d’Ardenne  for his regimental headquarters, as the turret allowed for a clear view of the battlefield. In June 1944 at the abbey, 20 Canadian soldiers were murdered by members of the 12th SS Panzer Division.

Lt. Windsor, Lt. Williams,  Crp. Pollard, Pvt. McNaughton  Pvt. McKeil,  Pvt. Crowe Crp. MacIntyre , Pvt. Doucette , Pvt. Doherty  Pvt. Lockhead , Pvt. Millar  Pvt. Moss 

Both the method by which the murders were carried out and upon whom the blame rests remain points of contention. Some basic facts, however, are certain. During the evening of 7 June, 11 Canadian prisoners of war, soldiers from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders  and the 27th Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment) , were shot in the back of the head. On 17 June, two more Canadian soldiers, Lieutenant Frederick Williams and Lance Corporal George Pollard,  were also believed to have been killed at or around the Abbaye. Both soldiers “had been patrolling for disabled German tanks near Buron and went missing. It is known that two wounded Canadian POWs were evacuated by the Germans to the abbey’s first-aid post on June 17. Witnesses later reported hearing shots in the vicinity of the abbey at two different times that day.”

After liberating the Abbaye d’Ardenne on 8 July, members of the Regina Rifle Regiment discovered the body of Lieutenant Williams; Lance Corporal Pollard was never found. The bodies of those killed on 7 and 8 June were not found until the winter and spring of 1945, when inhabitants from the abbey accidentally discovered remains throughout the premises. Examinations of the remains revealed that the soldiers had either been shot or bludgeoned directly in the head; the exact weapon used to bludgeon the heads of the soldiers was indeterminate but was most likely the butt of a rifle or an entrenching tool. All the remains were taken to the cemeteries at Beny-sur-Mer or Bretteville-sur-Laize, except for Private McKeil, who was taken to Ryes War Cemetery, Bazenville.

SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer was found guilty of inciting his troops to commit murder and of being responsible as a commander for the killings at the Abbaye; he was acquitted on the second and third charges.Sentenced to death on 28 December 1945, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment on 14 January 1946. After serving nearly nine years in prison, Meyer was released on 7 September 1954. The role Meyer played in the execution of the twenty Canadian prisoners remains a point of contention. Currently, in the garden of the Abbaye rests a memorial to the soldiers, unveiled on 6 June 1984. The inscription, followed by the names of those killed, reads: “On the night of June 7/8, 1944, 18 Canadian soldiers were murdered in this garden while being held here as prisoners of war. Two more prisoners died here or nearby on June 17. They are gone but not forgotten.SS-Standartenführer

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