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Warrant Officer (Ret'd) George Couture

Seventy-seven years after he began his military career, George Couture found himself at Pier 21 reminiscing about one of the last times he was there. He was boarding a ship with his younger brother and was headed for Europe, and war.

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Warrant Officer (Retd) George Couture

"I arrived at Pier 21, in the darkness of night under the cloak of secrecy, boarded a ship, the Ile de France. We were kept in the dark for six days before arriving in Scotland," recalled George Couture. This is just part of a story Couture shared at an event in Halifax to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy this past June.

"It was very nice for the government to have a do for us at Halifax. I enjoyed that very much," he said later, when asked about the event. "They took me by surprise when they gave me the flowers to put in the boot… As a soldier, I never had flowers to do anything with."

Couture has fond memories of the crossing to Scotland. "Here was my brother—he was younger than me—in charge of a craps game making money. He cut me in, and we made a little bit of money. We had a good time and talked things over," he recalls. "I never saw him from that night, when we docked in Greenock, until after the war."

"That was quite hard on the nerves watching that."

On the morning of 6 June, 1944—D-Day—George Couture was on a ship in the English Channel, preparing to land on the Normandy coast. "They held a church service that morning—early—and you could see in the distance, ship after ship."

Couture described how he watched soldiers load into the assault boats, waiting his turn. "They just threw a scramble net over the side from the big ship to try and go down to the little ones. Some of the men fell in the sea or fell between the boats and got crushed. That was quite hard on the nerves watching that."

After landing in France, Couture's company made its way inland securing positions in the countryside. He had only been there for three days when he and his comrade Jack Chemeracki became prisoners of war.

They were travelling in a truck with four other soldiers when they were hit by a shell. "The Germans were only about a couple of hundred yards away, on the other side of the railroad tracks," Couture says. "Two of them crawled over and shot the guys that were badly wounded. They were going to shoot Jack because he had a head wound, but I bound that up and looked after him."

"I was dirty, rundown, and I hardly weighed 100 pounds when I was liberated."

Liberation only came after he—along with thousands of other POW's—were forced to march miles in what is now known as the Death Marches. "I was dirty, rundown, and I hardly weighed 100 pounds when I was liberated. It took me quite a while to recover in hospital," he says.

Couture returned to Canada in 1945 and remained in the military. "Well, you know, I made a career of it."

He spent 15 months in Korea as a part of the United Nations forces from 1952-1953 and was later part of a UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus. A few years later, his sons would also serve in Cyprus.

"My boys were both over in Cyprus with the Princess Patricia’s Airborne when the Turkish invaded, so they were in the middle of the fight," he explained. "They got through it."

When he retired in 1972, Couture was a 30 year Veteran, who had seen action in both the Second World War and the Korean War.

For his military service, Couture was awarded the France and Germany Star, Canadian Korea Medal, United Nations Service Medal (Korea), United Nations Forces in Cyprus and Canadian Forces Decoration with Clasp.

In honour of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, George Couture is one of our Faces of Freedom. He participated in commemorative ceremonies in Halifax as a member of our delegation.

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