Legend has that when Canadian troops stormed ashore beneath a hail of German gunfire on the French port of Dieppe in August 1942, one of many tons of who ultimately died within the assault was carrying an outdated flag.
Exactly how that purple and white flag ended up on the Nazi-held French port — and even whether or not it was definitively there — stays a thriller.
But greater than 80 years later, that flag will play a central function in commemorating the doomed raid on Dieppe throughout this yr’s nationwide Remembrance Day ceremony — thanks to three Americans.
What is understood in regards to the now-150-year-old flag begins at a storage sale in Columbus, Neb., in 1965. That was the place Charles Lowry discovered the outdated Red Ensign within the arms of an American veteran.
“It was an outdated flag and he was simply going to throw it away,” says Charles’s son Mike Lowry. “And Dad stated: `What’s the story with the flag?”‘
The veteran advised Charles he had been a guard at a prisoner-of-war camp on the finish of the Second World War in 1945. At one level, he observed a German prisoner hiding what he presumed to be a Nazi flag, that turned out to be a Red Ensign.
The Red Ensign served as Canada’s de facto nationwide flag from 1892 to 1965, when it was changed by the Maple Leaf. The design featured a Union Jack and totally different coats of arms, relying on the provinces that had been a part of Confederation on the time.
This explicit flag, whose age has been confirmed by the Royal Canadian Legion, dates again to the interval between 1870 and 1873, after Manitoba joined Confederation however earlier than British Columbia.
The American veteran did not know any of this on the time. What he did know was what the German soldier advised him: That the flag had been taken off one of many 916 Canadian troopers who died three years earlier through the ill-fated raid at Dieppe.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 19, 1942, almost 5,000 Canadian troopers, together with 1,100 British and American troops, waded ashore on the Nazi-held French port with orders to take and maintain as a lot floor as potential earlier than withdrawing.
While the aim was to check the German’s defences and the feasibility of a launching an amphibious Allied assault on Europe, the outcomes had been disastrous: 2,400 Canadians had been wounded or captured as well as to the tons of who had been killed.
“The German claimed he wasn’t concerned within the combating however was simply with a burial element, and located it on a useless Canadian and mainly took it as a memento,” Mike says. “They took it away from him, useless to say, and the plan was to give it to some Canadian unit.”
The flag as an alternative travelled again to Nebraska and into the arms of Charles, who set about attempting to establish it with Mike, who was in highschool on the time.
“The library in Columbus had two books on flags,” Mike recollects. “We went by means of them and we went by means of each Canadian province. And after we ran out of Canadian provinces, we began Australia and New Zealand and British colonies world wide.
“We by no means may discover it. And it was an effort by (my dad). I do know he was consistently attempting to discover out, even after I used to be in school, he was nonetheless trying to attempt to discover any individual that might know one thing.”
When Charles died in 2003 on the age of 93, the Red Ensign was handed on to Mike, who had largely forgotten about it. But remembering his father’s want to get it again to its rightful dwelling, he began the search anew.
He ultimately confirmed its Canadian heritage, at which level he reached out to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. But after a lukewarm response, he contacted the Royal Canadian Legion about 5 years in the past, which was keen to take it.
How a 70-year-old flag might need ended up at Dieppe stays unsure, however the Legion says Canadian troopers usually carried flags into battle through the First World War. Some of these had been then given to troopers within the Second World War, maybe for luck.
The Red Ensign visited Dieppe with a delegation of veterans in 2019, and Legion spokeswoman Nujma Bond says will probably be given a spot of honour in entrance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Remembrance Day to commemorate the battle.
“It actually is a narrative of hope and remembrance and unity,” Bond says. “And we’re actually happy to give you the chance to share that with Canadians and to visually have that flag as a logo of remembrance and a logo of sacrifice.”
Asked how he feels to know the flag that his father rescued from the trash can be featured throughout Canada’s nationwide Remembrance Day ceremony, Mike says his thoughts goes again to his father.
“Dad needed to give it again to a household or to a unit that it belonged to,” he says. “And I really feel like now it has been given again to all the nation. I believe he’d be very humble and really happy with that. I do know I’m.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Nov. 6, 2022.