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This is the story of how my grandfather, Woodward Stewart McKeough, earned the Croix de Guerre with a silver star on April 28th 1945. Stewart was part of the 12th Manitoba Dragoons in the Canadian Army and was part of the effort which finally closed the Falaise Gap – a decisive victory which led to the liberation of Paris and the retreat of the Germans across the Seine.
On 20 August 1944 Lieutenant W.S. McKeough was ordered to find and determine the exact limits of the gap, if any, southeast of the Trun, through which the enemy was escaping from the Falaise pocket. He succeeded in working his way with his Troop Sergeant through very difficult country to a position on Hill 117. There he saw large column of enemy infantry and transport moving northeast between his position and Chambois. This information was immediately reporting through Regimental Headquaters to a Canadian Corps and resulted in action being taken which finally closed the gap between Trun and Chambois.
Having done this. Lieutenant McKeough immediately started to engage the enemy, inflicting numerous casualties both in vehicles and personnel, as well as contributing to the further demoralization and confusion of the enemy. Lieutenant McKeough stayed in this area in spite of heavy sniper, mortar and 88-mm fire, He continued to engage the targets within range until all ammunition was used up.
The initiative, coolness under fire, complete disregard of personal safety, and skillfull handling of the troop, undoubtedly contributed greatly to the successful closing of the German escape route betwen Trun and Chambois.
And I am extraordinary lucky that he returned from the war in one piece, has been an inspiration to me my entire life and is indeed still alive and well today at age 91 🙂
It is hard to walk the line between honouring our veteran’s bravery, glorifying war and remembering the past so we can create a better future. I am proud of what my grandfather did, as odd as it feels to be proud of someone for killing another, and I accept that man-to-man combat was required of citizens at that time to build a better life – for themselves, and indeed their children.
I think world peace may achieved one day, if we remain grateful for what we have and continually grow to accept others for who they are. I actually think Remembrance Day embodies both those sentiments beautifully – we make a nationwide effort to show our gratitude to our veterans and teach our children to remember what other have done for us. And in our ceremony we also show our acceptance for who these veterans were in war as well as who they are today.