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Private Charles Doucette

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Private Charles Doucette

Birth
Membertou, Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia, Canada
Death 7 Jun 1944 (aged 31)
Departement du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France
Burial Reviers, Departement du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France
Plot VI. A. 16.
Memorial ID 56104918 View Source

Charles Doucette

Charles Doucette was born July 15, 1912 at Membertou, Nova Scotia to Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doucette.

When the War broke out, Charles Doucette was a member of the Mi'Kmaq first nation, living on the Membertou Reserve in Sydney, NS. He was a married man with four daughters and worked hard in the area as a handyman and labourer to support his family. When the first big rush came in early 1940 to recruit men for active service, Charles Doucette, aged 28, enlisted in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders (NNSH). He was fluent in his native language of course, but spoke very little English and, on enlistment, he signed his name with an "X". Those that knew him attest to the fact that he was particularly well-liked in the Battalion. A bit older than many of the other North Novas, he was respected as a family man, quiet, never causing any trouble.

Charles had suffered with TB as a young man, and the demanding physical training with long route marches and running took their toll on him. Some who remembered him recalled how coughing racked his body but how quickly he bounced back after a long run and noted that he never went to the medical officer to report himself sick.

The NNSH was part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and was sent overseas in July 1941 aboard the SS Orion. Sailing up the Bristol Channel, the NNSH arrived in Avonmouth on 29 July 1941. The men all enjoyed some leave, then began the long period of training and waiting for some action. The long-awaited action came on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

The NNSH would land "in reserve" on D-Day, that is behind the other two battalions in their Brigade, then move to the front to lead the Brigade forward the following day. Charles was in C Company and they would lead the Battalion advance. Their objective was Carpiquet Airfield, directly south of Juno Beach. As the North Novas pushed forward towards Carpiquet on 7 June, the advance initially went quite well. Two platoons of C Company, with Charles among them, reached the village of Authie around noon. They were soon hit with violent shelling from German artillery bent on stopping the advance, and the two platoons dug in to fend off the inevitable counter-attack. German infantry in vastly superior numbers supported with tanks and artillery blasted the NNSH positions and attacked in force; many Canadians were killed, a few escaped to the rear to fight another day. Some were captured, including Charles Doucette. He and the other survivors were escorted back to the Waffen SS Regimental Headquarters at the Abbaye d'Ardenne.

By late afternoon, the Germans had 100 – 150 prisoners in the Abbaye courtyard. A German NCO came out and asked for ten volunteers. There were none. Ten men were simply selected at random and pushed out to form a line of ten men. One of these ten men was Charles Doucette. A Canadian officer was then brought out to join the group, making a total of eleven Canadians. These men were led away through a passageway to another spot in the abbaye grounds. It was thought that they were being taken away for interrogation. All eleven men were murdered. Their bodies were buried in a sheltered garden in several unmarked graves. Charles Doucette was officially listed as Missing in Action and his family was so informed; since he would never be registered as a Prisoner-of-War, his family was left to worry about his fate.

Several months later, long after the Germans had been pushed well back out of France and the Canadian Army was closing up to the Rhine River far to the north, a grave was discovered in the garden and the bodies of six murdered Canadians were recovered. By this time, a War Crimes investigation was underway to determine the fate of the missing Prisoners. One of the bodies recovered in this grave was that of Charles Doucette. Only then, did his family learn of his true fate. Charles' body was taken to Beny-sur-Mer Canadian Military Cemetery where he rests to this day in Plot VI A 16.

Written by Ian J. Campbell.

For details of the subsequent war crimes investigation and eventual trial proceedings, see Ian J. Campbell, "Murder at the Abbaye" (1996)


Inscription

F55317 PRIVATE
C. DOUCETTE
THE NORTH NOVA SCOTIA
HIGHLANDERS
7TH JUNE 1944

Gravesite Details

Private, North Nova Scotia Highlanders, R.C.I.C. Age: Unknown.

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  • Maintained by: Shirley Tort
  • Originally Created by: War Graves
  • Added: 6 Aug 2010
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 56104918
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/56104918/charles-doucette : accessed ), memorial page for Private Charles Doucette (15 Jul 1912–7 Jun 1944), Find a Grave Memorial ID 56104918, citing Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, Reviers, Departement du Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France ; Maintained by Shirley Tort (contributor 47942188) .