Laird Redford Beresford
Laird was born in Southampton on October 3, 1918. His parents, John and Winnifred, had 13 children; six boys and seven girls.
The family attended the Presbyterian Church and Laird was active in the Orange Lodge. He had worked at the Hepworth Furniture factory but was at the Dominion Plywoods Ltd. factory, that was producing plywood components for aircraft, when he enlisted on August 6, 1940. He joined the Royal Canadian Engineers at the army depot in London Ontario.
He enlisted as a “Sapper” and was sent to Petawawa for training. The tasks of a Sapper are to be a Combat Soldier who performs a variety of Engineering duties such as breaching fortifications, demolitions, laying or clearing mine fields, preparing field defenses, and impeding those of enemies. Originally Laird qualified as a Tradesman Class C, carpenters’ helper and became part of the 3rd Division Engineers.
He left for England in July of 1941 and became part of the “big wait” for almost 3 years before he was part of the invasion at Juno Beach in France on June 6, 1944. Laird was a member of the Engineers 16th Field Company in the invasion.
Sergeant Bill Ludlow of the 16th Field Company described the 200 members D-Day arrival, in support of the Queen’s Own Rifles from Toronto. He wrote “and we went in with them, we had to get them in and our job was to go up the sea wall (massive fortifications to protect coastal areas from ocean activity but also an obstacle to the Allied invasion force on D-Day), try to knock down the sea wall but it wasn’t that bad. And it was a hell of a lot of noise and all that stuff. But when we went inland, now it was very, very busy.”
Progress after D-Day was painstakingly slow for the Engineers 16th Field Company as the Germans fell back and entrenched themselves around the city of Caen. July 4, 1944 marked a major step forward for the Canadian Army as they moved on the airport in the outskirts of the Normandy Provincial Capital of Caen. The 16th was there, again in support of the Queen’s Own Rifles. The map below shows the Queens Own Rifles movement on the village of Carpiquet next to the airfield.
The following is from the Royal Canadian Engineers diaries about the actions of July 4, 1944. “As they moved through wheat fields, Canadian Infantrymen encountered a massive barrage of artillery and mortar fire. Soldiers fell, mowed down by death.”
Air and Naval bombing support saved the day for the Canadians and success came hours later when the Germans retreated but only to launch 3 counter attacks that all failed. The Germans had fought tenaciously, and this battle had added to their feared reputation.
On July 4th alone, around 400 Canadians had been killed, wounded or missing. Included in those that died was Laird Beresford. He was buried in a temporary grave on the north side of the Carpiquet Airport property, near the main road and halfway to the railway track. This area is on the map attached. In 1947 his remains were moved to the Canadian Military Cemetery at Bretteville-sur -Laize a few kms. south of Caen.
A letter to his mother Winnifred, dated 14th August 1947, tells her that her son is buried in“Grave 8, row H, plot 3”. There are 2,874 buried there in total with 2,792 being Canadian. More than 5,000 Canadians died in clearing the Germans from Normandy which took them until the end of August 1944 to complete.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
Researched and written by: G. William Streeter