On the eve of the start of one of the Second World War’s longest and most important battles, Falkland soldier Pte. Louis Earl Clark, with the Canadian Scottish Regiment, was eerily relaxed.
The night before the D-Day invasion of Normandy in France, Clark’s thoughts were with his mother, Clara, and family back in the North Okanagan.
It was 75 years ago today, June 5, 1944, that Clark—known to family and friends simply as Earl—wrote a letter home as he waited to board a vessel that would take him across the English channel to fight the Nazis of Germany.
“Well, mom, my time is limited for this time tomorrow I will be in action,” wrote Clark.
“We land tomorrow, mom, so if things should come to the worst, write to Mrs. Pat Dier and let her know what happened.” (Clark’s nephew, Darwin Netzel of Armstrong, believes Dier was the mother of an acquaintance).
Clark, though, was confident he would be fine and was remarkably calm about what lay ahead of him.
“But nothing will (happen). You needn’t worry about that,” he wrote. “I thought I would be scared, mom, but I’m not. I look at it as a start towards home via Berlin and (illegible point in letter) and all points east.”
The letter was written on the back of a typewritten note every soldier received from allied commander-in-chief Dwight David Eisenhower who, in 1953, was elected president of the United States.
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months,” wrote Eisenhower.
“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”
Clark, born in 1922, had been working driving a Cat at the gypsum mine near Falkland when he enlisted in the Canadian army in Kamloops.
As he prepared to set sail into battle, Clark asked his mom to keep the letter from Eisenhower and from him.
“I am very proud that I can do my little bit, so please keep on writing me and I will do my best to write. All my love, Earl (signed with 12 Xs or kisses).”
On June 6, 1944, Clark was one of 14,000 Canadians involved in Operation Overlord, the campaign that marked the beginning of the liberation of Germany’s four-year occupation of Western Europe.
Clark landed on one of the pre-scheduled beaches, artillery and ammunition flying around. He suffered four shrapnel wounds in the D-Day Invasion to his buttock, leg, forearm and, the most serious wound, to his jaw.
Upon his return to Canada, Clark settled in Falkland driving Cat and suffered the first of three heart attacks while helping search for a lost hunter at Woods Lake, near Monte Lake.
He and his wife, Joan, moved to Fort St. James, where Clark was a miner. In March, 1964, at age 42, Clark died from his third heart attack. He is buried in the Fort St. James Cemetery.
“He was my uncle, my good friend and my hero,” said Netzel, holding back tears. “I still have his army hat and all of his war medals.”
Netzel also has the single piece of paper with the letters from Eisenhower, wishing Clark and the allies Godspeed, and Clark’s letter to his mom saying, ‘don’t worry.’
Netzel will donate his uncle’s war medals to the Falkland Museum.
Canada and countries worldwide will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday.