Don Learment was a 21-year-old Acadia student when he enlisted in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. On D-Day, Major Learment commanded C Company. The following day they would provide the vanguard of the regiment as it led the 9th Brigade attack. He was about to embark on a fantastic journey, one the young collegian could never have envisioned from the bucolic confines of Wolfville.
Taken prisoner by a giant unit notorious for killing prisoners, Learment himself was lucky to emerge unhurt. On the morning of June 9, he joined a column of prisoners marched 200 kilometers to Rennes.
A month later, they were loaded into cattle cars and proceeded to Nantes and then on towards Tours by train. Allied fighter-bombers attacked the train, assuming it carried German troops. Learment was among a group of prisoners who fled in the confusion.
After they narrowly escaped discovery by a German patrol, French civilians put them in touch with the Résistance, 20 kilometres east of Tours under Captain Georges LeCoz. Eventually 22 Allied airmen and escapees were fighting with LeCoz. LeCoz considered him too valuable to release; the Captain was prevaricating, making no efforts to get him to England.
Subsequently, a group including Learment headed south toward a secret radio station and landing field. They learned no landings were imminent and returned north seeking advancing American troops, finding them in Tours on Sept 7.
Unbowed, Learment rejoined the North Novas. He arrived in time to take part in an amphibious assault on Oct 9 as the North Novas attacked the Breskin’s Pocket across Braakman Inlet. Learment survived several bloody months of fighting, among the Allies crossing the Rhine River into Germany. Post-war he completed his degree, while remaining involved with the Reserves. He died in Guelph, Ont. in 2006.
Editor’s Note: As Remembrance Day approaches, look for more related stories in our November issue and in our free archives.