Preparing for Juno75: A Memorial Journey 75 Years in the Making

UPDATE: The Uncovering Valour Project is excited about the upcoming Juno75 ceremony in Normandy, France. Lt. Col. E. A. Olmsted’s story has been exciting to trace - particularly his experiences on D-Day - but this story has blossomed into a much broader narrative that now includes a treasure trove of personal accounts of D-Day from other Canadian soldiers that we uncovered. A sample of that story, which was submitted to several Canadian news outlets and the Juno Beach Centre is summarized below.

Significant information will be posted after a two week research trip to England and France in June, 2019.

25 year-old Earl Olmsted was one of the Canadians who volounteered at the outbreak of world war II in 1939 to serve King and Country. Olmsted (a clerk in Ottawa) was quickly commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant in the artillery and sent to aid in the defense of Britain.

After four years of war, in June, 1944 the 29 year old Captain Olmsted found himself serving in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division Headquarters aboard HMS Hilary – acting as an operations liaison in the staff of General R.F.L. Keller. They were part of the largest invasion force that had ever been assembled and were headed straight into one of the most well defended and fortified areas of the world – Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.

Olmsted died in Toronto in 2008, followed by his son Bruce in 2012 who was most familiar with his military career and stories, which were at risk of being forgotten.

Now, 75 years later, Olmsted’s grandson Geoff Osborne – also 29 years old – is traveling to England and Normandy, France (via ferry - from the same harbor that his grandfather sailed from in 1944) for the official Juno75 ceremony to meet with veterans and try to retrace his grandfather’s footsteps.

With very little military knowledge and a busy career in Toronto, Osborne started The Uncovering Valour Project in 2016 to unearth the details of his grandfather’s military service and try to locate his comrades and their respective families. Osborne was shocked to find out just how much information he was able to obtain through military record research requests, unit diaries, letters home, interviews, and personal artifacts. He has been able to paint a forensic account of D-Day, but believes this is just the start of something much bigger.

The groundbreaking find that kicked this all off was a handwritten D-Day account by his grandfather from the University of Ohio. The University houses all of the references for Cornelius Ryan’s epic summary of D-Day called The Longest Day. Olmsted’s personal accounts helped to paint a picture of the battle… But this was just one piece of an ever-growing story, which was contrasted with personal artifacts that helped to show the human side of war and enable a more personal connection. Olmsted had been recently married and his wife Marjorie was expecting their first son (born June 1944) – despite the horrors of war this was a key topic of his letters home from Juno Beach.

After the battle for Normandy, Olmsted was promoted to Major and went on regimental duty with the 13th Canadian Field, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA), helping to liberate France, Belgium, Holland and defeat Germany. Olmsted was eventually promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and played a key role with NORAD – overseeing cold war ballistic missile testing at Fort Churchill. He went on to be the National Secretary of the Canadian Army Benevolent Fund, and retired after a distinguished 27 year military career.

Osborne has been feverishly searching for his grandfather’s comrades’ family members, but hit a roadblock with an overwhelming amount of information and a limited ability to track people down. For example, he was able to locate the nephew of Brigadier H.W. Foster (noted below) and share the story of Olmsted’s D-Day encounter with him. He also traveled to Holland and found the graves of two Canadians that were killed while serving under Olmsted (21 and 34 year olds) based just on a handed down family story.

At some point there will be no remaining veterans from D-Day – one of Canada’s most historic battles – and even today only a few remain. This story is intended to inspire others to not only remember our veterans but to uncover the stories of the Canadians who landed on Juno Beach and helped to alter the course of history.

Journey to Holland, Belgium & Germany

UPDATE: The Uncovering Valour Project’s first trip overseas to Holland, Belgium and Germany in 2018 was a wonderful success, generating significant research leads. We followed the 13th Field, Royal Canadian Artillery regimental diaries, which led us through several cities that were liberated by Canadians - as well as a variety of sites of interest noted in the personal diaries of Lt. Col. E. A. Olmsted. The blog post and updates are expected to be uploaded in May, 2019.

Hi Al! I am visiting Holland/Germany this week and am hoping to solicit input on important things to see while there related to the 13th Field, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA) and my grandfather (Lt. Col. E. A. Olmsted). I’ve identified the following things of particular interest but am always looking for places and pictures that might be useful. Hope to hear your thoughts!

Nijmegan RHQ: Trench Art & Parachute

These pictures show "trench art" from Nijmegan. I believe these are 25pdr shells that were converted into ashtrays for the Regimental HQ fireplace... They say "13 CDN FD REGT - NYMEGAN - 1945". I checked the 13th Field History and found that the Regimental HQ was at least for a time at a monastery in Nijmegan. This is something I am thinking about exploring further.

I also have a piece of parachute (thought to be British) that my grandfather brought home from Nijmegan. I will post this in a future blog.

Crossing the Rhine at Emmerich

Emmerich Pontoon Bridge.GIF

I am hoping to find the specific location that the 13th Field, RCA crossed the Rhine into Germany (I believe it was near Emmerich). The 13th Field History shows the regiment coming back to Holland on April 1, 1945 on this bridge: Pontoon bridge across the Rhine at Emmerich, used by the regiment - 1 Apr 1945. I would love to recreate a picture near where the unit crossed. I will also be going through Wyler and Cleve.

Holten War Cemetary & Weener

On April 23, 1945 an explosion at the 13th Field Observation Post (OP) near Weener (“Nikkie Shans”) killed several Canadian soldiers. This aligned with a family story that had been told by Major EA Olmsted (later promoted to Lt. Col.) where he suggested “[We were in a] forest in NW Europe, when a German artillery shell landed directly on the jeep I was in. We were receiving documents from a motorcycle courier at the time. I was thrown from the vehicle and unhurt, though several people were killed.“

I am interested in learning more about the men who were killed, visiting their graves and hopefully locating family members to share their relatives’ respective stories.

The 13th Field Regimental History describes this event in the following way: “The North Shores moved forward first, then the Chauds and Queens Own went through advancing up parallel roads. Just as the attack of the Chauds had started a concentration of heavy enemy shells landed near Major Olmsted and his crew. Two of the party L/Bdr JOSEPHSON and Gnr MACDONALD were killed and the others (Gnr Knight, W. E and Gnr Jeffries) knocked down by the blast but unhurt. The vehicle was badly damaged and communications disrupted for some time.”

The 13th Field Regimental war diary describes the event in the following way:

13th Field War diary (See april 23rd reference)

13th Field War diary (See april 23rd reference)

The following soldiers were killed in the event:








Mentioned in Despatches (possibly in Weener?)

A similar research question to the above relates to the Mention in Despatches Major Olmsted received (another post will be more focused on this specific award). Very little information has been located to date, to specifically describe what this was awarded for. The story above was thought to possibly be related - support on this initiative would be greatly appreciated.

It is interesting to note that his “Canadian Forces Decoration” is overwritten as “To MID“ on the citation below. The 13th Field Regimental History also does not list his Mention in Despatches in their summary of soldiers Mentioned in Despatches Appendix.

E. A. Olmsted Mentioned in Despatches.JPG

Liberation of Zwolle/Sneek and Regiment Parading in Utrecht for D-Day Anniversary

Zwolle: Canadian Liberation

Zwolle: Canadian Liberation

This item relates to a family story - apparently there is a picture of EA Olmsted somewhere in NW Europe “liberating“ a town. Allegedly in the picture he is in the “lead jeep“ and there are “likely flowers covering the vehicle”. Beyond that, little information is available, making this a challenge. It is most likely that this was a town in Holland. The regimental diary describes many towns that the 13th Field liberated: two cities/towns that appear to be of particular interest include Zwolle (this appears to be the best picture so far - and possibly one that can be recreated and Sneek (Major Olmsted was in charge of 78th battery and the planned attack on Sneek).

However, the leading candidate at this is point is probably not the liberation, but the parading of the 13th Field in Utrecht after cessation of hostilities. The 13th Field regimental history includes the following account:

June 6 1945, the anniversary of the Third Canadian Infantry Division's landing on the beaches of Normandy, was marked in Utrecht by a mounted parade and final march past of the units which took part in this historic event… The streets of Utrecht were crowded that day with soldiers and civilians watching the "Water Rats" go by in revue for the last time.

Utrecht: D-Day Anniversary 1945

Utrecht: D-Day Anniversary 1945

As the vehicles moved up the narrow street at Utrecht to the market square where General CRERAR was taking the salute… The leading vehicles of the regiment in the parade were two jeeps of RHQ. There, was Lt-Col OSTRANDER, who the men liked so much, and congenial RSM MACRAE. Those two jeeps symbolized the nerve centre of the regiment; the place where orders originated; where troubles were directed..

As the former second in command of the regiment, Major Olmsted would very likely have been with these lead vehicles. This appears to be the best lead available at this time.

Launching the Uncovering Valour Project

The Uncovering Valour Project was launched to unearth and share the personal accounts of Lt. Col. E. A. Olmsted, a Canadian WWII veteran who served with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division: 9th Infantry Brigade H.Q. & 13th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA).

What started out as a research project on my grandfather in 2015, quickly grew into a more broad initiative. My goal was simply to describe and document my grandfather's story so other members of my family could understand what he did; the risks he took. Through a combination of existing stories and memories, publicly accessible government records and other documents and help from the military research community I am hoping to bring his story back to life - along with the stories of the units and comrades he served with throughout his military career. I have found this project to be incredibly rewarding, as I have gained great insight into my grandfather’s personality despite not being with him any longer.

I hope this website can inspire others to conduct similar research on their relatives and loved ones. Just because someone is no longer with us does not mean their story cannot be uncovered and shared.

Hope to get you involved.

-Geoff Osborne (grandson of Lt. Col. EA Olmsted)