The feared German SS did her dark name 'justice' in the first days and weeks after the invasion at Normandy. It is believed that at least 156 Canadian prisoners were executed by hands of the 12th SS Panzer Division 'Hitler Jugend'. A place in Normandy where such a gruesome act is remembered can be found at the Abbaye d'Ardenne. In this abbey, on the northwest border at Caen, near the village of Cussy (2 kilometers east of Authie) were at least 20 soldiers murdered. A memorial sign on the wall of the abbey mentions 27 murdered prisoners.
The Abbaye d'Ardenne
At the end of June 6th, 1944, the Canadian unit North Nova Scotia Highlanders, assisted by the 27th Canadian Armoured Regiment (CAR) The Sherbrooke Fusiliers, had reached Anisy, 8 kilometers north of Caen. The next morning the unit moved further south towards Buron and Authie. Here they encountered the 12de SS Panzer
Division. 37 Canadians were killed, 23 of them after they had lay down their weapons. The young Germans of the unit refused the locals to bury the victims. The killed Canadian soldiers were overrun by tanks and other vehicles. The Canadians that were taken alive were transferred to the abbey d'Ardenne. This place filled quickly with prisoners. This was the HQ of SS-Standartenführer
Kurt Meyer, commander of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 12th SS. When the prisoners were further transferred
to Bretteville-sur-Odon, 11 were picked to stay behind. Of the Highlanders, they were; Private Ivan Crowe,
Private Charles Douchette, Corporal Joseph MacIntyre, Private Hollis McKeil (was wounded near Buron) and Private James
Moss. Of the 27th CAR were pointed; Trooper George Gill, Trooper Thomas Henry, Trooper James Bolt, Trooper Roger
Lockhead, Trooper Harold Philip and Lieutenant Thomas Windsor.
The last four were the crew of the same tank that was put out of action during the fighting.
The courtyard, the first stockade for the
prisons of war.
The next day, June 8, the remaining men were brought, one by one, to the small garden on the
west side of the abbey. Within ten minutes the men were murdered. Meanwhile another seven captured
Canadians were brought to the abbey. SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer, was exhausted and frustrated of the fighting and the losses he had under his men. The remark that the prisoners only would eat the few rations the Germans had left was enough to kill these poor men also. After a brief farewell, Private Walter Doherty, Private Reginald Keeping, Private Hugh MacDonald, Private George McNaughton, Private George Millar, Private Thomas Mont en Private Raymond Moore were shot through the back of the head by an SS Corporal.
On June 17, two Canadian soldiers of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, Lieutenant Fred Williams
and Lance-corporal George Pollard taken prisoner and brought to the abbey d'Ardenne, never to be seen alive again.
In spite of the Allied advance on Caen, it took them more then a month to liberate the abbey. On July 8, sections
of the Regina Rifles marched into her remains. This group found later the lifeless body of Lieutenant Fred Williams.
The black garden of the Abbaye d'Ardenne
In September 1944 the family of farmers, who were with the abbey from the twenties, returned.
This family, Vico, were during the war with the resistance. They had go underground when the Gestapo
arrested the father and the mother. Jacques Vico (18) and another brother managed to smuggle the hidden
weapons from the abbey before the Gestapo could find them. In the ruins the family Vico tried to pick up
the pieces and start a life anew. When the youngest son, Michel Vico collected some branches from the small garden,
he found a jawbone. In a short time three body's were exhumed. In the spring of 1945 the other body's are recovered from five shallow graves.
Abbaye d'Ardenne during the restoration in 1947
Kurt Meyer was taken prisoner by the Americans. He was wearing a Wehrmacht uniform and managed to hid his true identity for a month. He was transferred to Camp Windemere in England for interrogation. The witness of the murders at the Abbaye d'Ardenne, de Polish deserter Sturmmann Jan Jesionek brought the allegations to 'Panzermeyer'.
Kurt Meyer as commander and as accused in Aurich
Meyer was brought to justice in Aurich in Germany. He denied al the allegations and blamed Shumann (and sent him to the front as punishment). But nobody believed him. Meyer was sentenced to be executed. But the case was reopened and Meyer his punishment was changed to a lifelong imprisonment, to the disappointment to the Canadians. He spent six years in Canadian jails before he was brought to Germany. Meyer his jail sentence was brought back to 14 years because of good behavior. He was released on September 7, 1954. One could think he was now a healed man, but next to his job as a seller of beer, he became an inspiration on Waffen SS veteran meetings. He worked hard to get a pension for his old armybuddy's (a pension he denied his counterparts the murdered Canadians). Meyer died of a heart attack on December 23, 1961, he was 51.
Lt. Windsor, Lt. Williams, Crp. Pollard, Pvt. McNaughton, Pvt. McKeil, Pvt. Crowe
Crp. MacIntyre, Pvt. Doucette, Pvt. Doherty, Pvt. Lockhead, Pvt. Millar, Pvt. Moss