History
 

History Article Menu

D-Day Landing Painting

Click here to view
a larger image.

 

 

 

 

 

THE D-DAY PAINTING IN THE RUSI

 

Virtually everyone who has been in the RUSI has seen the painting of the D-Day landing but few know much about the picture or how it got there.

To fully understand its significance it is necessary to go back to the beginning. On 6 June, 1944, the Canadians attacked the NAZI’s “Festung Europa” by storming the Normandy beach, code named Juno, at Courselle sur Mer. The Regina Rifle Regiment was the “tip of the spear” on that bloody day in June and after the war, money was raised by “friends of the regiment” and the famous Canadian war artist, Captain Orville N. Fisher was commissioned to record that famous landing of the “Rifles” on canvas. The painting was completed in 1949.  The painting was unveiled by Major Duncan Grosch and another veteran of the Rifles, who was a member of the Regina City Council, in 1950. The unveiling took place in  the Regina City Council Chambers before a “standing room only” audience and then the painting was loaned by the Regiment to the Regina Museum to be displayed.

When the Regina Museum was forced to close its doors due to lack of funding, the “Rifles” loaned the painting to the Canadian Legion, Saskatchewan Post  No. 1, where it graced the entrance to their building. Over the years it acquired a patina from the residue of millions of cigarettes, cigars and pipes that were smoked indoors. Command of the regiment was passed down from Commanding Officer to Commanding Officer and over the years the fact that the Regiment had loaned the painting to the Legion was forgotten.

At the beginning of June, 1979, Rifles' Commanding Officer,  Colonel  Cliff Walker, received an invoice for the premium that would ensure that the insurance for the “Regimental Painting” would continue. Unaware that the “Rifles” even owned a painting he tasked the Adjutant to make an inquiry and the information in the paragraphs above was uncovered. The Commander paid the insurance premium and phoned the manager of the Legion to inform him that the regiment’s painting was duly insured. He then asked to borrow the painting for one night, the 6th of June, to reintroduce it to all of the regimental officers on the evening of the annual D-Day Dinner.

The manager of the Legion informed Colonel Walker that the painting would NOT be leaving the Legion, even for a single night …....... when Colonel Walker volunteered the Regimental Painting belonged to the  Royal Regina Rifles Regiment, the manager retorted that he “didn’t give a rat’s ass what the Colonel thought”.

The next day the DCO and the RSM were called into Commander  Walker`s office and “Operation Retrieval” was planned. Within 24 hours, the DCO and the RSM were dressed in the attire of window washers and they went into the Legion to clean windows. Paintings were covered and uncovered while windows around them were cleaned and then........ the Regimental Painting was draped, removed from the wall and placed by the front door. A few more windows were touched up and the painting was moved outside and placed into a van. The “cleaners” made a successful getaway and the painting was re-introduced to the officers of the regiment on 6 June. It was assumed that an “all points bulletin” would go out on the painting by 7 June.

Six months passed … and finally the Colonel received a phone call from the manager of the Legion with the accusation that the painting somehow had found its way to the USI (the prefix “Royal” wasn’t added for a few more years). The Colonel replied that it was the strangest thing but the Legion manager, was right and somehow, after having been told by the Legion manager that he didn’t give a rat’s ass about what the Commanding Officer thought … it had appeared in the USI.

The manager then said “OK … how about if we have it for six months and you have it for six months”. The Colonel assured him that this was a fair proposal but the Regiment’s six months started that day ….... the phone was slammed in his ear.

The contemporary “friends of the regiment” then raised $10,000 and shipped the painting to Victoria where it was restored and the residue from all those cigarettes, cigars and pipes was removed and the invasion scene was restored to its original splendor. The painting was returned to Regina and has hung on the wall of the RUSI for the past 31 years.

Colonel Walker's father had died the year before and when the Colonel was going through his father’s effects he came across a photograph that had been taken in 1950. The photograph was taken in Regina City Council chambers and showed two former officers of the Regina Rifle Regiment unveiling the regimental painting. One of the officers was Major Duncan Grosch … ... the other was Alderman (former Major) HGR (Harry) Walker, the father of Colonel Cliff Walker, former Commanding Officer of the Royal Regina Rifles.

The father unveiled it; the son orchestrated the retrieval and the gallant deed was carried out by CWO Al Arnold (now deceased) and our very own distinguished Honorary Colonel, R.V. (Bob) Cade.

 

Colonel Walker later was promoted to Brigadier General demonstrating that those who do `gallant things`are well rewarded.........àye`what.............