Corporal Michael Lesmeister - Lost at Juno Beach 1944

Corporal Michael Lesmeister

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The Canadian Scottish Regiment
Born: Septemer 29, 1923
Hometown: Kelowna, British Columbia
Died: August 15, 1944
Remains Buried: Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery

Michael Lesmeister was born on September 29th, 1923 to Michael and Theresa Lesmeister in the small village of Leipzig, Saskatchewan. When Michael was seven years old, the Lesmeister family moved to the Okanagan valley, settling in Kelowna, British Columbia. Michael grew up in Kelowna with his parents, his brother and his two sisters. In his spare time, he enjoyed baseball, softball and swimming in Lake Okanagan. Michael left school at age 16 to find work and help support his family. From 1939 to 1942, he worked as a labourer in a cannery and later at sawmill. 

By the end of 1942, Canada’s growing participation in the Second World War required more and more young men to join the armed forces. Michael was therefore conscripted into the Canadian Army in November 1942. He underwent several months of basic infantry training before his unit was deployed as part of an operation to re-take the remote Aleutian Islands of off Alaska. Captured by the Japanese a year previously, 5300 Canadian troops, many of them conscripts, joined the American invasion force. The operation was controversial, as the law which introduced conscription in Canada precluded the use of conscripts “overseas”. However, as the Aleutian’s are part of North America, it was determined that this was technically not an overseas deployment. By the time the force landed on the remote Northern Pacific Island of Kiska, they found the Japanese defenders had already left. 4 Canadian soldiers lost their lives due to friendly fire and traps left by the Japanese.

Soon after returning to B.C., Michael made the decision to “go active” and serve in a unit overseas. He was re-assigned to the Canadian Scottish Regiment of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division in May 1944 and arrived in the U.K. not long thereafter. By July, the Can Scots, having landed on Juno Beach in the first wave on D-Day, were in dire need of reinforcement, and Michael was sent to the frontlines, arriving in Normandy on July 30th, 1944. On August 15th, in an offensive to capture a strategically-vital hill near the town of Falaise, the Can Scots encountered fierce resistance from members of an SS Panzer Division. Facing Tiger tanks and other armour with limited support, the Can Scots captured their objective, despite suffering higher losses than they had on D-Day. Thirty-Seven Can Scots, including Michael Lesmeister, were killed in action that day. He was 20 years old. 

Corporal Michael Lesmeister is buried today in Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, located between Caen and Falaise, about 40 kilometres inland from the Juno Beach Centre. The cemetery is the final resting place of 2 782 Canadian, 82 Commonwealth and 1 French soldier, all of whom made the ultimate sacrifice during the summer of 1944.

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To mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, the Juno Beach Centre has assembled a series of biographies for hundreds of the 5,500 Canadians killed during the Battle of Normandy. We are honoured to feature these touching biographies with you over the next few months.

Information for this biography was gathered with the help of the following sources: 

Library and Archives Canada
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Veterans Affairs Canada
Breakout from Juno, Mark Zuehlke (2011)

Rebecca Harrison