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Mystery soldier appearing on 75th anniversary D-Day coin identified as Queens County man

Karen McLeod from Liverpool proudly displays the D-Day coin with the likeness of her father engraved on the back.
Karen McLeod from Liverpool proudly displays the D-Day coin with the likeness of her father engraved on the back. - Vernon Oickle

The identity of a mystery soldier engraved on the back of a Canadian silver dollar commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day has been identified as a Queens County man, an honour his daughter says gives her more pride than she can put into words.

“I’m honoured and deeply, deeply proud,” says Liverpool resident Karen McLeod. “More proud than I can ever explain.”

Describing how these unusual events unfolded, she says it all started with a phone call from a New Brunswick high school teacher in January of this year explaining that he was doing research on a Private George Herman Baker.

“He asked if I knew Private Baker,” McLeod continues, “and I said yes, I’m his daughter and then the whole thing took off from there.”

According to information released by the Canadian Mint, working with local historians and officers of the Bathurst, New Brunswick-headquartered North Shore Regiment, the Royal Canadian Mint solved the mystery of the identity of the soldier whose face is dramatically portrayed on its 2019 Proof Silver Dollar commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

That soldier, the Mint says, has been identified as Private George Herman Baker, a member of No. 3 Platoon, A Company, of the North Shore Regiment who landed with his comrades at Juno Beach, between Courseulles and St-Aubin-sur-Mer, France on June 6, 1944.

“Private Baker lived through the Second World War and returned home to Liverpool, Nova Scotia where he raised a family in peace time,” the information released by the Mint reads. “He is survived by his daughter Karen McLeod, to whom the Mint was honoured to present this coin in honour of her late father.”

It continues, “Like so many other brave Canadians on D-Day, Private Baker risked everything to help restore an Allied foothold on the Western Front and eventually win the Second World War for Canada and its allies.”

The image of Private George Baker can be seen in this close up of D-Day 75th anniversary coin. - Vernon Oickle
The image of Private George Baker can be seen in this close up of D-Day 75th anniversary coin. - Vernon Oickle

Private Baker’s image was adapted from several frames of archival film footage loaned to the Mint by the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy France. The 75-year-old film provides a rare and unique perspective of the North Shore Regiment landing at the Nan Red sector of Juno Beach.

In consulting a number of experts to ensure the accuracy of its coin design, the Mint says it learned of Private Baker’s identity thanks to the invaluable assistance of Brandon Savage, historian and teacher at Miramichi Valley High School, Dr. Marc Milner, military historian at the University of New Brunswick, amateur historian Bruce Morton of Barrie, Ontario, and North Shore Regiment Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Renald Dufour.

George Baker was born in Nova Scotia on August 31,1923 and died in South Brookfield, Queens County, on July 23, 2003. He was only 20 years old when he made history at Juno Beach.

McLeod says she knew her father had taken part in D-Day but he never talked about his experiences in the war so she never really knew any of the details.

“But I’ve learned a lot about him and what happened over there ever since I was first contacted about the coin,” she says. “Now, his story is preserved forever because of this coin.”

“The North Shore men fought valiantly securing their landing objectives at the end of D-Day but suffered heavy losses which totaled 120 casualties of which 33 were fatal,” said North Shore Regiment Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Renald Dufour in the information from the Mint.

“The D-Day landing was one of the most significant events in Canadian military history and our regiment was at the centre of it, with three other assaulting units,” he said earlier this month. “Honouring and recognizing nationally our soldiers’ legacy and their families’ sacrifices on the eve of the 75th anniversary with a commemorative coin is a remarkable and world-class act.”

Miramichi Valley High School teacher Brandon Savage said, “Helping to solve a 75-year-old mystery has been an exciting and humbling experience.”

He said that as the grandson of a soldier of the North Shore Regiment who braved that fateful day, he was truly honoured that the Mint decided to pay homage not only to the regiment, but to the families who lost loved ones and those who supported the ones who came home.

“We now know that Private George Baker is the person behind the iconic D-Day footage,” Savage said. “Private Baker represents the many men who defied their fears to make that heroic leap onto Juno Beach 75 years ago. We owe these courageous men our gratitude and I feel this coin represents that.”

Designed by Simcoe-area artist Tony Bianco, the 2019 Proof Silver Dollar vividly depicts Canadians coming ashore under enemy fire. It is a poignant testament to the brave soldiers who risked all to help Canada and its allies win the Second World War. Multiple engravings of the letter “V” for victory in Morse Code further illustrate the magnitude of an incredible moment in the life of Private George Baker and of all those who fought alongside him at Juno Beach.

vernon.l.oickle@eastlink.ca

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