Dioramas depict D-Day landings
Show hosted by International Plastic Modellers’ Society to honour 75th anniversary of Allied operation
An exhibition held at the St. James Legion today and Saturday will combine the intricate work of plastic modellers with the heroism displayed by soldiers during the D-Day landings in Normandy.
The show, ValourCon 10, is held by the Valour Road chapter of the International Plastic Modellers’ Society, and will include 150 participants from across the Prairies, northwestern Ontario and the U.S. The event will honour the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944.
“We can’t forget the sacrifices made by those brave people, even if it’s only done with a display of models,” John Oshanski, a member of the Manitoba Model Soldier Society, a longtime member of the St. James Legion and a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves and Army Cadets, says of the ValourCon 10 exhibition. “It’s important to keep the memory alive.”
Among the modellers’ works on display will be an entry by Winnipeg’s Darryl Audette, who has created a 1/35th scale diorama that depicts the Normandy beach landing in a box with its own lighting system.
“I wanted to do a different take on the Normandy landing,” Audette says. “I’ve gone through a lot of photographs and books and a few diaries. I’ve always seen it from the landing craft looking onto the beach. But I kept wondering what it was like to be on the beach looking at these fellows coming off the landing craft.”
On D-Day, soldiers from Canada, Great Britain and the United States landed on five different Normandy beaches — Juno, Gold, Sword, Omaha and Utah — to establish a foothold in continental Europe during the Second World War. Soldiers stormed the beaches after crossing the English Channel in small landing craft and the soldiers faced heavy resistance the moment their landing craft approached the shore.
Some 359 Canadian soldiers were killed on D-Day alone, Veterans Affairs Canada says.
The Allies were able to build from that beachhead to eventually liberate France, the Netherlands and Belgium and help bring down Germany’s Nazi regime, which surrendered on May 8, 1945.
Audette has entitled the diorama, The Gates to Hell — based on a 2002 fan-fiction story about the soldiers who landed at Normandy on that day.
“It was an account of what it was like when the front gates of the landing craft dropped down on the beach,” says Audette, who retired from being a denturist so he could devote himself to theatre design — which he studied at the University of Winnipeg — and miniature modelling. “That’s what these fellows were experiencing. They went from their lives in Canada and the U.S.A., and Britain, on to the shores of Normandy.”
The viewpoint in his diorama is the beach at Normandy. Two landing crafts are coming ashore, the gates have dropped down and the soldiers are trying to get off the landing crafts. Most of them are trying to jump over the sides into the water for protection, away from the hail of bullets and artillery aimed at the front of the landing craft.
Beyond them are soldiers driving jeeps and other vehicles.
“I wanted total mayhem,” says Audette, who will have the English Channel lit in the background when the full-size diorama is on display at the St. James Legion (1755 Portage Ave.). “But it’s all centered on the two front gates opening onto the beach.”
Admission to ValourCon 10 is free. Registration and a meet-and-greet session will take place today from 4 to 8 p.m., and the displays will remain set up Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. when awards will be presented.