Members of the Canadian Forces carry a pair of combat boots to a VIA Rail train to begin their journey to Halifax, at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, on Friday March 29, 2019. The boots will travel across the country on the train to symbolize those who travelled to Halifax during the Second World War before they embarked for Europe. The journey is part of the federal government’s plan to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

PHOTOS: Combat boots begin cross-country journey for 75th anniversary of D-Day

About 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach in northern France on D-Day, June 6, 1944

George Chow says he was just shy of 19 and had no idea what he was getting into when he enlisted to serve in the Second World War.

He arrived at the Vancouver train station from his home in Victoria in 1941 and boarded the eastbound train for Halifax, with a stop for training in Windsor, Ont., before embarking for Europe.

“We weren’t being patriotic, we just joined for adventure,” he said.

“Out of the 250 people in my battery, I think there’s only one or two of us left now.”

Chow was among several veterans of the Second World War who gathered at the same Via Rail Canada train station Friday for a commemorative event honouring the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

A pair of combat boots was loaded on a train bound for Halifax and Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said they will serve as a visual representation of the journey so many Canadians made to serve.

“They traded their civilian shoes for military boots, they left their family and friends behind, and they headed halfway around the world to defend our freedom, our democracy and our peace,” MacAulay said.

The battles are among Canada’s most significant military engagements of the 20th century.

READ MORE: Mint to make special toonies to mark D-Day anniversary

About 14,000 Canadians stormed Juno Beach in northern France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It marked the beginning of the Battle of Normandy, in which 5,000 Canadians died and more than 13,000 were wounded.

Chow was among six veterans who served at D-Day and Normandy who were present for the commemoration. He was part of an artillery group that landed at Normandy before moving inland to Caen.

“I lost a lot of friends in Dieppe, I lost a lot of friends in Germany,” he said.

He also survived two “friendly fire” bombings, first by American troops then a British-Canadian combined force.

“Those were the bad times,” he said.

Norm Kirby said there must have been some confusion when he enlisted from the Vancouver’s North Shore but was assigned to New Brunswick’s North Shore Regiment. Although almost the entire regiment was francophone, he said they found ways to communicate.

“I’ve never met and never had such fine friends as those from New Brunswick. I’m sad to say there’s only two of us left,” Kirby said.

Kirby said on his way to the beach on D-Day, his landing craft hit a mine that almost tore off the bottom of the vessel.

“Luckily, I was one of the ones who was able to get to shore,” he said.

MacAulay said commemorative ceremonies will be held in nine communities across the country as the train makes its journey.

The federal government says it is also hosting several other remembrance events for the anniversary, including events at the Sailors’ Memorial and Citadel National Historic Site in Halifax and a candlelight ceremony in Victoria in the coming months.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

75th Anniversary of D-Day

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Agnes Keegan, who served in the British Army during the Second World War and now lives in Canada, salutes while singing the national anthem during a departure ceremony for a pair of combat boots that will travel to Halifax on a VIA Rail train, at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, on Friday March 29, 2019. The boots will travel across the country on the train to symbolize those who travelled to Halifax during the Second World War before they embarked for Europe. The journey is part of the federal government’s plan to commemorate the 7th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Members of the Canadian Forces carry a pair of combat boots to a VIA Rail train to begin their journey to Halifax, at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, on Friday March 29, 2019. The boots will travel across the country on the train to symbolize those who travelled to Halifax during the Second World War before they embarked for Europe. The journey is part of the federal government’s plan to commemorate the 7th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Just Posted

Abbotsford Hospital COVID-19 outbreak over, a new one reported at business

New World Technologies is site of ‘very small’ outbreak, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

Solidarity demonstration planned for Abbotsford on Friday

People gathering to protest police brutality and systemic racism in downtown Abbotsford

Fraser River freshet peak is coming soon

Predictions for 2020 by River Forecast Centre has the freshet peak at the Mission gauge for June 4-5

PHOTOS: Harrison Hot Springs Resort reopens

Reopening both celebrated and sombre as Harrison opens up again

Chilliwack youth planning solidarity march against racism

Organizer hoping to ‘create a type of a energy in the city that we will not be silent about racism’

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The importance of accurate, ethical reporting is critical – perhaps as never before

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read