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.

 

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

Competitors to vie for bathtub race crown in waters off Nanaimo

Great International World Championship Bathtub Race begins at 11 a.m.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fact-check pipe dream

We deserve more transparency now that Trans Mountain is in public hands, says letter writer

Eight displaced after fire last night in Nanaimo’s south end

Nanaimo Fire Rescue responds to fires on Strickland Street and old Jolly Miner pub

‘A really kind person:’ Parksville’s Nick Major remembered by instructor

Outpouring of support in the days following death of young man after infection from rabies

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Housing and opioid crises the real threats

Letter writer shocked that someone could blame vulnerable citizens for Nanaimo’s tarnished image

Sailpast on Wheels Parade recognizes driving forces of Nanaimo bathtub race

Margaret Johnson and Bill McGuire honoured at 2019 event

World’s fastest bathtub racer to be determined this weekend in Nanaimo

Great International World Championship Bathtub Race caps full weekend of downtown events

Nanaimo-Opoly will let board game players deal Harbour City properties

Victoria’s Outset Media and Walmart Canada partner on local edition of popular game

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Most Read