Soldiers march on stage during the D-Day 75th Anniversary British International Commemorative Event at Southsea Common in Portsmouth, England on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Toronto kicks off series of ceremonies marking 75th anniversary of D-Day

Canadian War Museum historian Tim Cook called the 75th anniversary especially significant

Canadians need to heed the eternal lessons of the Second World War, Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Thursday, as the city commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France that turned the tide of the conflict.

In an early morning ceremony at the cenotaph in front of Old City Hall attended by aging veterans, other dignitaries and members of the public, Tory honoured the 14,000 Canadians — including the “many brave Torontonians” — who stormed Juno Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

“Their courage and their determination led to some successes in those early morning hours but that success came at a huge price,” said Tory, noting that 359 Canadian soldiers lost their lives on D-Day, including 50 from Toronto. “It would’ve been hell.”

Other Canadians across the country were also marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, with the veterans who are the last living link to the largest seaborne invasion in history as the venerated guests of honour.

Capt. Martin Maxwell. 95, of the Glider Pilot Regiment, British 6th Airborne Division, shared his story in Toronto about being among the first to land in Normandy the night before the invasion.

“My D-Day started on June 5. Our commanding officer … came in and said, ‘Boys, we’ve trained for this for a long time. You’re the first ones in, so I have to tell you some of you will not be back,’” said Maxwell.

In an interview, Maxwell urged Canadians to keep the lessons of the Second World War in their daily thoughts — especially given the dwindling number of living people who experienced it firsthand.

“When I look at the world and see mosques, synagogues, churches have been attacked and people murdered, I think back of what I saw…and they may say, ‘What the hell have you done with the tomorrows we gave you?’”

Maxwell urged new generations to take over the torch of freedom and hold it high. Freedom, he said, is precious.

“Once it is lost, it’s almost impossible to get back.”

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders gathered in Normandy, Canadians were turning out for wreath laying ceremonies, lectures and displays, with the main ceremony slated for Willow Park Armoury in Halifax.

Several veterans were expected to be introduced, with scheduled remarks by historian Don Julien about Mi’kmaq soldiers. Richard Tilley planned to speak about his father Harold Tilley, who is featured on the Veterans Affairs Canada D-Day poster.

READ MORE: Queen, world leaders honour veterans to mark D-Day anniversary

Veterans expected to take part in the Halifax ceremony include Havelyn Chiasson, 98, who landed with the first wave of troops on Juno Beach as a 23-year-old with the North Shore New Brunswick Regiment.

Canada also contributed about 110 ships and 15 fighter and bomber squadrons to the D-Day assault, code-named Operation Overlord.

The ferocious fighting in Normandy would continue for another two months at a cost of more than 5,000 Canadian lives.

Canadian War Museum historian Tim Cook called the 75th anniversary especially significant because the number of surviving veterans is dwindling, with most now in their mid-90s or older.

“We’re on the razor’s edge, I think of lived memory passing into history,” said Cook. “That will change how we think about this war when we’ve lost our last eyewitnesses to it.”

He said estimates place the number of veterans who are still alive at about 30,000, from the 1.1 million who served.

“They were ordinary men and women who were pressed into service in extraordinary times and that is perhaps how we should see them as we move toward this period where we will soon lose them all,” Cook said.

Other planned official ceremonies include a wreath laying at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, in Lethbridge and Nordegg, Alta., and in Yellowknife.

In Joggins, N.S., a cenotaph re-dedication will honour 13 young men from the community whose names will be added to the memorial, and in Ontario, a candlelight ceremony will be held at dusk in Gore Park in Hamilton.

Commemorative D-Day ceremonies are also planned for Saturday in Winnipeg and Calgary.

READ MORE: Premier joins B.C. veterans to mark 75th anniversary of D-Day

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

RDKS issues Boil Water Notice for Thornhill area

Due to roundabout construction, residents and businesses are advised to boil water before consuming

Skeena Voices | A legend off the ice

Joe Pelletier’s love for hockey led him to become a sports writer

Historic downtown tree turned into a work of art

Local artist carves a logger into wooden stump

Police still looking for more info on missing mushroom picker in Nass Valley

65-year-old Greg Agnew was reported missing on Sept. 30

Houston housing needs surveyed

Results to aid District of Houston planning

ELECTION 2019: Have Justin Trudeau’s Liberals really cut middle-class taxes?

Conservative Andrew Scheer vows to cut bottom bracket, NDP’s Jagmeet Singh targets wealth tax

‘Sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after pot legalization

Statistics Canada says 541 people were charged under the federal Cannabis Act between Oct. 17, 2018 and the end of the year

Fewer people prescribed opioids in B.C., but other provinces lack data: doctors

Patients who began taking opioids were prescribed smaller doses for shorter duration

Electric cello, stolen from vehicle in Williams Lake, returned to U.S. owner

Rita Rice of Texas said she and her husband had given up hope of ever seeing it again

Drop, cover and hold on: Thousands of British Columbians to take part in earthquake drill

This year’s drill comes as scientists announce discovery of ‘stormquakes,’ an earthquake and hurricane

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Frustration and pride in Canada after a year of legal pot

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

West Kelowna business facing charges after six bears killed over littering

A West Kelowna business has been charged for leaving garbage around Lake Okanagan Resort

Most Read