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

Old Christmas card has ties to Summerland agriculture

Card was sent by former director of Summerland Research Station

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

Award-winning musical coming to the South Okanagan

The hit musical Chicago is coming to Penticton for two shows next March

Penticton resident allegedly has rear car tires stolen

The resident woke up today to find their back tires missing and their car on blocks

Funding sought for family of 15-year-old Summerland girl with cancer

Treatment will involve two weeks in hospital, followed by eight to 10 weeks recovery at home

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

In Photos: CP Rail Holiday Train lights up the Shuswap

The stop on the train’s Canada-wide journey came with a $5,500 donation to local food bank.

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

Kelowna RCMP officer allegedly sexts assault victim

RCMP confirm investigation but hold back details

Legendary primatologist coming to Okanagan

Dame Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, will present in Vernon Tuesday, March 24

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Frosty will have to pay rent to stay on Okanagan sidewalk next Christmas

Vernon Teach and Learn allowed to keep Frosty up, but will need a permit come January 1

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

WATCH: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Most Read