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)

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)

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)

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

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

Signs up at Hope Secondary School inform visitors that the school is a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Fourth COVID-19 exposure reported at Hope Secondary School

Nov. 27 exposure two days after another exposure at the school, with five exposures total across SD78

A vehicle incident is blocking all lanes west of 216th Street on the Trans-Canada Highway in Langley on Nov. 27, 2020. Traffic is getting by only on the shoulder. (DriveBC photo)
UPDATE: New incident on Highway 1 in Langley, crashes involving 10 cars cleared

New incident is reported eastbound underneath the 216th Street overpass

Students at the Chilliwack campus of the University of the Fraser Valley. (Darren MacDonald/ UFV)
UFV asking students to voluntarily report COVID cases and exposures to the school

With COVID cases rising and Fraser Health struggling to keep up, students are asked to help

The board room of the Fraser Valley Regional District. (FVRD)
Jason Lum re-elected for fifth term as chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District

The inaugural meeting of the Fraser Valley Regional District Board went ahead on Nov. 25

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Despite rumours, Surrey RCMP say they are not issuing tickets to people if they are driving in a vehicle with others from a different household. (File photo)
COVID-19 tickets: No, RCMP aren’t checking vehicle occupancies, restaurant tables

Enforcement about education, not punishment says Surrey RCMP Cpl. Joanie Sidhu

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Shoppers line up in front of a shop on Montreal’s Saint-Catherine Street in search of Black Friday deals in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

Most Read