Crowds gather across Atlantic Canada on Remembrance Day to honor war dead

HALIFAX – Thousands of people paid their respects to the country’s war dead during Remembrance Day ceremonies held Friday in cities and towns across Atlantic Canada.

A large crowd gathered in the hot sun during the grand parade outside Halifax City Hall where military formations stood at attention in front of the Cenotaph. The eerie sounds of the bugle call of the last bell rang out amid the firing of an artillery cannon salute from the nearby Citadel hill.

Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Arthur LeBlanc was among the dignitaries present, as were Charlotte and Lloyd Smith, parents of Pte. Nathan Smith, who was an infantryman with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Smith was among the first Canadian soldiers to die in the war in Afghanistan on April 17, 2002, and his parents are recipients of the Canadian Memorial Cross.

“So many people sometimes say to me, ‘How do you get over this?'” Lloyd Smith said after the ceremony. “The truth is, you don’t; you never get over it. I’m still collapsing 22 years later.

Smith said he was shocked when his son joined the military, but added that Nathan quickly excelled during training and learned to love his job as a soldier. “It was something he really wanted to do…he did a good job and I’m proud of him.”

Smith said he was impressed by the number of people who turned out to remember the men and women who served their country.

“It’s great to see the crowd,” he said. “It gives us a great feeling and we really appreciate people who take the time to come out.”

One of those present was Abby Titus, 17, a Grade 12 student from Halifax who said the importance of Remembrance Day is not lost on young people. The effects of the war are still being felt, she said, due to ongoing global conflicts.

“It’s been almost 100 years since World War II and over 100 years since World War I, and (the war) still affects us as a country and as a world,” Titus said. “It may be our story, but we live it a lot today.”

Gun salutes could be heard in many other communities, including Fredericton, where people gathered at the New Brunswick Provincial Cenotaph to honor the dead.

Seven-year-old Caelin Milley was tiptoeing as she waited to shake hands with Angus Hamilton, a 100-year-old veteran who served in Southeast Asia with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.

“He is patiently waiting to meet you,” Heather, Caelin’s mother, told Hamilton.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” she said. Thank you for your service.”

Hamilton smiled and extended his hand to the little boy.

“Thank you,” Caelin said looking at the vet.

Hamilton, who served as a radar technician, said he spent most of his time at war in Kolkata, India, which was the main logistics base for the theater of war in Burma, now called Myanmar.

Hamilton wanted to be a pilot, but his poor eyesight prevented him from taking flight. He didn’t see much action during World War II and didn’t feel much in danger, he said.

“The Japanese had bombed Kolkata and the (Royal Air Force) sent half a squadron from the Middle East to Kolkata,” Hamilton said in an interview. “The first night they were there a pilot was sent in and the radar got them in the correct position. And the airborne worked. He was able to concentrate and get into a good position behind the Japanese bombers and he had three in four minutes.

“So that was a highlight. I didn’t do it, but it was a squad I was linked with.

Hamilton said he was repatriated with an important project which had left Mumbai and was in the UK for VE Day in May 1945.

He said the war gave him malaria – twice – and friends for life.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 11, 2022.

— By Keith Doucette in Halifax and Hina Alam in Fredericton.


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