In-person ceremonies resume, crowds gather in Winnipeg for Remembrance Day
WINNIPEG – It’s been three years since Ralph Wild has attended a Remembrance Day ceremony in person, but in some ways it’s as if he’s never left.
« I guess I’ve done this so many times it must be old, » the 104-year-old veteran said with a chuckle.
Wild has been attending the events of November 11 for as long as he can remember – often as a distinguished guest.
While he jokes they are often the same, this year has brought something different for him.
“The first time I had to lay the wreath. I (used to) carry the torch,” he said on Friday.
Wild was on hand for the return of the city’s largest Remembrance Day service at the RBC Convention Center in downtown Winnipeg, which drew a crowd of around 2,000.
The Joint Veterans Association hosted the service which, during the pre-COVID-19 pandemic period, would see thousands of people.
Armand Lavallée, president of the association, considers Friday’s participation to be positive after years of separation due to the pandemic.
« It feels good. It’s nice to see people coming back, » he said.
Premier Heather Stefanson, Lieutenant Governor Anita Neville, Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal and Mayor Scott Gillingham were some of the dignitaries who attended the ceremony.
The morning included a prayer of remembrance, a moment of silence and the recitation of the poem « In Flanders Fields » during the passing of the torch and the laying of approximately two dozen poppy wreaths.
Wild, flanked by one of his family members, was slow to lay a wreath. It may have been a first for him, but something he knows well from having attended the ceremonies of the Battle of Britain.
Wild was born in Yorkshire, England in 1918. He moved to Winnipeg in 1947 with his wife, who was from Manitoba.
He joined the Royal Air Force aged 20 as part of England’s six-month compulsory military service rule, but ended up serving for around seven years, including during the Battle of Britain in 1940 .
This year’s ceremony honoring those who served in the battle was canceled following the death of Queen Elizabeth.
Wild said continuing the tradition of laying a wreath was « very good ».
« Whether that happens a year from now, who knows if I’ll still be here, » he joked.
Jane Brown, president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Provincial Council of the Royal Canadian Legion, said it is important to honor those who have sacrificed their lives.
Brown had an uncle who was killed while serving in World War II.
« We must remember and never forget the sacrifice that was made, » she said.
“Remembrance must always be made in one way or another. Perhaps the characters change, but the act of commemoration should always be the same and revered.
Several other in-person services have returned across Canada to honor the country’s war dead.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 11, 2022.
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