Thousands of Maritimers gather to remember the Battle of the Atlantic
Published Sunday, May 1, 2016 6:53PM ADT
Thousands stood in silence across the Maritimes Sunday morning to mark the 71st anniversary of the largest and longest campaign of the Second World War.
"Most importantly, value the service and sacrifice of veterans and to use it as inspiration for our service today, and that's what we take from it," said Rear-Admiral John Newton, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic.
Thousands of Canadians never returned home.
"It was an experience for an 18-year-old, I tell ya," said veteran Lawrence Weldon.
Weldon served aboard minesweeper HMCS Port Hope, sailing out of Halifax. Now 90-years-old and living in Mississauga, Ont., he's travelled a long way to take in ceremonies.
"I've never, never forgot Halifax," said Weldon. "I'm overwhelmed to be back in Halifax - I never thought I'd see it again."
His niece, Laura Evens, contacted Wish of a Lifetime Canada - an organization that grants wishes for seniors.
"It's been very special for my uncle because there's certainly been a lot of memories here for him, today probably being the ultimate," said Evans.
She wanted to bring her uncle back to Halifax so he could bid his friend, Bert Travis, farewell.
Travis’ ashes were committed to sea on Sunday during a ceremony onboard HMCS Montreal.
In Saint John, cadets, legion members and the community gathered along the water to commemorate the battle, and the city's role during that time.
"Saint John being on the water, right on the Bay of Fundy and right on the Atlantic, certainly very strongly involved in the Battle of the Atlantic,” said Larry Lynch, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 69. “Ships coming here, in and out, and at that time we had a dry dock that did a lot of repairs on ships like the Jervis Bay, so it certainly was very active in the Battle of Atlantic."
It was a similar sight in Moncton, where veterans, legion members and cadets gathered for a ceremony at Centennial Park.
There was a tribute for fallen comrades and wreath laying ceremony.
“It's nice to see people coming out appreciating it, and more than anything, understanding the sacrifice that the military make," said Peter Jobb, president of Riverview Veterans and Armed Forces Association.
With HMCS Shawinigan docked in the background, Cape Bretoners gathered along the waterfront in Sydney Sunday morning, where a statue was revealed to honour the sacrifice of merchant mariners.
The cargo-carrying vessels faced constant threat as the Germans tried to cut off supply lines to Britain.
Merchant mariner Martin MacKinnon says it was dangerous work that took a great toll.
“I was lucky enough that nothing ever happened to me,” said MacKinnon. “It will always be a remembrance for me any time I see this waterfront and that monument.”
Merchant navy ships joined military vessels that left Sydney Harbour carrying life-saving supplies to Europe.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Suzette Belliveau.