'Overwhelming': Victoria politicians, veterans, re-enactors mark D-Day anniversary
Vancouver Islanders are marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when approximately 14,000 Canadians joined the Allied invasion of Europe in an effort to roll back the Nazi war machine on June 6, 1944.
B.C. Premier John Horgan is spending Thursday at the Juno Beach Centre in northern France, the approximate site of the Canadian landing and subsequent slaughter of hundreds of soldiers on both sides.
Nearby, Victoria skydiver Peter Vos is one of thousands of war re-enactors honouring the occasion by jumping from antique airplanes onto the landing grounds of the French coast.
Vos, whose father was born in Nazi-occupied Holland, completed his first commemorative jump Wednesday before all flights over the area were suspended as a security precaution due to the presence of so many world leaders at Thursday's ceremonies.
Vos said he's been planning and training for the D-Day jumps for more than a year, and even travelled to Florida to get re-certified to jump using the kind of round parachute that paratroopers would have used during the invasion 75 years ago.
"Everybody here is fully aware of what the Canadians, the Americans, the Allied Forces did," Vos said.
"Our lives are what they are based on people who made selfless decisions. What we have has been bought and paid for on the fields behind me."
The B.C. premier joined hundreds of war veterans and dignitaries from around the world to mark the solemn anniversary Thursday.
"It's been an overwhelming day," Horgan, who is the son of military parents, told CFAX 1070 over the phone from the memorial site near Normandy.
"Just kids at the time and now to look back on that life of theirs… is powerful," Horgan said.
He said he spoke with one veteran of the invasion at Juno Beach who at just 19 years old enlisted at Victoria's Bay Street Armoury.
Meanwhile, 97-year-old Trevor Shickburgh shared his memories of the historic day with CTV News. Shickburghwas on board a ship off the coast of Normandy that day, protecting the Allied troops from German submarines.
He remembers it wasn't raining that day, and he and his fellow sailors knew that they were part of something big.
"They were all pleased to be there, that's really what I saw," he said. "I know I was pleased to be there because it was history."
Despite his pride in contributing to the effort, the retired commander acknowledged some sadness that none of his friends from that historic day are still alive to share the anniversary with him.
"It's such a pity that there's very few people my age around who's fortunate enough to see it all."
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson released a statement Thursday commemorating the anniversary.
"We give thanks to those who served and stepped up in the collective effort to stop Nazi aggression and its hateful and vile ideology from spreading," he said.
"We must honour their legacy and strive to continue to build the free, prosperous, and inclusive Canada that we all want to live in."