Hundreds of Canadian veterans return to D-Day beach in Normandy
Published Sunday, June 2, 2019 12:20PM EDT Last Updated Sunday, June 2, 2019 10:11PM EDT
Sea cadets and naval bands welcomed more than 300 veterans to the port of Dover, England on Sunday, ahead of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Over the next week, veterans aboard the MV Boudicca will retrace their steps on the journey to Normandy, France, visiting the beaches in Dunkirk and commemorating their involvement in what is largely considered to be one of the most pivotal battles in the Second World War.
In 1944, thousands of Canadian soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy to fight against the Nazis alongside thousands of troops in the Allied Forces.
Though many veterans expect the experience to be an emotional one, they were in high spirits while boarding the ship, some even getting up to dance as a band played.
Rear Adm. John Roberts was a 20-year-old junior officer aboard a Royal Navy destroyer that bombarded the German defences on D-Day. He’s making the voyage because he wants to ensure he leaves an impression on younger generations.
“I think it's terrible that children are not aware of what happened. This particular event, D-Day itself was the turning point, I suppose, of the war,” he told CTVNews’ Todd Battis.
Although he worries younger generations may have forgotten about his fellow soldiers’ sacrifice, his fears don’t extend to his granddaughter.
"It makes me quite proud of him because he was a big part of the World War Two effort,” Eleanor May Felton said.
Although three U.S. and three British destroyers were sunk that day, Roberts downplayed the danger.
"I was in a ringside seat, as it were, watching the coast being bombarded by bombers, battleships; everything was firing at the shore," he told the Associated Press. "But the fact is that it was a success, and we knew that really almost by the end of that day. We caught the Germans by surprise."
The British Royal Legion organized the trip and a representative estimated that a hundred of these Canadian veterans have never gone back to Normandy.
A spokesperson for the group Nicole Cook acknowledged this is could very well be the last time most of veterans will have to return.
"It's about recognizing people's sacrifice, recognizing the commitment and losses that all of the forces internationally suffered,” she said.
The ship will take veterans to Dunkirk and Poole before arriving in Portsmouth, where U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and U.S. President Donald Trump, among others, will attend a commemoration of D-Day on June 5. The next morning they will arrive in Normandy, retracing the steps they made in 1944.
Watch special live coverage commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day on CTVNews.ca beginning Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. ET and on Thursday at 5 a.m. ET.