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Sidney marks D-Day 80th anniversary with Winspear memorial ceremony

Town Crier proclamation sets the stage for a royal message

On June 6, 1944, an amphibious invasion of what Nazi propaganda had dubbed the “impregnable Fortress Europa” launched.

It was an assault the likes of which had never been attempted, the largest amphibious invasion in history, and, in some quarters, there were concerns it might fail. Nevertheless, nearly 150,000 Allied troops landed or were parachuted into the invasion area on D-Day. It was the beginning of the end for the German fascist regime.

More than 10,000 Canadian sailors in 110 warships, 15 Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons and 14,000 soldiers took part in D-Day and, when it was done, there had been more than 5,000 Canadians killed in the Normandy campaign. It’s been 80 years since that day, but on the morning of June 6, a solemn group gathered outside Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre to remember the day and to honour those who fought and died.

The event began with the reading of a proclamation by Sidney Town Crier Kenny Podmore. He called for the attention of the crowd and, in a clear and forceful voice, read a proclamation penned by the Pageant Master for King Charles – a proclamation that honoured the bravery and sacrifice shown by the men and women on D-Day. And, although 80 years have passed, the people in attendance were of one mind in its importance.

Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith expressed his gratitude to those who served on that day as well as those men and women who continue to serve today. Another member of Sidney’s council, Scott Garnett told the Peninsula News Review that his own father served in the air force and that he had the privilege of having met men who fought in the Second World War.

“I always pay my respects. It’s important that we never forget their sacrifice,” he said.

Others in the gathering had more direct reasons for their attendance.

“My father was a prisoner of war,” said Carol Yaple. “He was taken prisoner in 1944 at the Ardennes and imprisoned outside Frankfurt for six months, until he was liberated on VE Day.”

Standing quietly in the back, Stephen Brodsky, who himself served in a series of conflict zones over his time in the military, proudly held a framed display of medals that his brother earned on D-Day.

“My brother was a D-Day boy. He was a reconnaissance sergeant attached to the Queen’s Own Rifles and moved in in advance of the infantry to clear the way,”

Tyson King stood in his uniform with his service dog at his side and his respect for the bravery of the men on D-Day was palpable. King served for 26 years and saw time in Yugoslavia.

“This proclamation is so important,” Podmore said after it was read. “When you think about what those people went through it is just mind boggling.”

Podmore looked over at a young cadet in attendance (Jackson McGaw) and noted the importance of him being there.

“You see more and more young people getting involved and helping to keep the memory of these events alive. That’s a great thing because we can’t just let this major piece of history drop and be forgotten. It was a great sacrifice that gave us the freedom that we still have today.”