November 10, 2022 at 1:53 pm
The Memorial Day service in central London looks more like it was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
On Friday morning, the public was welcomed back to the monument in Victoria Park to help honor Canada’s veterans and war dead.
This is the first time since 2019 that the annual ceremony has not been scaled back. In 2020, COVID-19 restrictions meant only a few dozen veterans and dignitaries could attend, while the public was asked to stay home to watch the service live. Last year, the spread of the virus made the ceremony an invite-only event. Now that nearly all health restrictions are gone, hundreds of soldiers and veterans will attend, with thousands of community members expected to watch.
“What we’re sticking to is the lessons we’ve learned from COVID, because some of our veterans, especially World War II veterans, we have an aging population,” said Randy Warden, Veteran and Chairman of the Royal Canadian Legion Day Steering committee member. “We don’t want to expose them unnecessarily [to a virus], so we do ask people who are unwell to stay home, watch or listen to the radio on one of the stations, and wear a mask if you’re not sure. We don’t want our veterans to be harmed. “
With the return of traditional ceremonies comes the return of the Veterans Parade. Veterans, Canadian Forces personnel, police officers and cadets will depart from the Delta Armory on Dundas Street, turn north on Wellington Street and continue to the monument.Parade starts at 10:30 am
This was followed by a Memorial Day service, which included a performance by The Salvation Army Jubilee Brass, a land confirmation, a performance by the Last Post and a two-minute silence. The placement of the wreath will take place after the reading of the poem in the field of Flanders. World War II Spitfire pilot Tom Hennessy has been selected as this year’s honorary veteran.
“He will lay wreaths on behalf of all veterans,” the warden said. “We’re trying to make sure we’re identifying the right people out of those wreaths being laid.”
Earlier this year, Hennessy celebrated his 100th birthday by walking 100 miles to raise money for homeless veterans. Londoners cheered him on as he completed his “Thanksgiving Tour” in Victoria Park on Canada Day. The initiative raised more than $55,000.
Caroline Wilson will once again lay the wreath as the mother of the Silver Cross of London. Her son, Trooper Mark Wilson, was killed in 2006 while serving in Afghanistan.
Veterans from Parkwood College will be taking a bus closer to the monument than in previous years for the ceremony. Before the pandemic, the bus was parked on Dufferin Avenue in front of Canada Life, with no clear view of the service. During the two-year simplified ceremony, they were able to park closer, and the change will now be permanent.
A month ago, the committee only expected three older veterans buses from Parkwood, but as the day looms, that number has soared, according to Warden.
“I’m guessing they’d love to come out and participate because we’re going to have five veterans buses from Parkwood this year,” Worden said.
Several roads in the city centre will be closed before and during the ceremony.Dufferin Avenue from Clarence Street to Waterloo Street and Wellington Street from Central Avenue to Queens Avenue will be blocked from 8am to 1pm Dundas Street from Waterloo Street to Wellington Street and Wellington Street from Dundas Street to Wolfe Street will be blocked From 10 am to 1 pm
Although rain is expected to enter the area before the ceremony, Worden expressed optimism that Londoners will show up to pay their respects to those who have served their country.
“We found that no matter the weather, veterans would come out because all were reminded that while we hope for good weather, those who fought during the war were there no matter the weather,” Worden said. “So no matter what the weather, veterans want to come out and Londoners are aware of that. Knowing that veterans are coming out, they came out to support, thank you so much.”
Those unable to attend Friday’s Memorial Day service in person can watch it on Rogers TV. They can also honor veterans by pausing for two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. and donning poppies.
After the parade and ceremony, Londoners are encouraged to visit the regiment across the city, where more veterans gatherings will be held.