Islanders honour D-Day soldiers

Ceremony recognizing Normandy Landings held at Charlottetown Cenotaph

Mitch MacDonald
Published on June 2, 2014

Joyce Paynter can still remember hearing planes flying overhead 70 years ago during the D-Day invasion.

Paynter, who served with the Canadian Women's Army Corps, was stationed in London at the Canadian military headquarters during the well-known Allied landing at Normandy.

"Because of security, we didn't know what was going on," said Paynter during an interview with The Guardian. "But the planes were flying and seemed to be going all day long. Something was going on but we knew they weren't enemy planes because there was no air raid warning."

While Paynter said most in the headquarters were unaware of the landing operation until a couple days later, the event would go down as the largest seaborne invasion in history and was a major contributor to the Allied victory.

Members of the Charlottetown Legion gathered on Sunday to commemorate P.E.I. veterans and all others who participated in the invasion.

This Friday will signal the 70th anniversary of the invasion.

Legion member Dave Howatt began organizing the D-Day ceremonies in Charlottetown four years ago.

Having served with the Canadian Forces from 1972 to 2008, Howatt said he was surprised Charlottetown didn't have a ceremony for D-Day.

"But then again, a lot of other places don't commemorate D-Day either. They just do the Battle of the Atlantic and Battle of Britain, which were two major naval and air battles," he said. "D-Day was a combined force of the army, navy and air force, and it was the biggest invasion the world has ever seen.

"I was quite surprised we didn't have anything to commemorate it."

Sunday's ceremony saw legion members and veterans march from the cenotaph to the Charlottetown Legion.

While marching through Victoria Row, many patrons of the area's restaurants stopped eating to applaud.

"That happens every year and it brings out the appreciation," said Howatt, who is a fourth generation member of Canada's military. "It really brings out the pride.

Paynter, who was originally from southern Britain, had married P.E.I. soldier Arthur Paynter during the war when she was 17 years old.

By the time she turned 18, her husband had been sent to Italy with the 2nd Battalion Artillery.

With her brother also fighting with the British forces, Paynter decided she would join the military effort as well.

"When you became 18 you more or less had to go and join," she said. "I went to join what I thought would be the British forces but they said, 'You're a Canadian now, why don't you join the Canadian Forces?"

Paynter, now a well-known veteran in P.E.I., lays the wreath on behalf of women veterans during Charlottetown's annual Remembrance Day ceremony and also participates in services at many of the area's seniors homes.

While she was unable to attend Sunday's march, Paynter still met up with fellow legion members and veterans after the event to commemorate the invasion.

"It makes me feel very honoured to be a veteran of the Second World War and a life member of the legion," she said. "I'm proud that I served."