HALIFAX — Prince Charles reflected on Canada’s contribution to the Second World War as he and his wife, Camilla, were greeted by hundreds of people Monday in Halifax on the first full day of a short visit to Canada that will see them travel to three provinces.
People were bundled up against chilly weather and a light mist hung over Grand Parade, a square in front of city hall, as the Prince of Wales was officially welcomed to Canada by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, politicians and an aboriginal elder. A 21-gun royal salute echoed through the city’s downtown as the prince inspected an honour guard.
The grey weather was used by Charles to get a laugh from those lining the square to hear him make his first speech on the four-day tour.
“It is, as always, a special joy to be back in Canada again, a place that is very dear to us both,” he said. “This time to be in Canada’s historic ocean gateway to the Atlantic at the official start of summer.”
The royal couple also laid a wreath at the cenotaph and mingled with people during a walkabout around the square. The Duchess of Cornwall’s outfit included Nova Scotia’s blue and green tartan.
The visit to Canada will see the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Pictou, N.S., Charlottetown and Winnipeg.
It is the couple’s second Canadian tour since 2012, but it’s the first time Camilla has visited the three provinces. Charles was last in Manitoba 18 years ago, and he visited the two Maritime provinces in 1983.
The prince said he has fond memories of an unplanned visit to Halifax 42 years ago as a naval officer through “an act of God” when the propeller of the ship he was serving on became tangled in fishing net and cable.
“An American net, of course,” he joked.
Ashley Mah, 20, missed a chance to see Prince William and his wife Kate in 2011.
“I was really upset when I missed out on seeing Will and Kate come a couple of years back, so I figured now that I have the opportunity to actually come out and take part in an event like this it would be kind of silly to pass up on it,” she said.
Carolyn Arsenault of Halifax spoke to Prince Charles and Camilla as they were leaving the square.
“I told them I thought they had the best love story in the world,” said Arsenault, carrying a small Canadian flag.
“I was really happy to see them and they were very nice. … I didn’t expect to do all that today.”
Later Monday, Charles and Camilla are scheduled to meet with war brides in Halifax at Pier 21, the home of Canada’s National Museum of Immigration. The federal government estimates about 48,000 young women married Canadian servicemen during the Second World War, most of them from Britain.
The port was the entry point to Canada by ocean liner for thousands of immigrants, refugees, war brides and children who were taken out of Britain. It was also where 500,000 Canadian military personnel left home to serve during the Second World War.
Charles commented on Canada’s contribution of so many soldiers, sailors and airmen to the liberation of Europe as the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War approaches.
“An extraordinary contribution from a country with a population much less than it is now,” he said.