They came in suits and ties, shorts and flips flops, military and police uniforms and biker T-shirts.

Hundreds of Hamiltonians turned out Sunday to remember the lives lost on a beach in France 70 years ago.

"I think about it this week more than ever," said Jack McFarland, a 91-year-old survivor of the raid.

"It was 70 years ago … and we've lost a lot of friends from the raids since then."

McFarland was a private in August 1942 when he hit the beach at Dieppe, on the northern coast of France. Most of the advancing allied forces were mowed down mercilessly.

The surviving members of the RHLI

  • Capt. John Currie - Burlington
  • Ken Curry - British Columbia
  • Stan Darcy - Hamilton
  • Fred Englebrecht - Hamilton
  • Maurice Lawson - Hamilton
  • Jack McFarland EM, CD - Hamilton
  • Gordon McPartlin - West Flamborough
  • Fred Nicholls - Newboro, Ont
  • Lt. Frank Volterman - Ancaster

Many consider it to be one of the greatest disasters in Canadian military history.

Nine hundred and seven Canadians died on that mission. One hundred and ninety seven of them were from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

But McFarland wasn't alone Sunday — four other survivors of the Dieppe raid were there with him: Maurice Lawson of Hamilton, Fred Nicholls of Newboro, Ont., Gordon McPartlin of West Flamborough and Stan Darcy of Hamilton.

Although into their 90s, each time the Canadian flag was raised at Dieppe Veterans' Memorial Park, they saluted proudly. And though a little unsteady, those who could get to their feet rose confidently.

"I don't dwell too much," said Dieppe survivor Gordon McPartlin. "But really, it's like it was yesterday."

Reverend Bryan Robertson ran the service, and told CBC Hamilton it was an honour to be included.

"To see these veterans here reminds me of their dedication," Robertson said.

"In spite of getting more elderly all the time, they still make the effort to come out, and people come out to support them, too."

Ron Bauman was there with his son Michael, to present the surviving Dieppe veterans with handmade wooden canes.

Michael is autistic, and making the canes is therapeutic for him. He was taught to make them by a Second World War veteran, and now his work is in the hands of people all over Europe — in Holland, France and Italy.

"They've been all over," Bauman said. "He does about 50 a year for veterans."

Michael personally presented each veteran with a handmade cane and shook their hands during the ceremony.

"I'm very proud," Michael said, referring to the hard work that goes into making them.

The North Wall Steel City Riders motorcycle association was there too, to show support and mark the occasion.

"I've been here for years and this is one of the biggest turnouts I've seen," said association member Keven Ellis.

"As they stand up to honour this country and what they fought for — at this age, in their 90s —  and they're still trying to salute the flag. It's beautiful."

For a gallery of the event, go to the CBC Hamilton Facebook page here.