Canadians across the country and around the world honoured the nation's veterans today, a tribute to the men and women who fought for — and in many cases died for — the freedoms cherished by all.

Thousands of people gathered in Ottawa for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial at Confederation Square on Parliament Hill.

The ceremony began with the singing of Canada’s anthem, followed by the lonely bugle call of the Last Post as the crowd stood silent for two minutes, broken by the blast of artillery and then the mournful playing of a bagpipe. Soon after, a pair of CF-18 fighter jets flew overhead, followed by speeches and a 21-gun salute.

"Today, we feel keenly the pain and sorrow around us," intoned Brig. Gen Karl McLean, chaplain general of the Canadian Forces.

The laying of the wreaths, lead by Gov.Gen. David Johnston, was then backed by a full pipe band playing Amazing Grace and a children's choir.

Rabbi Reuven Balka, the honorary chaplain of the military command, was given the responsibility of the event's benediction: "May those who die be remembered lovingly. May those who were injured be healed in body and spirit. May those who serve and continue to serve live their lives in a world free of terror and suffused with tranquility."

Balka ended his speech by urging the crowd to shout out "Thank you veterans" — which the crowd did.

'It was hell'

"Marvelous, marvelous," one elderly veteran in a wheelchair told CBC News in describing his feelings at the ceremony.

Asked about his time battling enemy airplanes in the south of England during the Second World War, Mervin Jones —who was part of an artillery unit and only in his early 20s at the time — still wonders how he survived: "I can't understand why I'm here. It was hell, hell. But it wasn't my time."

Jones also made a promise: "You know I will be back here next year, eh?"

Among those in attendance was Roxanne Priede, who is this year's National Silver Cross Mother. Her son, Master Cpl. Darrell Jason Priede, died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2007.  Priede wept as she laid a wreath at the base of the war memorial.

Roxanne Priede was selected by the Royal Canadian Legion to attend the national service in Ottawa on behalf of all Canadian mothers who have lost children in the service to their country.

The ceremony was completed with the Governer General greeting and shaking hands with veterans in the crowd as hundreds of veterans did a march past around the memorial.

Overseas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a Remembrance Day ceremony in Hong Kong at the Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery.

During the Second World War, nearly 2,000 Canadians took part in the Battle of Hong Kong, which raged for 18 days in December 1941.

"By their deaths, they made possible the freedom we enjoy, the democracy by which we govern ourselves, and the justice  under which we live," Harper said.

Harper recalled the heroics of William Lore, who died recently at age 103, and the "courageous, desperate and bloody defence" of Hong Kong.

Lore, then a sub-lieutenant, led a platoon of marines to free Canadian, British and Hong Kong prisoners of war from the notorious Sham Shui Po Camp in August 1945.

The prime minister and his wife Laureen laid a wreath at the memorial and were joined by Arthur Kenneth Pifher, 91, a veteran of the battle of Hong Kong who was held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for 3½ years.

"In the 21st century, war has taken on a different character, but it is no less war, and no less damaging to those who fight it, and those at home who are affected by it," said a statement released by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Associate Defence Minister Bernard Valcourt. In a surprise visit, MacKay joined Canadian and U.S. troops at Kandahar Airfield on Friday for a Remembrance ceremony.

In London, the Queen was joined by Prince Philip and other members of the Royal Family as she laid a wreath at the Cenotaph memorial.  Prince Charles and his wife Camilla laid a wreath in Auckland, where they are on a tour of New Zealand.

Commemoration across the country

Provincial capitals as well as smaller cities and towns held commemorative events.

In Atlantic Canada, those attending the ceremony in Corner Brook, N.L, found two new additions at Remembrance Square, a pair of statues honouring those who served in the First World War and those who fought in Afghanistan.

A Wabush woman whose son died in Afghanistan says people should make a special effort of remembrance on Sunday.  Kay Kennedy's son Kevin, 20, was one of six Canadian soldiers killed in a roadside bomb blast in 2007.

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Memorial Cross recipients Jenna, Makayla and Michael Curwin prepare to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Halifax. Their father, Pte John Michael Roy Curwin, was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"Our soldiers were in trenches, and I mean look at what they went through. I think people should make an effort and get out and honour our soldiers," said Kennedy.

"The loneliness will never, ever, ever go away for Kevin. My heart is broken and it will never be mended."

In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Islanders remembered the day at the city's cenotaph.

Haligonians collected at the Sailors’ Memorial in Point Pleasant Park, overlooking the entrance to Halifax Harbour, to pay special tribute to the sacrifice made by Canadian sailors in defence of Canada.

In Saint John, N.B., the city’s major event was held at Harbour Station.

In Quebec City, a ceremony was held at the Cross of Sacrifice in the Grande allé.

The City of Toronto had several events, including a wreath-laying ceremony at Old City Hall and at each of the civic centres across the city: East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York. Services were also held at Fort York.

On Saturday, a memorial dedicated to troops killed in Afghanistan was unveiled near CFB Trenton, Ont.

'By their deaths, they made possible the freedom we enjoy'—Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Winnipeggers had several sites to pay their respects, including the city's Convention Centre. Events were also held at several other venues. About 3,500 people attended the service at the convention centre.

In Regina, dignitaries including Saskatchewan Lt.-Gov. Vaughn Schofield took part in a ceremony at the Brandt Centre.

Edmontonians had several events to choose from, including an indoor service at the University of Alberta Butterdome or Van Vliet Centre. Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell presided

In British Columbia, thousands of sailors, soldiers, airmen, airwomen and cadets took part in numerous ceremonies on Vancouver Island, a military spokesman at CFB Esquimalt said. The largest contingent attended the main ceremony on the lawn of the legislature in Victoria.

Separate ceremonies were also held in Vancouver at the Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park, and for Chinese-Canadian veterans in Chinatown.

Vancouver's largest Remembrance Day event is the annual parade and ceremony at Victory Square Park.