Saskatoon

Thousands remember fallen soldiers on 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War

Thousands gathered at SaskTel Centre Sunday in Saskatoon to pay their respects and reflect at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

Ceremony at SaskTel Centre Sunday in Saskatoon one of many held across the country

A soldier stands on guard during the Remembrance Day ceremonies at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon on Sunday. (CBC News)

Thousands gathered at SaskTel Centre Sunday in Saskatoon to pay their respects and reflect at the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

It was an historic occasion as it marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Colin Clay, an Anglican minister and war veteran who spoke at the ceremony, said everyone must remember that war is a terrible thing.

"War is not glorious," Clay said. "War is horrible."

Anglican priest and war veteran Colin Clay spoke at the Remembrance Day ceremony. (CBC News)

Clay was born in 1932 in England and suffered through the bombing of London during the Second World War.

"I grew up during the war...15 miles from the centre of London where we were bombed," Clay said.

"They wouldn't bomb us on the way in, they'd bomb us on the way out," he said. "If they had any bombs left they wanted to get rid of them.

"One night I remember most vividly was a night when a bomber dropped sticker bombs down our street and we could hear the 'carumpph' and the ground bounced as the bombs got nearer.

"We were sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs and the bomb fell two doors away. It blew the windows out of our house and the shingles off the roof.

"I always remember this on Mother's Day, my mother throwing herself over my sister and myself."

Wreaths are laid during the Remembrance Day ceremony at SaskTel Centre Sunday in Saskatoon. (CBC News)

Clay also remembers the V-1 rockets raining down on London.

"We called V-1's the doodlebug with a long, low sound," Clay remembered. "We would have a boy sitting on the roof of the school and if he saw one coming anywhere near the school he would ring the big bell and we got under our desks and prayed that it would go over us and land on somebody else."

Later Clay was drafted into the British Army and trained as a radio technician.

In 1951 he was sent to Korea with the 1st Commonwealth Division in Korea.

He remembers being close to the the 38th parallel and seeing spotter planes take fire when they crossed into enemy territory.

When the spotter planes were shot at they would call in bombing, which in many cases involved the use of napalm.

"I could see the black smoke going up and I knew that underneath there were Chinese and North Koreans. Human being just like us who were burning to death as a result of the napalm.

"When I came back from Korea and went to university those memories stayed with me, as they have done today," said Clay, who came to Canada in 1959 and recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of being ordained an Anglican priest.

"I think every veteran should be passionate about world peace," he said. "We have seen some pretty horrible things."

The Remembrance Day parade leader was Lt. Colonel Tom Mykytiuk, commanding officer of the North Sask Regiment.

Lt. Colonel Tom Mykytiuk went on a number of missions around the world with the Canadian military. (CBC News)

Mykytiuk joined the Canadian Forces in 1990 and was deployed on a number of foreign assignments, including in Bosnia twice, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

He returned to Canada in 2017 to take on his latest post with the North Sask Regiment.

Mykytiuk  said how we deal with conflicts around the world has changed in the last 25 years.

"I've noticed an evolution of how we approach conflict," he said. "In the early days of Bosnia we didn't realize just how complicated that conflict had become."

He said many of the soldiers who served in Bosnia took on more senior roles when they went to Afghanistan.

"It was not all about fighting," he said.

For instance, Mykytiuk remembers a moment when he was a platoon commander in Bosnia and spent three weeks in Srebrenica which was surrounded by the Serbs at the time.

"We were bringing humanitarian aid in, but were also evacuating refugees out," he said.

"On one occasion it was midday and there were pretty significant artillery strikes so a number of civilians were killed and wounded.

"I was there with my troops. I had sent of my guys out to get some water because we were using the local water source. We went out to find them during this artillery strike and we came across a bunch of wounded so we evacuated them all to the hospital."

In Afghanistan Mykytiuk was a company commander for six months in Kabul.

"We lost three soldiers killed in action and a number of wounded," he said.

"In Afghanistan it was a counter-insurgency," he said. "You never knew what or who the enemy was."

His last deployment was with a joint task force in Iraq as a liaison officer in the American coalition headquarters before he came back to Canada in 2017.

Mykytiuk said Canada's armed forces play an important part in trying to keep people safe in Canada and around the world.

"It's important that Canada continues to provide the kind of leadership that it does.

"We'll keep going out to restore failing states because you can just see how those sort of situations can lead to problems back in Canada."