As the sun shone on Juno Beach Thursday morning, those who served their country and thousands of other Canadians came together to pay their respects and vow never to forget. 

Among them was a Second World War veteran and member of the High River Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. 

Honourary Captain William H. Wilson joined 12 other veterans at the D-Day Anniversary memorial at Juno Beach in Courseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. 

On June 6, 1944, around 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to begin an effort now remembered as the beginning of the end of the Second World War. 

In all, over 4,000 Allied troops were killed on the first day of the invasion, including 381 Canadians. 

June 6 marked just the beginning of the bloody 77-day Battle of Normandy and the start of the Allied liberation of France. 

In the solemn ceremony held at Juno Beach, veterans from the Second World War, including Wilson, sat in their military uniforms and were greeted by those in the crowd, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, and William, the Prince of Wales. 

Past President and Service Officer with the High River Legion, Bob Collins spoke of Wilson’s bravery and dedication to serving his country and ensuring their sacrifices would not disappear. 

“He (Wilson) was in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War,” said Collins. “Once he got out of the Navy, he was involved with the reserve HMC Tecumseh.”

Wilson was born in Winnipeg and served in the Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve for three years and, as a seaman gunner in the HMCS Ottawa, took part in the Battle of the Atlantic, including the Normandy landings. After victory in Europe was declared, Bill volunteered to serve in the Pacific but the war with Japan ended before he could redeploy.

His career with Canadian Pacific eventually brought him to Alberta. In 1984, he became a founding member of the Naval Museum of Alberta Society, which is currently located in the Military Museums in southwest Calgary. 

In 1992, the Canadian Navy appointed Wilson as Honourary Captain and in 2013, he received the province’s highest honour, the Alberta Order of Excellence. 

When speaking about veterans like Wilson and those who lost their lives on the shores of Normandy, Wilson said without them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today. 

He added that memorials like the one at Juno Beach are personally significant to him as his father was a veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War. 

"We cannot forget those people that sacrificed and even the ones that made it out of any conflict or war, they remember their buddies and their friends that are not back here in Canada enjoying what we do today.”

-With files from The Canadian Press