The central square in Mons, Belgium was awash in red and white on Sunday, in tribute to the Canadians who marched into the city to liberate it from the Germans 100 years ago.
At 7 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1818, exhausted Canadian soldiers entered the small city and announced that an armistice had been signed, ending the First World War.
Grateful Belgians came rushing out of their homes to greet the soldiers, and the ecstatic moment was captured on film.
One of those excited residents was Annie Morin’s mother. She met a Canadian soldier that day, who would later become her husband.
“That’s the origin of their love story,” Morin told CTV’s Paul Workman as she attended a ceremony marking the centenary.
“He went back to Canada and promised my mother ‘I will be back one year later,” she added.
On Sunday, Canadian pipers once again marched into Mons. They were joined by Belgian troops and dignitaries, plus Canadian Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan.
“May I just say on behalf of all the Canadians present, how proud we are to see our flag here?” O’Regan said in a speech in the square. “Thank you for that.”
O’Regan also quoted from a Remembrance Day address written by Sir Arthur Currie, the first Canadian commander of the Canadian corps. Currie died less than a week before he was expected to give the speech on Nov. 11, 1933.
“We recall the silence of exhausted effort and of daring hope; we recall that still moment when, after four years of a strange life, in which death was ever-present, the fighting men were suddenly conscious of the fact that the strain was over and that they had now to adjust themselves to the new world of promised peace and justice and content, which they had been led to believe they were, after all, about to enter,” Currie had said.
“Canada is a humble nation,” O’Regan added. “We are modest. But we accept your gratitude with the appreciation that comes with a dear friendship. And we stand with you in solidarity, vigilant that such dark days may never enter our homes nor such shadows fall across our hearts ever again.”