D-Day 80th anniversary marked at Holy Roller monument in Victoria Park

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Members of London’s 1st Hussars regiment gathered on a rainy Sunday in Victoria Park to remember the soldiers who died on D-Day, the legendary Second World War battle whose 80th anniversary looms this week.

Along with other community members, they gathered around the Holy Roller – the Sherman tank that landed on the coast of Normandy, France that day, June 6, 1944 – to remember the sacrifices made at the battle, which brought together allied forces and ended in victory in northwestern Europe.

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“Praising the men overseas who gave up their lives helps us move on,” said a tearful John Rodey, a retired member of the 1st Hussars reserved armoured regiment based in London and Sarnia.

Around the tank, wreaths were laid in memory of more than 14,000 Canadian troops that stormed Juno Beach. That included members of the 1st Hussars, whose soldiers were among the first wave that landed ashore.

The remembrance ceremony was followed by speeches from Mayor Josh Morgan and MP Peter Fragiskatos, and the appointment of Tania Lee as 1st Hussars honorary colonel.

 “Changing the colonels is a great thing,” Rodey said. “One retires, and we have a new one now. It also helps to move on.”

Sunday’s ceremony and the historic battle it honoured is the ultimate example of “dedication and selflessness,” Lee said.

“That’s what they (the regiment) embody every day,” she said. “It’s the honour of my life.”

A parade to the sound of bagpipes marched through downtown from the Delta Armouries hotel to Victoria Park, where the Holy Roller has been on display since 1950. For retired soldier Charles Fahlgren, who served with the 1st Hussars for 15 years, Sunday’s event was not one to miss.

“D-Day is one of the most important times if you’ve been in the military,” he said. “We . . . remember our soldiers and what they’ve done. It’s important to us.”

bbaleeiro@postmedia.com

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