Hundreds gather to pay respects during Charlottetown's Remembrance Day ceremony

'As you observe Remembrance Day, by taking time to stop and give thanks, you are providing dignity to all who served and particularly to those who did not return like Flight Sergeant Sterling Banks,' Maj. Rev. Tom Hamilton says.  (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)
'As you observe Remembrance Day, by taking time to stop and give thanks, you are providing dignity to all who served and particularly to those who did not return like Flight Sergeant Sterling Banks,' Maj. Rev. Tom Hamilton says. (Shane Hennessey/CBC - image credit)

Hundreds of people gathered to honour the sacrifice of P.E.I.'s veterans during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Charlottetown cenotaph.

It was the first public service in two years. Last year, the ceremony was closed to the public because of COVID-19. At that time, many communities held smaller, private ceremonies or cancelled altogether.

This year, people lined the sidewalks in front of the cenotaph and huddled together to take in the ceremony in front of P.E.I.'s Province House.

The ceremony was live streamed here on the CBC P.E.I. website as well as on the CBC P.E.I. Facebook page.

Speech honours fallen Islander at Dieppe, 1942

Participants including local politicians and military representatives arrived around 10:30.

The service was led by Maj. Rev. Tom Hamilton, who is Legion padre for the P.E.I. Regiment and leads the congregation at St. Mark's Presbyterian church in Charlottetown. O'Canada was played followed by the Last Post. Two minutes of silence was observed at 11 a.m., then a prayer and laying of wreaths at the foot of the cenotaph.

Shane Hennessey/CBC
Shane Hennessey/CBC

Hamilton's speech focused on one Islander's experience during the Dieppe Raid in France in August of 1942, — which was supposed to be a short, successful raid that turned into a bloody battle with horrific Canadian casualties, Hamilton said.

Flight Sgt. Sterling Banks, an Islander who flew a Hurricane Hawker Fighter, was tasked with providing air cover for soldiers storming the beach.

"As Sterling was flying toward the French coast, perhaps he was thinking about his family and friends back home on P.E.I. Maybe he was thinking about missing his brother Bob who was serving with the Canadian Army in England," Hamilton said.

Today we remember the hundreds of men and women from P.E.I. who, over the decades, have donned military uniforms to serve Canada. — Maj. Rev. Tom Hamilton

Sterling made his attack at 5 a.m., flying low to avoid radar but leaving himself open to the Nazi's anti-aircraft guns. The squadron finished its attack, Hamilton said, and made its way back across the English Channel — but Sterling never made it home.

"Sterling's family waited for news. A week went by, then a month, then six months, finally seven months later they received a letter: a German coastal patrol had recovered Sterling's body in the ocean just off the French coast," Hamilton said.

He lies buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Abbeville, France.

"Today we remember the hundreds of men and women from P.E.I. who, over the decades, have donned military uniforms to serve Canada. Today we give thanks for each of them, and especially for those who made the ultimate sacrifice," Hamilton said.

"As you observe Remembrance Day, by taking time to stop and give thanks, you are providing dignity to all who served and especially to those who did not return like Flight Sgt. Sterling Banks."