HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Prince Charles commended Canada's contribution to the Allied victory in World War II as he and his wife Camilla were greeted by hundreds of people Monday in Halifax on the first full day of a short visit to the former British colony.
Canada's involvement in WWII was a central theme of the royal couple's day-long tour of Halifax, a naval city where 500,000 military personnel embarked on a trans-Atlantic journey to serve in the war in Europe.
"An extraordinary contribution from a country with a population much less than it is now," Charles said.
The prince later met with military families at an armed forces resource center.
Onlookers bundled up against chilly weather and a light mist hung over Grand Parade, a square in front of city hall as Charles and Camilla were officially welcomed to Canada by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, politicians and an aboriginal elder officially welcomed the Prince of Wales. A 21-gun royal salute echoed through the city's downtown as the prince inspected an honor guard.
The royal couple also laid a wreath at a World War I monument and mingled with people during a walkabout around the square. The Duchess of Cornwall's outfit included Nova Scotia's blue and green tartan.
The visit by the Prince of Wales and the duchess comes at a time when a number of significant anniversaries will be commemorated over the next few years, including the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.
"Our visit will focus on Canadian achievements as part of a major celebration of the past and the future," Charles said.
Charles and Camilla later visited Halifax's Pier 21, home of Canada's National Museum of Immigration, where they met war brides. Canada's government estimates about 48,000 young women, most of them from Britain, married Canadian servicemen during WWII.
The Canadian government assisted many of the women who then emigrated to Canada, despite an official military policy discouraging such marriages, according to the website of Veteran Affairs Canada. For women, the trip often involved difficulties including expensive trans-Atlantic travel and abrupt separation from their motherland when their soldier-husbands were called back home, sometimes after years of living in Europe.
The Pier 21 port was the entry point to Canada by ocean liner for thousands of immigrants and refugees who were evacuated from Britain during WWII.
Stella Pierce, 90, of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, said she told Charles she came to Canada as a 20-year-old war bride on a French ship in 1944.
"We landed in 1944, we had to go south as far as Bermuda to avoid the U-boats," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. "We landed in Halifax, which was very exciting, very exciting."
Pierce said she knew an invitation to a war brides event was on its way and was delighted to discover the guests of honor were royalty.
"I thought, 'Oh yeah, another war brides thing. I must try to go.' When I found out it was the prince and Camilla, I was very thrilled," she said.
The royal couple ended their brief stay in Nova Scotia at a celebration of the town of Pictou's Celtic heritage at the quay that houses a replica of the ship Hector, a three-masted cargo vessel that landed in the community in September 1773 carrying Scottish Highlanders. Its journey marked the start of a wave of immigration from Scotland.
In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, hundreds of people stood in the rain Monday night to see the royal couple and take in Victoria Day celebrations outside Province House.
The city is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference when representatives of the colonies of British North America met in Province House to discuss forming a Canadian Confederation.
The Duchess of Cornwall wore an amethyst colored coat by couturier Roy Allen. The amethyst was the favourite stone of the fictional character Anne of Green Gables.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall travel on Tuesday from Charlottetown to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they have a full day of events scheduled for Wednesday.