NEW! Canadian Military History Trivia Challenge

Canadian Military History Trivia Challenge

Take the quiz and Win a Trivia Challenge prize pack!

Canadian Military History Trivia Challenge

Take the quiz and Win a Trivia Challenge prize pack!

Learning What War Was: An Island Remembrance

Veterans form up in front of the cenotaph. [PHOTO: TOM MacGREGOR]

Veterans form up in front of the cenotaph.

Growing up in Sutton, England, a young Joyce Paynter heard people talking about the chance of war, but didn’t think it would happen.

Then one day, I was coming home from school and the sky lit up, and there was [the sound of gunfire in the air]. I ran home and my mother told me the war had started,” said Paynter, relaxing at Charlottetown Branch of The Royal Canadian Legion after the 2010 Remembrance Day ceremony.

At age 14, she found out what war was and volunteered to help a doctor and his wife look after their children. One night—when she was 16—there was an air raid, and she was ordered off a bus and into a bomb shelter. When it was safe to return to the street again, Gunner Arthur Paynter of the Royal Canadian Artillery offered to walk her home. The two were soon married, and while Paynter was anxious to join the British Army, she soon discovered she couldn’t. “They told me that because I was married to a Canadian I would have to join the Canadian Army, so I did that,” she explained. Paynter became a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC).

Unlike her CWAC counterparts in Canada, Paynter was soon learning how to shoot, use a gas mask and drive a tank. “I was trained for battle. We thought Hitler was going to invade England any day.”

The parade marches under the firefighters’ arch. [PHOTO: TOM MacGREGOR]

The parade marches under the firefighters’ arch.

While Arthur fought in Italy and was later discharged in England, Paynter ended up sailing to Canada, not with the war brides, but with the returning soldiers—all before she could be discharged and begin her new life on a Prince Edward Island farm. “It was all new to me. I had to learn how to bake bread and all the things a farmer’s wife does. But I learned.”

Paynter was among the thinning number of Second World War veterans participating in this year’s remembrance service which drew more than 8,000 Islanders.

For many of the members at Charlottetown Branch, the ceremony at the cenotaph was the last of a series of remembrance week tributes held in schools and in many of the Island’s long-term care facilities.

For Legionnaire Margaret MacKinnon, the services in the seniors’ residences date back to a service she helped start in 1982 at the former military training centre which became Beach Grove Home (Beach Grove Home Continues Remembrance Tradition, November/December 2009). She acts as pianist as branch members carry out a traditional service and then carry on in a singalong, mostly of favourite tunes from the Second World War.

The Charlottetown Legion Choir leads a singalong. [PHOTO: TOM MacGREGOR]

The Charlottetown Legion Choir leads a singalong.

The last of these ceremonies, held Nov. 10, was at Andrews of Charlottetown residence for seniors’ living. The sunny, but breezy weather allowed the home to take all the tables out of its dining room and place them on the patio deck while chairs were arranged theatre-style in the L-shaped room for the traditional service of remembrance. Following the Last Post, silence, the lament and rouse, former Prince Edward Island Command president Morgan McGaughey read the Act of Remembrance. Paynter then read In Flanders Fields by John McCrae.

Joining the Legionnaires was a choir dressed in red and white. “For all intents and purposes it is the Charlottetown Legion Choir. There are a few members who aren’t branch members, so for these services we call them Our Veterans Remembered Choir,” explained acting branch president John Yeo who was thrust into the president’s position in September by the death of incumbent president LeRoy Gauthier.

Joyce Paynter is joined by her granddaughter Ashley Joyce Gauthier. [PHOTO: TOM MacGREGOR]

Joyce Paynter is joined by her granddaughter Ashley Joyce Gauthier.

As the singalong continued, with Father Charlie Cheverie on fiddle, staff of Andrews brought out refreshments, seafood chowder and sandwiches as the event turned from solemn to festive. “In the other homes we often have tables and a setting more like a pub. We have a set program but they usually keep saying, ‘Just play one more.’ So, of course we do,” explained MacKinnon.

Taking a glance outside, Ray Arsenault, who would be the parade commander in the morning, noted that if “these winds don’t die down, I’m going to need an anchor to hold me in place tomorrow.”

The winds did die down and the next day was sunny with a chilly, but light breeze. The Charlottetown Fire Department added a new ritual to this year’s service. Since the parade route from the branch to the cenotaph passed by the fire hall, members of the fire department parked two ladder trucks—with ladders extended—on opposite sides of the street, creating an arch for the veterans to march under.

As the parade approached the arch, the firefighters stood with their axes turned upside down, similar to the position taken by the sentries at the cenotaph. “I have never seen anything like that before. It was new to us,” said branch Colour Party Commander Pat Doyle.

Senator Mike Duffy prepares to place a wreath. [PHOTO: TOM MacGREGOR]

Senator Mike Duffy prepares to place a wreath.

Arriving in front of the provincial legislature—known as Province House—the parade halted with the veterans in front. Formed up behind them were army and navy cadets as well as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Also featured in the ceremony—wearing sky blue uniforms—was an honour guard from the Charlottetown Police Service.

The Charlottetown cenotaph is one of the more striking war memorials in Canada. Erected in 1925, it was financed by the city and private donations. The monument, designed by G.W. Hill, features three bronze figures in First World War uniform on top of a granite base. The soldiers are carrying rifles and appear to be running swiftly into battle. Originally dedicated to those who fell in the First World War, additional lettering has been added to recognize the Second World War and Korean War.

Tim and Sally Goddard place a wreath on behalf of Silver Cross recipients. [PHOTO: TOM MacGREGOR]

Tim and Sally Goddard place a wreath on behalf of Silver Cross recipients.

Leading off the long line of those placing wreaths were Tim and Sally Goddard, representing recipients of the Memorial Cross or Silver Cross. Their daughter, Captain Nichola Goddard of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, was Canada’s first female soldier to die in combat. She was caught in an ambush in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan on May 17, 2006. Tim Goddard, formerly with the University of Calgary, was appointed dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2008.

They were followed by Senator Mike Duffy, representing the Government of Canada, and Premier Robert Ghiz, representing the government of Prince Edward Island. Veterans Affairs Canada, which is headquartered down the street in the Daniel J. MacDonald Building, was represented by Deputy Minister Suzanne Tining. Prince Edward Island Command President Jim Ross placed a wreath representing the Legion while Yeo placed another representing the branch.

Veteran John Thistle salutes at the cenotaph. [PHOTO: TOM MacGREGOR]

Veteran John Thistle salutes at the cenotaph.

Paynter and fellow veteran Phyllis Miller placed a wreath for all servicewomen. Paynter’s two-year-old granddaughter, Ashley Joyce Gauthier, joined the women placing the wreath.

Following the formal list of dignitaries, veterans in the crowd were asked to place wreaths which took several minutes. The veterans were followed by members of the public until the base of the cenotaph was completely adorned. “The crowd clapped the entire time the veterans were placing wreaths. It was nice to see,” said Doyle.

Following the service, Charlottetown Branch was packed wall-to-wall with participants. Premier Ghiz and other elected officials wandered amicably about the crowd as the ladies auxiliary served up hot soup and snacks. A piano was soon wheeled from a back room into the main hall and, once again, the Charlottetown Legion Choir led a singalong of wartime favourites.

Email the writer at:

Email a letter to the editor at:


Sign up today for a FREE download of Canada’s War Stories

Free e-book

An informative primer on Canada’s crucial role in the Normandy landing, June 6, 1944.