HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Prince Charles reflected on Canada's contribution to World War II as he and his wife Camilla were greeted by hundreds of people today in Halifax on the first full day of a short visit to Canada.
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 thousand military personnel embarked on a trans-Atlantic journey to serve in the war.
Charles commented on Canada's contribution of so many soldiers, sailors and airmen to the liberation of Europe. "An extraordinary contribution from a country with a population much less than it is now," he said.
Later, the prince met with military families at a resource center that helps them with a number of programs ranging from nutrition to mental health services while their loved ones are on deployment.
Charles and Camilla were scheduled to end their visit to Halifax at Pier 21, the home of Canada's National Museum of Immigration, where they were to meet war brides.
Canada's government estimates about 48,000 young women married Canadian servicemen during WWII, most of them from Britain.
Despite an official army policy discouraging such marriages, the Canadian government ended up assisting many of the women who then emigrated to Canada, 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 families and culture 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, refugees, and children who were evacuated from Britain during WWII.
People bundled up against chilly weather and a light mist hung over Grand Parade, a square in front of city hall, as the Prince of Wales was officially welcomed to Canada by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, politicians and an aboriginal elder. 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 the cenotaph 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 to Canada will see the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Pictou, Nova Scotia, Charlottetown and Winnipeg.
It is the couple's second Canadian tour since 2012.
The prince said he has fond memories of an unplanned visit to Halifax 42 years ago as a naval officer through "an act of God" when the propeller of the ship he was serving on became tangled in fishing net and cable.
"An American net, of course," he joked.
Ashley Mah, 20, said she missed a chance to see Charles' son, Prince William, and his wife Kate in 2011.
"I was really upset when I missed out on seeing Will and Kate come a couple of years back, so I figured now that I have the opportunity to actually come out and take part in an event like this it would be kind of silly to pass up on it," she said.
Carolyn Arsenault spoke to Prince Charles and Camilla as they were leaving the square.
"I told them I thought they had the best love story in the world," said Arsenault, carrying a small Canadian flag.