‘It’s something I’ll never forget’: Second World War veteran, 98, recalls D-day
Regina paused to reflect this Remembrance day, marking the armistice of November 11, 1918 that ended the fighting of the First World War.
For veteran Harold Hague, his memories of the First World War are ones passed down by his father.
“He was in the Royal Horse Artillery in France and he suffered pretty bad,” Hague said. “The horses took the big guns into the battle and it was so cold he said they had to huddle up and sleep under the horse to keep warm at night. Those are stories that will shake you.”
Born in Earl Grey, Saskatchewan, Hague signed up for active service in the Royal Canadian Navy when he was 19, at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939.
“It was the thing to do. There was a certain amount of patriotism and stuff like that, ” Hague said. “My father didn’t want me to join, but whoever listened to their father at that age?”
After enlisting, Hague served on the high seas and was active during the Battle of the Atlantic and on D-Day.
“The first part of the Battle of the Atlantic we were losing,” Hague said. “Had we not won the Battle of the Atlantic there would have been no D-Day because you couldn’t get the supplies over there. They were sinking the ships too fast.
“But finally we had a ship that had the equipment and the guns to do the job and the aircraft, the Canadian Air Force, they had new aircraft that could go further and that was the turning point in the war, was getting the material in to England.”
On June 6, 1944 Hague was one of nearly 150,000 Allied troops who landed on the beaches of Normandy, France to fight the German occupation. During the invasion, he was on a ship clearing enemy mines.
“When I was on the ship and we were pulling in some of the survivors, trying to save them, you could hear them screaming and they knew they got hit,” Hague said.
“They were screaming for mama.”
Now 98, the memories of war still linger like it was yesterday.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Hague said. “I was up on the bridge and I looked out from the shore to the sea and as far as I could see behind us was ships, hundreds of ships. It was a sight and as they come in it got worse and worse.
“And the aircraft, thousands of aircraft flying all at once and paratroopers,” Hague added, “it was just hell.”
WATCH: No Stone Left Alone Remembrance Day special
When the war ended, Hague returned to Regina, where he was instrumental in the evolution of Regina’s downtown during the late ’70s and early ’80s.
He also joined the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 001, and through his leadership, he served various roles over the years and was directly involved in the establishment of services to veterans and seniors.
Moreover, he served as the co-chair of the Regina Remembrance Day Service and assisted in arranging the indoor service at the Brandt Centre, Saskatchewan’s largest Remembrance Day event.
This year, more than 1,000 people came out to pay their respects, honouring those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
“Remembrance isn’t a job, it’s a privilege,” said Lt.-Cmdr. James Balfour, senior naval reserve chaplain. “It’s important we take note of those occasions when we can remember the sacrifice of previous generations.”
Due to health reasons, this is the first year Hague isn’t attending the ceremony. Instead, he’ll watch from the comforts of home as the next generation continues to carry the torch.
WATCH: 99-year-old Calgary veteran shares WWII memories as a fighter pilot