‘They still remember’: 95-year-old Manitoba veteran grateful for respects paid despite coronavirus

Second World War veteran, Timer Hyndman, 95, stands in front of service photos of he and his brothers. Hyndman marked Remembrance Day differently Wednesday, as COVID-19 forced the cancellation of ceremonies across Canada. Submitted/Timer Hyndman

This year marked the first time in a quarter century Timer Hyndman didn’t mark Remembrance Day with young people.

But even without a ceremony Wednesday, the veteran of the Second World War — who turned 95 Tuesday — says he’s heartened by the way younger generations still commemorate and remember the sacrifices made by him, his brothers and all those who have served.

Read more: Manitoba Remembrance Day ceremonies downsized, go virtual amid COVID-19

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“With this virus everything has come to a halt, but they still remember,” Hyndman said Tuesday, a day he would usually spend celebrating his birthday and preparing his remarks for students at Forrest Elementary near his home in Rapid City, Man.

And while the ceremony he’s spoken at every year for decades had to cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hyndman believes this year Canadians can understand the importance of the day more than ever before.

Click to play video: 'Charleswood Legion on marking Remembrance Day during a pandemic'
Charleswood Legion on marking Remembrance Day during a pandemic

“I think it’s more prominent now — with an uneasiness in the world,” he said.

Hyndman served along with his brothers, Bob, Nyall and Orrie. Only three of the brothers returned home to Rapid City after the war.

It was just weeks after Orrie was killed in late January 1944 that Hyndman, then 19-years-old, signed up to join his other two brothers overseas.

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Read more: Remembrance Day is different this year. Here’s how Canadians are commemorating

It wasn’t quite as easy as he’d hoped.

After making the trip to Winnipeg to enlist in the navy that February and waiting weeks to hear back, he returned to the city to try the army instead.

He did basic training in Ontario but he still found himself in Canada a few months later, and he was getting impatient.

The Hyndman siblings of Rapid City, from left to right, Grace, Orrie (killed in action), Bob, Nyall, Timer and Jean. Submitted/Timer Hyndman

“Now it is May, June and I was getting to worry that I wouldn’t get a chance to go overseas,” he remembers.

Ultimately Hyndman got his chance to get to Europe by volunteering with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders out of Shilo, Man., and arrived Belgium on May 7, 1945 — the very same day Germany surrendered.

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“They didn’t let us off the ship for a day because that’s when the war quit,” he said.

Read more: How COVID-19 is impacting Remembrance Day ceremonies in Manitoba

But the work was far from over, and Hyndman joined other recruits as part of the occupation army stationed Germany.

Looking back now Hyndman has one story he calls a highlight of his time overseas — randomly running into his brother Nyall on other side of the world.

Ironically he’d taken a few days of leave and hitchhiked to Utrecht, Netherlands in the hopes of meeting his brother Bob, but missed him by three days.

Click to play video: 'Remembrance Day 2020: Master Corporal Brett Thompson'
Remembrance Day 2020: Master Corporal Brett Thompson

But then, standing on a sidewalk wondering what to do next, Hyndman heard a familiar voice calling his name.

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“I looked up and it was Nyall, he was going by in the back of a truck,” said Hyndman.

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“He stopped and we met in the middle of the street and we hugged each other and cried a bit.

“Anyway, it was the best five or six hours I spent overseas.”

Timer Hyndman celebrates his 95th birthday with his son Frank. Submitted/Timer Hyndman

While the large gatherings normally held across Manitoba for Remembrance Day had to be cancelled this year, many legions hosted small, private ceremonies and streamed them online.

Manitobans joined others across the country marking the day in a new way, at home.

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Read more: Edmonton Remembrance Day ceremonies scaled back amid COVID-19

“People are in tune with today. The young and old, they’re remembering,” West Kildonan legion branch 30 president Stephane Guindon told Global News in Winnipeg.

“They’re finding a way to tune in, they’re finding a way to observe, (and) they’re finding a way to remember and reflect.”

–With files from Marney Blunt

Click to play video: 'Remembrance Day and COVID-19'
Remembrance Day and COVID-19

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