MONICA ZUROWSKI, CALGARY HERALD Updated: June 6, 2019
When the Allied invasion occurred on D-Day, 75 years ago, much of the world held its breath. People gathered by the thousands to await news and to pray in cities around the globe, including Calgary where a ceremony was organized near the Herald building downtown. (When major events occurred decades ago, people often waited for news by standing outside newspaper offices.)
This is an excerpt from a front page story in the Calgary Herald on June 6, 1944 — D-Day:
THOUSANDS HERE BOW IN PRAYER
Citizens Jam Streets for Invasion Ceremony
Canadians throughout the land bowed in prayer today for the success of Allied arms in their march of liberation into Europe. And in Calgary nearly fifteen thousand crowded silently into one block of 1st St. W. between 7th and 8th Aves. to stand with bared heads while representatives of Church and State evoked God’s blessing upon the men who are storming Hitler’s citadel of evil.
It was a solemn and magnificent sight as that mass of people — the largest in Calgary’s history ever to be so grouped together — listened in cathedral silence to the prayers for their men-at-arms on the seas, on the land, and in the air. And many thousands of that great and solemn crowd, there is no doubt, directed their own private prayers to loved ones who at this moment are offering their lives that the world may be freed and that their homes may endure.
And a warm noon-day sun shone down upon them, as though all the violent elements had stood aside to let their prayers rise unobstructed.
The great crowd gathered quietly but quickly. The service was to start at 11:35. At 11:20 the downtown stores closed their doors so that their staffs might attend. Like a lodestone, the street of the service drew them and thousands more, many of whom came from the far outskirts of the city. At 11:35 there was literally not a foot of standing room between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Then the leader of the military band raised his baton, there was “a silence you ‘most could hear” and a second later the words of “O Canada” — this day, perhaps, the most stirring of any day past — swelled to a mighty chorus.
The crowd filled every space available in the vicinity of the speakers’ platform and it overflowed east and west along 7th Ave. From nearby office windows, as well as on top of many of the adjacent business blocks, scores looked down on the scene below.
As the crowd participated in the half-hour service and prayed for victory in the Allied invasion, there was many a tearful face and sober thought for loved ones who were making the hope of victory and peace nearer.
Around the platform many wives whose husbands were overseas in the Canadian forces had brought their little children to observe this solemn period. . .
The people of this city had responded well to the Victory loans and to other demands of war said the speaker (Ald. Chalk) and there was now only one thing for them to do.
This was to pray for the success of the invasion which would shorten the war and save needless bloodshed. . . .
ONE MINUTE SILENCE
(After prayers and scripture reading) there followed one minute of silent prayer as a deep hush fell over the entire crowd standing with bowed heads. . . . Singing of two hymns, “O God Our Help In Ages Past” and “Abide With Me,” was included in the service.
The A16 band from Currie barracks provided the music for the service. . . .
A number of junior and senior high schools held special services to mark the invasion.
Here’s a look at the Calgary Herald front page on D-Day:
Here’s the editorial on that day, along with a cartoon depicting Hitler: