For students at Centennial College’s East York campus, Remembrance Day was D-Day revisited.
Paratrooper Jan de Vries was the guest of honour at the campus’ Wednesday observance — more than 65 years after he parachuted into occupied France as part of the epic invasion of the continent by Canadian, British and American forces on June 6, 1944.
Some of his recollections were dark, like the advice given for the opening stages of the initial assault: take no prisoners. But other anecdotes were lighter, like de Vries’ first encounter with paratroopers (and the reason he signed up with them) — the “smartest-looking troops I’d seen.”
Ted Barris, a journalism teacher at the campus, “interviewed” de Vries for students and staff who packed the building’s library. Barris has written several best-selling books about Canadians at war — including his D-Day book, “Juno.”
Barris set the stage for de Vries’ recollections by playing archival audiotape of legendary CBC war correspondent Matthew Halton describing D-Day.
Members of the Royal Canadian Legion No. 617, known as the Dambusters branch, formed a colour guard for the occasion. Two high school student buglers played the Last Post and Reveille, around a two-minute silence.