Prince Charles, Camilla greeted in Halifax

Prince Charles in Canada
Prince Charles inspects the honour guard during welcoming ceremonies Monday, May 19, 2014 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Royal couple are on a four-day tour of Canada. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) – Prince Charles commended Canada’s contribution to the Allied victory in World War II as he and his wife Camilla were greeted by hundreds of people Monday in Halifax on the first full day of a short visit to the former British colony.

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 military personnel embarked on a trans-Atlantic journey to serve in the war in Europe.

“An extraordinary contribution from a country with a population much less than it is now,” Charles said.

The prince later met with military families at an armed forces resource center.

Charles and Camilla were scheduled to end their visit to Halifax at Pier 21, home of Canada’s National Museum of Immigration, where they were to meet war brides. Canada’s government estimates about 48,000 young women, most of them from Britain, married Canadian servicemen during WWII.

The Canadian government assisted many of the women who then emigrated to Canada, despite an official military policy discouraging such marriages, 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 motherland 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 and refugees who were evacuated from Britain during WWII.

Onlookers bundled up against chilly weather and a light mist hung over Grand Parade, a square in front of city hall. Canada by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, politicians and an aboriginal elder officially welcomed the Prince of Wales. 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 a World War I monument 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 Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Pictou, Nova Scotia, Charlottetown and Winnipeg on their 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.

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