Laura Nicholls remembers the silence.
In the middle of London, England, with thousands of people standing in the square and 11,000 veterans standing in long, proud lines, there was silence. For two, whole minutes. And Nicholls, a Petrolia resident who is a member of the Wyoming Legion, and her husband, Walter, were standing right there among the veterans representing members of the Canadian Legion.
Every year, 10 members of the Royal Canadian Legion can get tickets for the British Royal Legion’s Remembrance Week events. Walter learn of the passes last year while visiting friends in Halifax. Sarnia-Lambton MP Pat Davidson was able to secure one ticket and Walter attended services that year.
This year, Walter was successful in securing the tickets again, contacting the chair of the British Royal Legion whom he had met during the 2014 services.
Walter had recounted the 2014 event to Nicholls, who this year was the Poppy Campaign Chair in southwestern Ontario, but nothing could quite prepare her.
The Sunday before Remembrance Day, the Nicholls were part of an 11,000 strong parade of veterans in Whitehall. Queen Elizabeth II took part in the event, laying wreaths but the Nicholls were so far back they could only see what was going on because of giant screens mounted along the route.
They did get an up close view of royalty during the walk past. The pair came face-to-face with Prince William. “He nodded directly at us and there was just a little bit of a smile,” says Nicholls. “I looked straight into his eyes and I can tell you he’s even better looking in person. The pictures don’t do him justice.”
And while it was exciting to be acknowledged by the Prince, for Laura the thing she will remember the most is the silence.
On Remembrance Day, they were part of a Silence in the Square in the heart of London. The service, she says was upbeat, but the two minutes of silence was astounding.
“Here you are, in the heart of London and when they ask for two minutes of silence, there was silence. The tour buses stopped, traffic stopped. When the silence was over the emcee said, ‘When was the last time you could hear a seagull in the heart of London?’”
“It was haunting,” says Walter.
As memorable as that moment was, Walter says he was honoured to lay a wreath at the Canadian Memorial in Green Park. His father served in the Second World War and had been in London. Walter himself is a veteran of the Naval Reserve.
He pauses, thinking about the moment he laid the wreath at the Canadian Memorial, takes a breath and says “it was quite something.”