‘Very proud of him’: Victoria veteran’s death sparks reflection on the 80th anniversary of D-Day

'Very proud of him': Victoria veteran's death sparks reflection on the 80th anniversary of D-Day
Second World War veteran Peter Godwin Chance is pictured.

To properly reflect on a day that defies most of our imaginations, visual representations help. Stories are better, but few first-hand accounts remain of the events that unfolded for Canadians on Juno Beach on June 6, 1944.

“There are probably 100 or less Royal Canadian Navy veterans who served in the Battle of the Atlantic or D-Day [still remaining],” says Lieutenant Commander (ret.) Gerry Pash.

One of the last living links was lost on April 9, when Peter Godwin Chance died at the age of 103.

One day shy of the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a large crowd gathered at Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral for the funeral of the man who spent 18 of his 30-year navy career at sea.

“In 1939, at 19 years old when the war broke out, he joined right away,” says his eldest son, Simon.

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Chance played played a vital role preserving Canadian lives on D-Day.

“He was a navigator,” says Simon. “He was the pilot of the ship.”

That ship was a frigate positioned between German submarines and smaller Canadian boats returning to England from France. He wrote a book about it, and has described the events in interviews, but did not talk about it at home.

“When he came home he never spoke about those things whatsoever,” says Simon.

On Thursday, the family toured the Peter Godwin Chance Gallery at the CFB Esquimalt Museum for the first time. His silent stoicism aside, the room is resplendent with archival photographs, medals, and other items from a decorated and distinguished military life. A life he was proud of.

“He loved to wear his medals, I can tell you that,” muses Simon. “But we didn’t even know what they were for.”

Part of the tour Thursday was a description of each medal.

Lieutenant Commander (ret.) Paul Seguna was a friend of Chance and says the sacrifices of service men and women must not be forgotten, particularly those made on D-Day.

“Eighty years of relative peace in the world, without a World War, because of people like Peter who stepped forward in their youth, and often gave up their youth. That’s what’s significant today,” says Seguna.

The black and white pages of history only tell us so much about D-Day, seeing it for yourself at the Godwin Chance Gallery helps bring it home.

“We do realize now far more than we ever did,” says Simon of his father’s naval career. “We’re very proud of him.”


Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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