Princess Anne lays wreath at B.C. veteran’s cemetery, receives 21-gun salute

Princess also set to visit the Royal Victoria Yacht Club and Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association

Princess Anne spent more than an hour Saturday touring God’s Acre veteran’s cemetery and its tiny, wooden chapel, laying a wreath to honour the more than 2,500 military personnel and family members buried there.

The visit to the secluded, tree-covered Esquimalt, B.C., cemetery is part of the princess’s three-day West Coast visit, which started Friday in North Vancouver with her participation in the commissioning of the first Arctic patrol vessel for Canada’s Pacific fleet, HMCS Max Bernays.

God’s Acre is a national historic site that dates back to 1868.

Princess Anne’s tour will also see her attend a commemorative service on Sunday for the Battle of the Atlantic at the B.C. legislature.

She is also scheduled to visit the Royal Victoria Yacht Club Sunday and members of the Victoria Therapeutic Riding Association later in the day.

The tour of the cemetery grounds by Princess Anne, the sister of King Charles, carries great significance, said David Loveridge, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission director for Canada, Americas and the Pacific.

The princess is the current president of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, overseeing its mandate to care for 23,000 war memorials and war cemeteries around the world commemorating 1.7 million Commonwealth casualties, he said.

“To have her here in Canada and to come to God’s Acre veterans’ cemetery to lay a wreath is a great event for us to commemorate the veterans who are here,” said Loveridge.

Princess Anne was on board HMCS Max Bernays early Saturday when it entered the fleet’s home base in Esquimalt Harbour to the greeting of a 21-gun salute.

She wore a Canadian navy uniform Saturday, including a Canadian Fleet Pacific hat.

Navy enthusiasts and royal watchers gathered on the shores of Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse to greet the ship and the princess.

“She’s commodore of the navy, an honourary commodore, and she did the commission ceremony and spent the night on the boat after it left Vancouver,” said Iain MacAulay. “So, yes, cool.”

Murray Baines said he wanted to get a look at the HMCS Max Bernays and catch a glimpse of the princess.

“I saw somebody out there waving,” said Baines. “I even had my little binoculars, but I couldn’t make out who it was.”

The Department of National Defence said in a statement Friday the official introduction of HMCS Max Bernays into the fleet included “a symbolic presentation of the keys to the ship” to the commanding officer, Commander Collin Forsberg, “along with the breaking of the ship’s commissioning pennant, and three cheers by the ship’s company.”

Forsberg told reporters ahead of the ceremony that the patrol vessel arrived in its new home port in Esquimalt last month. He said the ship was “designed for, principally, exercising Canadian sovereignty in northern waters.”

He said the introduction of the ship, which was named after a Canadian naval hero in the Second World War, will allow the navy to better meet future defence challenges in the North.

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Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press