09/10/2014 06:10 EDT | Updated 11/10/2014 05:59 EST

Ottawa honours WW2 vets with commemorative pin on 75th anniversary of war

OTTAWA - It was 75 years ago that Canada issued its first — and only — formal declaration of war.

On Sept. 10, 1939, the Liberal government of MacKenzie King followed Britain in going to war against Nazi Germany in an unfolding conflict that would within two years engulf the whole world.

The Harper government, in a gesture of respect, announced Wednesday it would award a limited-edition commemorative lapel pin to the surviving men and women who served.

The first presentations were made at ceremonies in Halifax, Quebec City, Ottawa, Edmonton and Vancouver.

More than one million Canadians served in uniform or the merchant navy, and over 47,000 were killed.

Veterans Affairs Canada estimates there are approximately 80,000 Canadian Second World War Veterans still alive today, but their numbers are dwindling rapidly.

The ex-service members can apply to the department for the pin and a certificate of recognition.