On May 8th, 1945, crowds of civilians
and soldiers, shouting and dancing in the
streets, gathered to celebrate V-E Day,
the Allies' victory in Europe. In London,
in Paris, throughout liberated Europe, parades,
and speeches, hugging and rejoicing marked
that special day. Canada also celebrated:
in Toronto, tickertape flowed from up high
as people danced in the streets, in Ottawa
people gathered on Parliament Hill. Every
city, every community found its own way
to celebrate the return of peace and - at
long last! - of those who served overseas.
In Halifax where bars had been closed for
the day, sailors raided downtown beer and
alcohol outlets. The party turned into a
Celebrates V.E. Day
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- 6.2 Mb
Celebrates V.E. Day, from
Canadian Army Newsreel 73, May
1945, 1 min 51 s..
Archives of Canada, 1973-0162.
In the Netherlands and in Germany, Canadian
soldiers celebrated as well, but in a more
reserved manner. They had been fighting
for months, for years even. A few days ago,
they were still under enemy fire. The end
of war seemed somewhat unreal; despite their
joy, victory had a bittersweet taste.
on the men of the news of the unconditional
surrender of all Germans on our front
was not very evident. There was rather
an air of unbelief, as though it were
difficult to realize that the fighting
was actually all over, than of celebration.
The men were quiet and went about their
duties as before or fell to discussing
among themselves, how soon it would be
all over and how soon they would be making
the home bound trip across the Atlantic."
- The Algonquin
Regiment, War Diary, 5 May 1945
War was over but much remained to be done
before peace could be restored.
Final Duties; Demobilization
of Canadian troops - scene on
the aft deck as the tender left
the pier, Greenock, Scotland,
by Harold D. Robinson. Department
of National Defence / National
Archives of Canada, PA-177085.
Before troops could be demobilized, there
were still two tasks to be taken care of:
the security of occupied territories and
the war in the Pacific.
Under the command of Major-General Christoper
Vokes, Canadian occupation forces set
up their HQ in Bad Zwischenahn, Germany.
In July 1945, they counted 568 officers
and 15,477 troops of other ranks. Their
role was not to rule over defeated Germany
but to ensure law and order. They also had
to build a relationship with the German
population, help displaced people in their
attempts to locate relatives or return to
their homes. With winter approaching, they
stocked up on firewood, as there was no
coal available any more. Their duty done,
occupation troops were sent back home in
the spring of 1946.
War in Europe ended on May 8th, 1945, but
it went on in the Pacific. Canada planned
to dispatch an infantry division to fight
against Japan. Some 1,024 officers and 20,829
other ranks joined the Canadian Army's Pacific
Force (6th Infantry Division) under Major-General
Hoffmeister. The men who volunteered
but were still in Europe were brought back
as a priority; they got a 30-day leave and
were told to show up at one of nine training
centers in Canada. Since the Pacific Force
had to operate jointly with US forces, it
changed its structure to be regiment-based,
rather than brigade-based. But Canadians
did not fight in the Pacific, as Japan surrendered
on August 14th, 1945, after the destruction
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the first atom
bombs. The Pacific Force had no longer a
purpose and was officially disbanded on
Meanwhile, there were 280,000 soldiers
in Great Britain and throughout Europe who
had to be brought back home, not to mention
the airmen. To move such a huge number of
men and women in a few weeks was not feasible,
as there was no transportation available
for so many people. A scoring system based
on seniority was devised to determine a
priority order for repatriation, and married
men were shipped back home before bachelors.
To keep up morale and prepare the return
to civilian life, activities were organized
for troops waiting for their demobilization
orders. Courses were set up on academic,
technical and professional subjects, as
well as a Canadian civic education programme.
Sports and cultural activities were also
available. The repatriation of troops stationed
in the Netherlands went on until the fall
of 1945, but there remained many airmen
and soldiers on the British Isles as well,
who where still waiting for a place on a
ship for Canada. The last ones left in 1946.
Economic and Social
Measures to Ensure the Return of Peace
and children of Canadian military
personnel en route to Canada,
Greenock, Scotland, April 17th,
by W.J. Hynes. Department of National
Defence / National Archives of
When they came back home, Canadian soldiers
found a country that had gone through dramatic
changes, economic and social conditions
had been modified by the war effort, and
women were more openly emancipated. Some
soldiers had been away for quite a long
time. They experienced a life structured
by military discipline; now they had to
learn how to be masters of their own destinies.
of it, not everybody had spent one?sixth
of their life in a Japanese prison camp.
I was twenty when Hong Kong was captured
and I was twenty?four when we got home.
Canada was a changed place
I Shook Her Hand, excerpt from Barry Broadfoot's
Six War Years 1939-1945.
After the joy of being reunited with their
loved ones, men had to learn a new intimacy
with their spouses, bonding with children
they had not seen in years. Some relationships
made fragile by distance and the passing
of years could not be mended. Couples separated.
In addition, many came home with a British
or Dutch wife, with a couple of kids, who
had to adapt to a foreign, sometimes hostile,
environment. It is estimated that 41,351
war brides were brought to Canada by servicemen,
together with 19,737 children.
army personnel awaiting interviews
with rehabilitation counsellors,
Toronto. Left to right: Privates
E. Robinson, D. Owens, Trooper
J.A. Lenartowicz, and Sergeant
by Ronny Jaques. National Film
Board / National Archives of Canada,
big stuff in Holland. There was this old
man, Van Voort, the mother, a grandmother
who didn't say much, and three daughters
A Canadian Boyfriend, excerpt from Barry
Broadfoot's Six War Years 1939-1945.
Fortunately, most Canadian soldiers found
favourable conditions for their reinsertion
into civilian life. Demobilization of the
men and women serving in the Army, Navy
or Air Force had been in preparation for
a long time. As soon as they were back,
they were granted a 30-day leave and then
returned to civilian life. The Department
of Veteran Affairs, created in 1944, gave
them $100 to buy civilian clothes, plus
$7.50 per month of service and $0.25 per
day overseas, plus one week salary extra
for each six-month period overseas. In addition,
since regular deductions had been made on
their pay for government bonds, some came
back to significant savings.
Many government programmes were created
to help reinserting veterans. Agricultural
lands or mortgages were offered to those
who decided to settle on a farm, and loans
to those who wanted to start a business.
There were rehabilitation programmes for
the wounded or the psychologically traumatized.
Finding a new job was made easier through
technical and professional training. Veterans
who wanted to undertake or complete university
studies were welcome in colleges and universities.
Soldiers who enlisted in 1939 left a country
still very much affected by the Depression.
When they returned, they found a welfare
state with a solid social security net:
unemployment insurance, child allowances
and an improved pension plan for the elderly
or the handicapped.
Canada's war debts never grew beyond the
country's capacity to pay and the war effort
proved to be a tremendous incentive to industrial
growth. Created in 1944 under the direction
Howe, the Department of Reconstruction
implemented the government's motto: methodical
deregulation. Wartime constraints and guidelines
that controlled production and employment
were made less stringent. War production
factories were reconverted to meet new requirements
for housing, transportation, furniture and
household appliances that Canadians demanded.
An era of prosperity began.
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for Servicemen, from Canadian
Army Newsreel 74, May 1945, 1
min 32 s
Archives of Canada, 1973-0162.
Canada Among the
During WWII, Canada gave much more than
what its alliance with Great Britain demanded
in terms of its war effort against Nazi
aggression and for the restoration of democracy
in Europe. Over a million Canadians served
as volunteers in the military; this represents
10 percent of an 11-million population (in
1939). In six years, Canada built the world's
fourth largest navy, a significant national
air force including fighters, bombers and
submarine warfare patrol aircraft, trained
some 130,000 airmen, levied five army divisions
that bravely faced the world's most formidable
war machine in history. Canadians proved
their valour in the fiercest battles: Ortona,
the Liri Valley, Normandy, the Scheldt,
Ex-servicewomen learning manicure
techniques during a retraining
course on beauty parlour operation
at the Robertson Hairdressing
School, Toronto, April 1945. Left
to right: Elaine Allard, Mrs.
Robertson (instructor), Marge
Gallaway, Norma Peters, May Lacey,
Dolores Michaud, and Eileen Dixon.
by John F. Mailer. National Archives
of Canada, PA-193038.
By standing up for principles judged to
be fundamental, Canada earned a respected
place among world powers. Part of the United
Nations, of which he was a founding member,
since 1945, Canada also joined the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.
In 1956, during the Suez crisis, Canada's
External Affairs Secretary of State, Lester
B. Pearson, made a proposal towards the
creation of the world's first multinational
peacekeeping force, under General E.L.M.
Burns. During the Cold War and since,
Canada remained committed to its mission
of world peacekeeping.
May Their Memory
Between 1939 and 1945, Canadians listened
to the voice of their conscience and took
up arms with courage and steadfastness.
Many gave up their lives for the good of
humankind; others were gravely wounded in
body or in spirit. May their memory endure