Victory in Europe — The Home Front
by Glenn Warner
Maple Leaf Up presents the following photo essays:
Intro – Victory in Europe.
Story 1 – Dutch Privation & German Capitulation in Holland.
Story 2 – Liberation of The Netherlands and the Aftermath of War.
Story 3 – this page – VE Day on the Home Front in Canada.
7th May 1945 — Canadians Burst into Celebration
Canadians had been waiting so long for the good news, and when it came, on Monday May 7th, they poured out onto the streets in spontaneous celebration. Shops closed. The Toronto Daily Star ran a banner headline, taking up the entire top fold, declaring "Germany Surrenders".
Toronto Archives caption: Victory in Europe Day celebrations, Toronto, 8 May 1945.
MLU Note: This "Time Square kiss" is probably the spontaneous celebration on May 7th, only it's not Time Square. The newspaper is a Toronto Daily Star supplement from May 7th. The building behind the crowd looks like the T. Eaton Co. department store with the flags decorating the exterior. Compare the building in this photo with the Eaton store in the photo below. It has the same street level window adornments. And both photos have something white or light covering the windows. Are they boarded up? We think this photo is taken on the Yonge St. side of the Eaton store, looking south towards Queen St with the corner of the Robert Simpson store (now The Bay) in the distance. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) Let us know what you think – contact us. (Toronto Archives f1257sAi195)
Toronto Archives caption: Crowd at Old City Hall, Toronto, 7 or 8 May 1945.
MLU Note: Most likely May 7th. From the front of Old City Hall this view looks east on Queen Street towards the old Eaton department store. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) The brick building has since been replaced by the glass and steel Toronto Eaton Centre, still so-called even though the Timothy Eaton Co. chain no longer exists. Note another Toronto Daily Star May 7th supplement held aloft on the bottom right, reading "Germany Surrenders". (Toronto Archives f1667i0011)
Toronto Archives caption: V-E Day celebrations, Yonge Street north of Queen Street, 8 May 1945.
MLU Notes: Probably the spontaneous celebration one on May 7th. This view looks north on Yonge St., like the archives caption says, but in fact from south of Queen Street. Just behind this throng is the Queen intersection as you can tell by the streetlight on the right of frame. The building on left is the Robert Simpson department store (now The Bay) on the southwest corner of Yonge and Queen Streets. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) The exterior is festooned with flags, including a Canadian red ensign next to a Union Flag
Just beyond the intersection on the left is the Eaton's store – you can still see the half rounded upper windows at the top of frame behind a Union Jack. The Loew's Theatre in the distance on the east side of Yonge is what is now the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres. At Loew's, I'll Be Seeing You (with Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotton, Shirley Temple) was into its third week. The Heintzman Piano billboard (you can see part of it above the Loew's sign) is painted on the south side wall of 193 Yonge Street. The Toronto cop on the right is dressed in the style of a British Bobby. (Toronto Archives s340ss8f50)
LAC caption: Victory in Europe Day celebrations, Toronto, 8 May 1945
MLU note: The celebration is probably a spontaneous one on May 7th. The clock tower of Toronto City Hall at Bay St and Queen St rises above the ticker tape being thrown out of the windows in celebration. The building, completed in 1899, was designed by architect Edward James Lennox, and is now called Old City Hall, replaced by the current city hall in 1965. This camera looks north on Bay Street from Temperance Street. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) (Photographer: Ronny Jaques. Library and Archives Canada a114626)
MLU note: The celebration is probably a spontaneous one on May 7th and is as if the photographer of the photo above just turned to face south from the same spot at Temperance Street.
The Canadian National Telegraph Office building was at 347 Bay Street, on the southeast corner of Bay and Temperance Streets. Only the facade of this building remains as part of the Bay-Adelaide Centre. None of the buildings in the photo seen beyond this building (looking south) still exist. Many of these women are probably tele-typists who worked on the 10th floor amongst the hundreds of teletype machines. Much of the ticker tape garlands we see in the VE celebration photos on Bay Street could indeed be print tape from the teletype machines. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) Let us know what you think – contact us. (Toronto Archives f1257sAi197)
Toronto Archives caption: Victory in Europe Day celebrations on Bay Street, Toronto, 7 May 1945.
MLU note: This vehicle is heading north on Bay St. at the intersection of Richmond St. W. The arched doorway in the background is no longer arched, but the building is the Sterling Tower at 372 Bay St, designed in 1928 by Chapman & Oxley Architects. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) (Photographer: John Boyd; Toronto Archives f1266_it96241)
LAC caption: Military personnel and civilians celebrating V-E Day on Sparks Street, Ottawa, 8 May 1945.
MLU update: This is actually an impromptu celebration on May 7th. The vehicle heads west on Sparks Street past the Corinthian columns of what is 119 Sparks Street — Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, between O'Connor and Metcalfe, built in 1922. The architects Darling & Pearson were from Toronto and the construction company was the Ottawa family of George C. Graves. The piper on the car is Don Sutherland according to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper issued on May 8th. The Citizen building was actually across the street on the south side at 136-140 Sparks. You won't see a vehicle on Sparks Street now as it is a pedestrian mall. (Library and Archives Canada a114617)
LAC caption: Crowd celebrating VE Day, Montreal, Quebec, 8 May 1945.
MLU note: The celebration is probably a spontaneous one on May 7th. This view, taken by a Montreal Star newspaper photographer, is the corner of Peel and St. Catherines Streets, looking west. In this photo the store in the upper left is Bryson's Drug store (what is now a Guess store at 1101 Ste Catherine West). Across the street going north on Ste Catherine is the Laura Secord shop and next to that the shop in the upper right seems to say Molson's 'The Square Deal Jeweler'. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) Let us know what you think – contact us. (Library and Archives Canada a152318)
8th May 1945 — VE Day
When the war officially ended on 8 May 1945, both Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his Secretary of State for External Affairs Louis St. Laurent were in California at a convention which would lead to the founding of the United Nations (UN).
The United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) hosted delegates from 50 Allied nations from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco.
As newly minted Secretary of State in King’s wartime cabinet, it was Louis St. Laurent who represented Canada at the UN conferences. At these conferences St. Laurent pushed the idea of a UN military force in situations that called for force to preserve peace and prevent combat. It would be over a decade later in 1956, that the idea was realized by then Prime Minister St-Laurent and his Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester B. Pearson in the development of UN Peacekeeping Force which helped resolve the Suez Crisis.
LAC caption: Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King and Hon. Louis St. Laurent broadcasting a message to Canada on VE-Day, 8 May 1945.
MLU note: Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King and Minister St. Laurent broadcasting from San Francisco in what is evidently a CBC radio broadcast. (Photographer: Nicholas Morant; Library and Archives Canada c22716)
LAC caption: Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King broadcasting a message to Canada on VE-Day, 8 May 1945.
MLU note: This looks more like a filmed message from San Francisco, given the desk/curtain set and the lights overhead. Not a "broadcast" per se since broadcast television did not exist at the time, so perhaps a National Film Board recording. (Photographer: Nicholas Morant; Library and Archives Canada c23260)
LAC caption: V-E Day celebrations, Ottawa, Ontario, 8 May 1945.
MLU update: The celebration on May 8th is more organized and the parade here travels east on Sparks Street. This location is the corner of Sparks and Metcalfe St., Ottawa. The building on the right is old Montreal Telegraph Bldg at 93 Sparks Street. Note the unique design of the overhang (no longer there) — the leading edge is decorated with small diamonds or leaves which can be seen in both this photo (LAC a114440) and photo LAC a012885 of the same corner in 1920s. (See current VIEW on Google Maps.) Let us know what you think – contact us. (Library and Archives Canada a114440)
Toronto Archives caption: Official V-E Day service at Cenotaph, Old City Hall, Toronto, 8 May 1945.
MLU Note: A more sombre celebration on Tuesday, May 8th in front of what was actually City Hall (not yet "Old City Hall"). Toronto Mayor Robert Saunders had declared Tuesday May 8th "a public holiday in observance of V-E Day." This is a view of the intersection at Queen Street West and Bay Street, Toronto, probably taken from the roof of the T. Eaton Co. department store. Apart from the Cenotaph in the centre and Old City Hall at the very right edge of the photo, none of the other buildings exist today. (Toronto Archives f1667id0007)
Dancing in the street. Victory in Europe Day celebrations at King and Bay streets, Toronto, 8 May 1945. The four corners at this intersection has been completely rebuilt since the war. (Photographer: E.R. White; Toronto Archives s377i4636)
Victory in Europe was not the end of the war for Canada. It was after all a World War. Most of Canada's forces were mobilized in Europe since the Allies had adopted a "Germany first" war policy, but Canada had still lost two battalions (almost 2,000 men) fighting the Japanese in Hong Kong. And it had to reconcile the loss of those men which came at a toll of 100% casualties – 290 killed in the battle outright and the rest prisoners-of-war. Another 260+ Canadian prisoners would not survive four years in the horribly inhuman conditions of Japanese prison and work camps.
The Canadian Army had already begun to mobilize the Canadian Army Pacific Force for the planned 1945 Allied invasion of Japan. The 6th Infantry Division already existed and, after V-E, the CAPF was seeking volunteers from our five Divisions in Europe to go to the Pacific.
Hey, we're learning too. If you have any observations, comments, insights, or see any errata, typos when viewing these photos, please contact us. (Refer to photo reference numbers if possible.)