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The 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe

8 May 2020

It was 75 years ago, 8 May 1945, that the Nazi War Machine surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Forces, ending the war in Europe.

More than one million Canadians and Newfoundlanders served in World War II; more than 45,000 gave their lives and another 55,000 were wounded.

The Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army, played significant roles in many of the major battles and campaigns during World War II.

Sixteen Canadians won the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for bravery in the British Commonwealth.

Dieppe

Canada played a major role in the 1942 raid on the Port of Dieppe, France. Two Canadian soldiers won the Victoria Cross at Dieppe:

Honorary Captain The Reverend John Foote, the
Regimental Padre with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Merritt, Commanding Officer of the South Saskatchewan Regiment.

Reverend Foote’s fellow RHLI Officer, Captain Denis Whitaker, was awarded the first of his two Distinguished Service Orders at Dieppe.  Whitaker, who would finish the war as a Brigadier General, was the only one of the 100 officers who landed on the beach to fight his way into town and return to England unwounded.

Major European Campaigns

Canadians also played a major role in the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, the invasion of Italy in September 1943, D-Day on 6 June 1944 and the Battle of the Scheldt from October to November 1944.

Members of the RCAF also fought in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

The Battle of the Atlantic

The Royal Canadian Navy played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic, a campaign that lasted the entire duration of World War II.

Canada played a key role in the Allied efforts to control the North Atlantic and keep open the shipping lanes carrying vital supplies to Allied forces in Europe.

The BCATP – “The Aerodrome of Democracy”

One of Canada’s greatest contributions to WWII was the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Called the “Aerodrome of Democracy” by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, more than 130,000 personnel from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand graduated from 107 training schools across Canada as pilots, navigators, air gunners, air bombers and flight engineers for the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Air Force, and other Commonwealth air forces.

Canada was an ideal location to train aircrew as it was far enough away from the fighting, with plenty of land away from towns and cities to build training schools. Dozens of airfields were constructed in specific locations across the country, seemingly random, but with an eye to the post-war years when the airfields would be turned over to the local communities. Many municipal airports were originally RCAF aerodromes.

Camp X

Canada also made a major contribution to the “Secret War” by establishing Camp X, Canada’s secret spy school. Officially known as Special Training School #103 but commonly referred to as “Camp X”, was established on 280 acres of land east of Toronto, on the shore of Lake Ontario near the border between the Towns of Oshawa and Whitby.

British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill instructed his friend, the head of the British Security Co-ordination (BSC), Canadian born World War I hero Sir William Stephenson, otherwise known as ‘The Man Called Intrepid”, to establish the camp in Canada for the purpose of training secret operatives in the art of espionage and clandestine warfare.

The last Canadian Winner of the Victoria Cross

Lieutenant (N) Robert Hampton Gray, VC, DSC, has the distinction of being Canada’s last Victoria Cross winner. Lt (N) Grey was a member of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR), colloquially known as “The Wavy Navy”.

On 9 August 1945 at Onagawa Wan, Honshū, Japan, Lt (N) Gray was killed leading a low level attack on a Japanese destroyer. Wounded, his aircraft in flames and in the face of heavy fire from shore batteries and several Japanese ships, Gray succeeded in sinking one destroyer with a direct hit before his airplane crashed into the bay. His body was never recovered.

Although British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill made this statement in reference to The Battle of Britain, it certainly applies to the war itself:

Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”


Also read:

Sources: “Telling our Story: Canada and the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe” by the Canadian War Museum, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieppe_Raid,

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-75th-anniversary-of-the-victory-in-europe/

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