On May 4, 1945, Canadian artillery captain David Francis found himself near the village of Otterloo, Holland. Shell fire on both sides had diminished noticeably. Both sides tried to avoid last minute casualties. That night, the eve of Dutch liberation, the quartermaster arranged a party for the troops. The local citizenry were also invited, Francis recalled. At the height of the party news came over the radio of the surrender of the German forces in Holland ... The loud resulting cheers were suddenly hushed as all the Dutch people present stood and, with tears streaming down their cheeks, sang their national anthem, and sang it again, and yet again as these normally undemonstrative Dutch people gave vent to their pent-up emotions and the realization sank in that they were free at last of the Nazi yoke.
When the German capitulation in Europe came on May 8th – VE Day – celebrations swept the continent.
Festivities also spilled into the streets of Halifax, Ottawa, Sudbury, Regina and Vancouver back home. Both the liberators and the liberated erupted in fits of cheers and singing, tears and hugging, dancing, praying, flag-waving, bonfires, parades, and every other demonstration of delight imaginable.
It was, to be sure, a sweet day and a bitter one for millions of people whose lives had been changed forever by nearly six years of global war. This day, and the long days of war that led to it, come to life in Days of Victory: 60th Anniversary Edition. This volume of wartime remembrance carries the reader from the early days the Second World War – when Canadians in combat experienced more trials than triumphs – when those on the homefront endured rationing, yearning and tremendous social upheaval – where, beyond the wire of POW camps, prisoners (Allied and German) masterminded and executed escapes – and where so-called "aliens" inside Canadian internment camps fought to prove their loyalty.
Ultimately, the book offers the voices of the Canadians' ultimate march to victory that began on D-Day in 1944 and culminated in VE and VJ Day, more than a year later. Contained here are the stories of average volunteers, some of whom became well known after the war including war correspondents Ross Munro, Matthew Halton and J.D. MacFarlane; broadcasters Marcel Ouimet, Art Cole and Clyde Gilmour; seamen Dave Broadfoot, Murray Westgate and Scott Young; air crew Buzz Beurling, Marion Orr and Phil Marchaldon; and army troops James Doohan and Barney Danson as well as homegrown entertainers such as Fred Davis, Alan and Blanche Lund, Murray Ginsberg, Victor Feldbrill, Robert Goodier and comedians Wayne and Shuster.
From interviews, research and images originally gathered by father and son writing team Alex and Ted Barris best-selling author Ted Barris has broadened the initial manuscript to include stories of Canadian heroism in the Pacific war, accounts of Canadian war correspondents battling to beat the censors, more first-hand impressions of the Canadians who liberated Europe and from the civilians they liberated in Italy, France, Belgium, Denmark and finally Holland. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of European liberation this book gives voice to perhaps Canada's greatest generation, those who gave the world a second chance. The "Days of Victory" is enhanced by 32 pages of personal/archival photographs and maps.
One could compare reading this book to browsing through an album of old photographs or being in a Canadian Legion lounge on Remembrance Day, listening to the war stories of former service personnel...Sixty years after the end of the great conflict, there are fewer and fewer men and women to describe the way it was then. Thankfully, books such as this will keep those stories-- and their memories-- alive for a long time.
For a nation rapidly losing its wartime elders, Days of Victory provides a helpful bridge between the past and future generations who will grow up with no living vets to help nourish their awareness of the sacrifices made by legions of young Canadians from 1939 to 1945.
This oral history is replete with first-hand accounts of events. It is a comprehensive survey that looks at Canada's experience of war from every conceivable angle.
... an important contribution to our understanding of the Canadian experience of the Second World War... worth the while of any history reader.