On September 10, 1939, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King announced that King George VI had declared war on Germany. Canada joined the conflict in support of her allies, the United Kingdom, France, Poland, and the other members of the British Commonwealth. Toronto and the rest of Canada enthusiastically stepped up to meet the challenge of war: thousands of people joined the armed services, industrial manufacturers of consumer goods shifted to the production of wartime equipment, women joined the workforce in droves, and there was eager support for war-effort fundraising.
The war affected all aspects of daily life. There was a sense of excitement and tremendous patriotism which lifted people out of the gloom of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This exhilaration was offset by wartime hardships, such as shortages in housing, food staples, alcohol, and fuel. Families were separated and most people knew someone who had been injured or died in the fighting.
After six long years of war, the news of Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945 was met with jubilation, tempered by the knowledge that fighting continued in the Pacific against Japan. The next day, the City of Toronto responded with a civic service of praise and thanksgiving to commemorate Victory in Europe Day. Over 20,000 people attended the ceremony at the cenotaph in front of City Hall. This was followed by another service to celebrate Victory over Japan Day on August 15, 1945, which finally marked the end of the Second World War.
Seventy-five years after V-E Day and V-J Day, there are few left among us who participated in those two celebrations of victory. This exhibit produced by the City of Toronto Archives will help us to understand and share the feelings of joy and relief experienced all those years ago.
Next page – War on the Homefront