Victory in Europe (V-E) Day on May 8, 1945 marked the official end of the Second World War in Europe. It was a joyful day celebrated by many in Canada, Europe and other Allied Nations around the world.
On May 8, 2020, the City of Toronto commemorated 75 years since V-E Day by honouring all those who made the ultimate sacrifice as well as our surviving Second World War veterans. In addition, we remembered the triumphant scenes that unfolded across Toronto and around the world on that day, that reminded us of the resilience of the people who had all contributed to the victory.
The 75th anniversary of V-E Day was an especially important recognition due to the aging veteran population, the limited opportunities remaining to thank them for their service, and the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the older members of our community.
The Second World War was a defining event in Canadian history, transforming a quiet country into a key player in the most important struggle of the 20th century. Among the million Canadians who served in the military, 47,000 Canadians gave their lives, more than 3,400 of these were from Toronto.
Globally, the War claimed the lives of more than 80 million people worldwide from virtually every nation. Many of those who fought, on all sides, have since settled in Toronto along with refugees as a result of the war.
The war was a total effort which involved many on the home front who worked in factories, aided militia and reserve regiments, promoted public spirit and morale of the troops and supported their loved ones who were abroad and at sea.
At war’s end, Canada had become a significant military power with the world’s third largest navy, the fourth largest air force and an army of six divisions. Canada had grown significantly through the ordeal of the war and assumed new responsibilities as a leading member of the world community.
Although most of Toronto’s military contributions were involved in the European conflict, the Second World War officially ended on August 15, 1945 when Japan surrendered, finally ending all hostilities.
V-E Day has been commemorated by the City of Toronto on significant anniversaries. This international date is commemorated thought the world as well. Commemorations were planned widely around the world on the 75th anniversary, given that it would have been one of the last opportunities where veterans would still be able to participate as all of them are in their 90s. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the City’s physical commemoration service plans were cancelled.
V-E Day Photo Exhibit
V-E Day: See the virtual: V-E Day photo exhibit.
The City’s Golden Book of Remembrance pays tribute to those who perished in the Second World War. These books contain the names of service people from Toronto who paid the ultimate sacrifice. The book was officially dedicated by the City on December 28, 1947 and contains the names of more than 3,400 servicemen and servicewomen from Toronto who gave their lives between 1939 and 1945. The book is normally housed at the City of Toronto Archives.
The Mayor issued a proclamation to commemorate V-E Day that can be found on the Proclamations page.
The Mayor placed a wreath at the Old City Hall Cenotaph at dawn to commemorate all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Second World War.
A large sized Canadian Flag was raised on Nathan Phillips Square at Toronto City Hall in a spirit of celebration to mark this 75th anniversary of V-E Day. The flag was raised as a lone trumpeter played Reveille, a bright, cheerful call to rouse soldiers from their slumber, ready for the day ahead. The Reveille symbolises an awakening in a better world for the dead, and rouses the living to duty after paying respects to their fallen comrades.
Marking the 75th year since the Normandy invasions by allied forces, a City of Toronto Flag was flown at the Juno Beach Centre in France on April 9, 2019 (Vimy Ridge Day).
The flag was returned to the City and flew at City Hall on the Podium Roof on May 8, 2020.
The Toronto Sign and the City Hall Tower Lights were lit in a combination of red/white/blue to celebrate the 75th anniversary of V-E Day. This combination reminds us of the colours under which Canadian Forces fought at the time, as well as those of our principal allies, the United States and United Kingdom.
Veterans Affairs Canada:
June 6, 2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when we remembered the courage of those who fought in the Allied Forces’ invasion of Normandy, France. This anniversary was marked in a solemn ceremony at the Cenotaph at Old City Hall in addition to other initiatives, partnerships and commemorative activities.
In previous years, the City of Toronto D-Day commemorations have featured a Canadian D-Day veteran as a guest speaker. We were honoured to have had the veterans join us for the City’s D-Day ceremonies. View their remarks.
D-Day was part of Operation Overlord, the plan for the liberation of Europe. It was the final push by the Allied Forces to win back control of Europe during the Second World War. The D-Day invasions were the start of the year-long Battle of Normandy. It would end with the German surrender on V-E (Victory in Europe) Day, May 8, 1945. The operation was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Canada’s goal was to secure an eight-kilometre-long stretch of French beach and move towards an inland airfield.
The D simply stands for “day.” The designation was traditionally used for the date of any important military operation or invasion. The day before June 6, 1944, was known as D-1 and the days after were D+1, D+2, D+ and so on. As the date of the invasion could only take place in certain weather conditions, planning was based on a day without a date.
Visit the Toronto Archives D-Day Web Exhibit for a collection of photos captured by Lieutenant Gilbert Milne, a photographer with the Royal Canadian Navy.
Marking the 75th year since the Normandy invasions by allied forces, the City sent a City of Toronto Flag to the Juno Beach Centre in France. With the kind permission of the Centre, the flag flew on Juno Beach on April 9, 2019, Vimy Ridge Day, and was subsequently returned to City Hall.
The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy. The Centre pays tribute to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War. There were 5,500 Canadians killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 Canadians were killed on D-Day.
The flag was raised on the Podium Roof courtesy flagpole on Nathan Phillips Square on June 6, 2019 as the City of Toronto commemorated D-Day with veterans, diplomatic representatives, the City’s Honour Guards and many others who gathered at the Old City Hall Cenotaph.
On June 6, 2020 this flag was raised at Toronto City Hall along with a bugler from the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.
The flag will fly each year on June 6 at Toronto City Hall. It will also fly on Remembrance Day and on other occasions.
The City of Toronto partnered with Veterans Affairs Canada in hosting the Journey across Canada –Toronto ceremony on May 15, 2019 at Union Station.
The Journey across Canada presents combat boots of veterans as a symbol of the many Canadians who served during the D-Day landings and in the Battle of Normandy. As they stop across the country, ceremonies will commemorate the Canadians who fought and sacrificed to defend peace and freedom during the Second World War.
A pair of combat boots from this initiative were displayed in the Rotunda of Toronto City Hall along with historical photographs on June 6, 2019.
William (“George”) Carpenter is a Royal Canadian Artillery veteran of the Second World War, and currently a resident of Kipling Acres, one of 10 long-term care homes operated by the City of Toronto.
On May 9, 2019, George was formally invested as a Knight in the French National Order of the Legion of Honour during a ceremony in Kipling Acres.
The French National Order of the Legion of Honour was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. Since 2014, the Government of France has been awarding its highest medal, the Legion of Honour, to veterans who participated in the liberation of France from June 6 to August 30, 1944.
2018 marked 100 years since the end of the First World War, also known as the Great War. To commemorate this anniversary, the City of Toronto hosted several special commemorations.
On Sunday, November 11, 500 members of the Canadian Armed Forces paraded north on University Avenue from Union Station to symbolize the return of soldiers from the First World War. They marched from the train station as they would have done in 1918-1919.
250 serving members of the 32 Brigade witnessed the ceremony at the Old City Hall Cenotaph.
250 members of the Canadian Armed Forces continued to march north to Queen’s Park to participate in the Provincial ceremony.
The City of Toronto identified the names of more than 3,200 people who died during the First World War and were members of Toronto-based regiments. To commemorate their sacrifice, a book named the Great War Book of Remembrance was made, which will list the names of these individuals. It was officially dedicated by Mayor John Tory on Wednesday, November 7 at City Hall.
The book has 100 pages to reflect this year’s armistice centennial. 18 of the pages are blank to accommodate more names as they are identified in the years to come.
The title page is calligraphed by Mark Lurz, President of Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto. It shows two flags and three badges. The flags are the Royal Union Flag and Red Ensign (1871-1921). The three badges include maple leaves, which would have appeared on soldiers cap badges and buttons and would have helped to identify them as Canadian soldiers.
The City of Toronto has a book of the war dead from the Second World War, called the Golden Book of Remembrance. It was officially dedicated by the City on December 28, 1947, and contains the names of 3,300 servicemen and five women from Toronto.
The book is available at the City of Toronto Archives (255 Spadina Rd.).
Mayor John Tory joined the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Commonwealth Consular Corps for a special rededication ceremony on November 10, 2018, in Coronation Park (711 Lake Shore Blvd. W.).
The park is an important commemorative space and is possibly the largest First World War memorial in Toronto. It is being restored to its original design as a permanent memorial to Canada and Toronto’s war effort. The first phase of this redesign was completed in November 2018.
Coronation Park on the waterfront is a living war memorial that was opened to commemorate King George VI’s coronation on May 12, 1937.
The trees in the park commemorate the service and sacrifice of Canada’s military forces, principally those from the Great War (also known as the First World War) and embody the spirit of idealism that emerged following the horrors of the war.
144 trees were planted to commemorate Canada’s military in honour of the King’s coronation. This was the largest tree planting of its kind in Canada at the time. Each tree was ceremonially placed by veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
On August 1, 1938, veterans returned to simultaneously unveil plaques, with one tree to commemorate each unit that fought.
During the 1939 royal visit of the King and Queen, war veterans and the Men of the Trees and Toronto students planted 123 sugar maples along Remembrance Drive as the royal vehicle passed by.
On Sunday, November 11 at sunset (4:56 p.m.) bells across Toronto rang 100 times to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War. This initiative, called Bells of Peace, was led by the Royal Canadian Legion in partnership with the Government of Canada.
The ringing of bells symbolized the church bells that rang across Europe in 1918 for the end of the Great War. The City of Toronto rang the bell at Old City Hall.