CBC Digital Archives

VE-Day: Back on 'Civvy Street'

May 8, 1945, was a day to celebrate. It was VE-Day, the long-awaited moment when the Allied forces triumphed over Nazi Germany to claim victory in Europe. But the joy brought by news of peace was dampened by the memory of fallen comrades and the ongoing war in the Pacific. From the liberation of Holland through the German surrender, celebrations in Canada and the servicemen's return, CBC Archives follows Canadians as the war ends in Europe.

They all did the same job together in Europe: working to defeat the Axis powers. Now, with the war there over, Canadian servicemen's thoughts turn to what kinds of jobs await them at home. Some will return to their prewar posts, while others will take advantage of government funding to train in new careers. On the CBC Radio program The Soldier's Return, host Royd Beamish relates the experiences of soldiers who have already returned to civilian life. 
. During the war, women entered the workforce to replace men who had gone to war. Women worked as pilots and mechanics, in factories and on farms.
. With the war over, many women were reluctant to give up their jobs to returning servicemen. The women had become accustomed to the freedom and paycheques their jobs gave them.
. Listen to the clip "Women of WWII: what is women's work?" from the CBC Archives topic On Every Front: Canadian Women in the Second World War.

. In 1945 the Canadian government was determined not to repeat the mistakes after the First World War. According to the book Victory 1945: Canadians from War to Peace, in 1919 the federal government was more concerned about paying off the national debt than providing for former servicemen. Jobless and often shell-shocked, many returned soldiers had to turn to soup kitchens to survive.

. Some First World War vets took advantage of the government's Soldier Settlement Act to become farmers.
. The Canadian Department of Veterans Affairs was founded in 1944 to handle all facets of postwar treatment of former servicemen.

. The Veterans Charter of 1944 provided clothing allowances, war-service gratuities and one year's medical treatment for all returning servicemen. Those disabled by the war also received pensions, ongoing treatment for their disabilities and special help in finding jobs.
. The Veterans' Land Act offered former servicemen low-interest loans to buy farms.

. Another program paid for vocational training or a university education for any man or woman who had served in the armed forces during the war.
. The government of Mackenzie King had also passed a law guaranteeing servicemen their prewar jobs. However, they were not entitled to the pay raises or promotions they might have missed out on.
. Between 1946 and 1950 the single largest government expenditure went to rehabilitation for former servicemen.

. After the war, Canadians who served with the merchant marine in the Second World War fought to gain the same benefits and recognition afforded veterans. See a CBC Archives clip about their struggle.
. For some servicemen, the benefits of the end of war in Europe began before they were even back on Canadian soil. Listen to a clip in which airmen awaiting transport home enjoy boating, fishing and horseback riding at a plush German villa in late May 1945.
Medium: Radio
Program: The Soldier's Return
Broadcast Date: May 30, 1945
Speaker: Royd Beamish
Duration: 13:54
Photo: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / Library and Archives Canada

Last updated: November 7, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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