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The sounds of peace, ten years after war’s end

The Story

The guns have fallen silent. For six years, the Second World War permeated daily life. In this CBC Radio retrospective, host Lorne Greene introduces remarkable recollections of the Allied victory. A soldier remembers crying on his bunk. The Canadian wife of another soldier recalls the flood of relief she felt when found out that her man had survived. Children sing on bomb-cratered Lambeth Walk in London. Winston Churchill, in a radio address, victoriously declares "Advance Britannia!" Peace has come at last. 

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: May 8, 1955
Guests: Winston Churchill, Ross Parry, Tommy Trinder, Walter Tubbs
Host: Lorne Greene, Ruth Springford
Duration: 11:26
Photo: National Archives of Canada PA-112805

Did You know?

• VE (Victory in Europe) Day was May 8, 1945. The news flash of Germany's surrender actually reached Canada at 9:36 ET on the morning of May 7. Parties broke out but abated somewhat as revellers, fearing a false alarm, waited for the official announcement from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. His radio address, heard in Canada on the morning of May 8, triggered official celebrations across Canada.

• After VE-Day, Canadian soldiers had the option of discharge or remaining in uniform to either fight in Asia or be part of the occupying force in Europe.

• The fighting didn't end until Japan surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945. The following day was declared Victory in Japan (VJ) Day.

• Representatives of 10 nations gathered in Japan on Sept. 2, 1945 to formally declare the end of hostilities. Canadian representative Col. Moore Cosgrove unexpectedly enlivened the surrender ceremony by signing on the wrong line.

• The war's effect on Canada was enormous. More than one million men and women enlisted, about one in 12 Canadians. More than 45,000 of them, mostly young men, were killed.

• Roughly 55,000 soldiers were wounded; many were left with permanent disabilities.

• After sacrificing their best years to the war, troops marched home to uncertainty when it came to their education, jobs, housing and personal relationships.

• Life on the homefront had also changed dramatically.
- Canada had moved from the Great Depression to a booming economy.
- Women, pressured to stay at home before the war, had worked in factories, offices and the Armed Forces.
- Pressure was building on the government to provide Canadians with a range of social programs.
- Canadian politicians, once unwaveringly deferential to Britain, talked in terms of equality with its wartime ally.

• The Canadian government began preparing for the war's end and a potentially difficult readjustment to peacetime long before German and Japanese surrender.

• On Dec. 9, 1939, only three months after Canada joined the war, the federal cabinet established the Committee on Demobilization and Re-Establishment.

• The committee would eventually become the Department of Reconstruction and Supply.

• Sgt. Ross Parry, the reporter for The Maple Leaf heard in this clip, later wrote that his boss scolded him for agreeing not to break the story of German surrender until it had been officially announced. An Associated Press reporter broke the embargo and got a worldwide scoop. Still, Parry wrote, "I was there, and I got all the bits and pieces together, and that's what mattered to me. And there was the event itself, surpassing all the wildest dreams of a budding journalist."

• Gen. Alfred Jodl, the German officer Parry described in the clip, had been a close and trusted subordinate of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. After he signed the capitulation agreement, Jodl was convicted at Nuremberg of issuing orders that violated the rules of war. He was hanged on Oct. 16, 1946.

• Lambeth Walk, the London site of the singing in this clip, was famous for its bustling street market full of colourful Cockneys. The street, less than two kilometers from the Houses of Parliament, was sometimes hit by stray German bombs. The market, however, remained open throughout the war.

• Lorne Greene, the co-host of this special, was known as the "the Voice of Doom" for his wartime newscasts. When this clip aired in 1955 to mark a decade of peace, Greene had briefly returned to Canada after acting stints on the Broadway stage and a debut movie role. Four years later, in 1959, Greene won the part that made him a huge television star - Ben "Pa" Cartwright on NBC's Bonanza.

• Listen to the rest of this remarkable one-hour program.



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