VE-Day: How it unfolded, told through CBC's original reports

Seventy years ago, then-British prime minister Winston Churchill declared May 8, 1945, to be "Victory in Europe Day" after a gruelling five-year war against Nazi Germany and its allies. Here's a look at what happened, through reports from CBC's archives.

Original coverage by CBC's reporters shows what happened and what the original VE Day was like

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth are joined by their daughters, Princess Elizabeth (left) and Princess Margaret (right), on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as the crowd cheers at their VE Day appearance on May 8, 1945. ((Associated Press))
  Seventy years ago, then-British prime minister Winston Churchill declared May 8, 1945, to be "Victory in Europe Day" after a gruelling five-year war against Nazi Germany and its allies.

The day before, people had already started celebrating amid news that Hitler had committed suicide in his so-called Fuehrerbunker in Berlin days prior, and Germany has surrendered unconditionally.

Canada celebrated, too. It had joined the war effort early, with its first troops departing for Europe at the end of 1939. More than one million Canadians performed full-time duty during the war. They fought in the raid on Dieppe and at Juno Beach on the shores of Normandy.

More than 40,000 Canadians died in service, while about 8,000 were captured as prisoners of war.

On VE Day, churches rang their bells and remained open for anyone wishing to offer a prayer. Locals filled the streets in cities across the country, and in Toronto an aircraft dropped confetti made from telegraph paper on revellers dancing in the streets.

This year, for VE Day's 70th anniversary, the U.K. is commemorating with three days of events, including remembrance services, a parade and the lighting of more than 100 beacons.

The following reports about VE Day come from CBC's news archives.

VE Day:

Tears and defiance as the Germans sign the Berlin surrender, with the ruined city as a backdrop.

The signature of German Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl is shown on an original VE Day "Instrument of Surrender," signed on May 7, 1945, at Allied headquarters in Rheims, France, to end the war in Europe. (Reuters)
King George VI speaks to the Empire on VE-Day. An address by the king praises "those who bore arms so valiantly" during the war.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King addresses Canada on VE Day. "The Nazi beast has been slain, but we must fight Japanese militarism until total victory is achieved."

Tulips, flags and streamers greet Dutch liberators on VE-Day. Marcel Ouimet reports on a marvellous VE-Day reception for Canadians in Holland.

How Canadian forces brought 'sweetest of springs' to Netherlands. Mark Zuehlke, author of On to Victory: the Canadian Liberation of The Netherlands, describes the 44 days of war during what is known in The Netherlands as "the sweetest of springs."

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is credited as one of the major forces that held the Allied war effort together. (Central Press/Getty Images)
The liberation of Amsterdam, a story of love, death and war.  The account of what happened in the lives of Canadian soldier Wilf Gildersleeve and Margriet Blaisse, a young woman living in Amsterdam.

Can the war really be over? Reporter Matthew Halton ponders the news that Germany has surrendered.

UN conference capitalizes on victory in Europe. A commentary by Willson Woodside on the mood at the United Nations conference in San Francisco on VE-Day.

'On to Tokyo' as focus shifts in Second World War. There's no flag-waving in the streets of the U.S. capital on VE-Day. "We still have a war to win, haven't we?" the locals tell a puzzled CBC correspondent when he asks why they're not celebrating. In the United States, the end of war in Europe simply means a shift in focus to the western horizon, across the Pacific.

Canadian celebrations:

VE Day celebrations on Bay Street in Toronto. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Canada celebrates victory in Europe. Victory flags are flying high, church bells are ringing, and people are celebrating in the streets. It's May 7, 1945, and the Allies have secured victory in Europe, While the official announcement won't come until May 8, Canadians across the country are celebrating this as a time of remembrance and victory while keeping their resolve focused on the war still being fought in the Pacific. CBC Radio marks VE Day with reports from celebrations across the country.

A soldier on VE-Day: 'I was all mixed up today.' As the news of victory sinks in, Capt. Frank "Bud" Lynch isn't sure where he wants to be most: with his battalion in Europe, at home with his loved ones, or surveying the scene in Piccadilly Circus in London. Lynch is a soldier who's back in Canada when the Germans surrender. On a CBC International Service program for servicemen overseas, Lynch describes walking among boisterous crowds in Toronto and thinking of the chums who gave up their lives.

A crowd in Montreal celebrates VE Day on May 8, 1945. (The Canadian Press)
Montrealers celebrate victory in Europe. A man in a Hitler mask is the star of the show on Ste. Catherine St.

In Halifax, In Halifax, the VE Day celebrations got out of hand. An amateur cameraman captures scenes of a mob breaking shop windows on Barrington Street.

Sailors, civilians loot a brewery, local shops in Halifax.

Heading home:

Allied prisoners of war liberated from German prisons. For hundreds of liberated Allied prisoners of war, the trip out of hell begins at a Canadian airfield in Germany. For months and years, these men have endured poor food, cramped bunks and nonexistent medical attention in German prison camps. Now they're waiting to be flown to England, where hot showers and clean clothes beckon. Dirty and emaciated, they relate their ordeal to air force reporter Warren Wilkes in this CBC Radio clip.

British Premier Winston Churchill (left), Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (right) and U.S. President Harry S. Truman shake hands during the Potsdam conference to negotiate the destiny of Germany and the future of Europe after WWII. (AFP/Getty)
Soldiers rest at Ratzeburg after war. Canadian airmen awaiting transport home pass the time fishing, boating and horseback riding at a plush German villa.

Back on 'Civvy Street' after the Second World War. On the CBC Radio program The Soldier's Return, host Royd Beamish relates the experiences of soldiers who have returned to civilian life. 

Preparing for peace after the Second World War. At a conference in San Francisco, representatives from 50 countries look beyond the inevitable German surrender, the redrawing of national boundaries and the problem of millions of refugees displaced by war. Their goal is to prevent another world war by drafting the charter of the United Nations. Planning for peace is crucial, says host Malcolm Wallace of the CBC Radio program Citizens' Forum.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?