E507 – 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe
On May 8th, 2020, we mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day – marking Victory in Europe during the Second World War. The fighting continued in the Asian theatre for a few more months and ended on August 14, 1945 with Victory in Japan – VJ Day.
In this episode of the podcast we are talking to Mayor Walter Sendzik who tells us about his trip to the Netherlands and Bergen op Zoom in October 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands and the contributions of local soldiers in that campaign. Kathleen Powell and Adrian Petry will also chat about St. Catharines and the home front during the Second World War and about how the city welcomed its soldiers home to the community.
During the six years that this war raged across the globe, 1,086,343 Canadian men and women enlisted. For a country with a population of 12 million, this would have been a considerable contribution.
The war had a massive financial cost to the country – estimated at $21,786,077,519 – and that price tag does not include the cost of post-war medical expenses and payments to dependants as well as pensions for veterans.
On top of the monetary cost, the human cost was staggering for a country such as Canada: 43,671 were killed, including 2343 from the Royal Canadian Navy, 22,917 from the Army, 17,101 from the Royal Canadian Air Force and 1,629 from the Merchant Marine. Additionally, more than 50,000 armed personnel were wounded with roughly 29,000 considered seriously disabled from their wounds.
St. Catharines men and women combatants began returning home in late September 1945 with the men of 10th Battery Royal Canadian Artillery. The men of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment returned about 4 months later in January 1946. When these troops returned home to the train station, there was a huge parade that took the soldiers across the Burgoyne Bridge, down St. Paul Street, in front of City Hall and then to the Armouries where they were dismissed to greet their family members.
Other men and women of the armed forces returned home individually or in smaller groups throughout the next months.
It is estimated that 4000 men and 150 women from St. Catharines enlisted in the armed forces – double the enlistment in the First World War – and 215 were killed. Their names are inscribed on two memorial tablets that can now be seen on the entrance façade at City Hall.
1- Virtual Exhibition “Coming Home: St. Catharines and the End of WWII” is available on History Pin.