Find a veteran and say thank you

Share Adjust Comment Print

The Soviets were marching in on Berlin from the east and the Western Allies from the west. Hitler supposedly committed suicide in his bunker.

On May 7, 1945, at Reims in France, the German High Command surrendered all of the German forces, East and West, unconditionally to the Allies.

That was the first paper surrender, but the fighting continued another day especially on the eastern front until the second legal ‘German Instrument of Surrender’ was sign at 9:20 p.m. in Karlshorst, Berlin on May 8, by the German Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the Allied Expeditionary Force, and the Supreme High Command of the Soviet Red Army.

This is the 75th Anniversary of World War II’s Victory in Europe. VE Day is celebrate by some on May 7th; but most of Europe and North America celebrate it on May 8th, while Victory Day in Russia, Belarus, Serbia and Israel is May 9th.

It would take another four months until September 2nd for the war in the Pacific to end with Japan’s surrender. From the time Germany invaded Poland on Sept 1, 1939 and the final surrender six years later there were 2,194 days of battles and killings.

In Europe we had the Allied Expeditionary Force, usually referred to as the Allies, and the Axis Powers also known as Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis, however the total number of countries involved in the war, in total, was 190! (Wikipedia has all 190 listed and a write up on each.) It is an amazing list to read with some places never heard of today as they are were assimilated into larger countries.

Neutral countries did not declare allegiance to either side, for many varied reasons. Afghanistan, Andorra, Ireland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Tibet, Vatican City, and Yemen were neutral but that didn’t mean they were not harmed or used during the war. Many were bombed by either side, or both sides, like Switzerland, who being in the heart of Europe had cities bombed, hundreds of aircraft landed, and citizens killed by both sides. Columbia, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland supplied the United Kingdom with voluntary troops, and Spain aided the Axis powers. Other neutral countries including Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were invaded by the Nazis; Iceland was invaded by the British, and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were invaded by the Soviets.

Most families in Canada today were greatly touched by this war. Most have had a family member on either side of the various fronts across Europe, on the Atlantic, in the Arctic, in the Middle East, and in Africa. All these areas are part of the Victory in Europe.

I had two uncles in the war. Bruce Turner my father’s eldest brother joined the Royal Canadian Navy and shipped out from Halifax, Jan 13, 1942 on the H.M.C.S. Rimouski as an Engine Room Artificer. As he stepped aboard, he remembered to salute, took one look at his home for the next 27 months and said to himself, “Make every day you may not have many.” He served on two ships on the North Atlantic troop and supply crossovers and one at Bermuda. He lived.

His brother Sidney became an RCAF flight officer (pilot) which Dad though very weird as he had trouble driving a car, but off he went for honour and glory. On Sept. 7-8, 1942, he and five other men took off from the Royal Air Force base at Abu Sueir, Egypt between 19:15 and 19:36 hrs. to bomb the harbour and shipping at Tobruk, Libya. The aircraft and crew of six failed to return and were reported missing, then later reported dead. His parents never knew anything more than that, however in the 1990s we discovered that Sid and his men are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial in Egypt. It was a relief for my father to learn what had happened and that his name was honoured.

A pseudo uncle, Nelson, was a dear friend of the family and also in the RCAF but was shot down over Italy and by Feb. 10, 1943 was in Germany’s Stalag Luft III, known for ‘the Great Escape.’ He recalled that he and most others helped to gather needed items, but had no intention of trying to escape and were not pleased with the attempts, for every time they failed, all the men in the camp suffered and some were killed. Uncle Nelson lived. Too many of my parents’ other friends did not.

Victory in Europe was 75 years ago. Who in your family was crying with relief, either at home or on the front lines when victory was declared? Get that old box out of the closet or attic and talk about what you have heard from your parents or grandparents when the war was on. Who died? Who was captured? Who lived? It is a good time to save this information.

Over one million Canadians served in WWII, and only 33,000 (approximately) are still alive. Find one. Say thank you.