Blog originally posted April 30, 2020
The Second World War in Europe ended May 8, 1945, following Germany's surrender at Rheims, France. Canadian service members played an important role in the final days of the war, especially in the liberation of the Netherlands.
Residents of Simcoe County responded to the news that Peace had come at last with mixed emotions. Everyone was thankful the war in Europe was over but while some rejoiced, others remembered with sorrow those who had died during the conflict.
May 9, 1945 issue of the Bradford Witness & South Simcoe Pioneer News Copyright: Unknown
Word of the surrender was received in the morning of May 7, 1945, but the official announcement and “Victory over Europe" celebrations were not held until the next day. Parades, picnics, sporting events, and bonfires took place, as did many Services of Thanksgiving.
In Midland, the Free Press Herald reported, “Children released from the schools had an unparalleled opportunity to let loose and they did it. Between the whistles and bells, the auto horns and the tin drums, the racket was deafening. The whole town had gone mad."1
On May 8th in Orillia, more than 5,000 people attended an outdoor service, during which the King's speech was broadcast over the public address system.2 The Cookstown and Stayner newspapers reported that the residents of their communities responded with “orderly demonstrations."
The Cookstown Advocate summed up its report on the festivities by noting they “were tempered by a deep feeling of respect to those from this community who had paid the supreme sacrifice and by a sober realization that there are hungry millions in Europe to be fed and still another war to be won."3
Barrie, Canada, and Holten, the Netherlands, are geographically far apart but in May 1945 their residents had something in common – they celebrated Liberation and Victory in streets where Canadian tanks had rolled.
Tank rolling through the Five Points, Barrie, ca. 1942 Copyright:
V-E Day celebrants at the Five Points, Barrie, 1945. Copyright: Public domain.
Germany had invaded the Netherlands in May 1940 and Dutch citizens suffered greatly during the nearly five years of Nazi Occupation. In September 1944, the Canadian First Army embarked on the task of liberating the country. As the Canadians pushed the Germans out of each region, food and other relief was brought in for the millions of desperate residents. The Dutch have not forgotten who freed them from the oppression of Nazi rule so many years ago.
The village of Holten, in the Dutch province of Overijssel, was liberated on April 8, 1945. Each year on May 4th, as part of The Day of the Dead commemorations in the Netherlands, crowds gather in the Holten Canadian War Cemetery to honour the memory of those buried there. The majority are Canadians who were killed in action during April and May 1945.
Thirteen of the graves in the Cemetery belong to men who had connections to Simcoe County. One of the fallen, Trooper George Edward (Ted) Wallace, was a resident of Barrie and attended the Collegiate Institute. On April 20, 1942, he enlisted at Camp Borden, now CFB Borden. Wallace served with the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars). He died April 13, 1945 during the battle to liberate Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. 2015-80_Ted_Wallace Copyright: Public Domain
Roll call of men from Simcoe County buried in the Holten Canadian Military Cemetery
Sergeant Ernest Alexander Aikins, died 22 April 1945.
Rifleman Leonard Desjardin, died 25 April 1945.
Private Patrick Edwin Garraway, died 28 April 1945.
Leading Aircraftman Mervin Elbert Hammill, died 8 January 1946.
Private Joseph Girard Hinds, died 28 April 1945.
Sergeant Charles A. MacNicol, died 22 April 1945.
Lance Corporal Samuel Ross Rutherford, died 3 August 1945.
Private Wilfred Walter Stacey, died 18 April 1945.
Trooper George Edward (Ted) Wallace, died 13 April 1945.
Sergeant Howard Lloyd Clare Willoughby, died 6 May 1945.
Private Gordon Frederick Wood, died 24 April 1945.
Rifleman Mervin Henry York, died 10 April 1945.
Private Kenneth Wilbard Young, died 2 May 1945.
We will remember them
Click here for more information about these men from Simcoe County.
Click here for the complete Roll of the Second World War Dead of Simcoe County.
1. “Midland Salutes Victory: Wild Enthusiasm, Parades and Church Services," Free Press Herald, (Midland, ON), May 9, 1945.
2. “5,000 attend VE-Day Celebration Service Here: Church Representatives Conduct Solemn Service At Oval Park," News-Letter, (Orillia, ON), May 9, 1945.
3. “Victory Celebrated: Orderly Demonstrations mark VE Day Here" Advocate (Cookstown, ON), May 10, 1945.
Simcoe County Archives sources consulted:
Witness and South Simcoe News (Bradford, ON), May 9, 1945.
Advocate (Cookstown, ON), May 10, 1945.
Star (Creemore, ON), May 10, 1945.
Special VE-Day edition. Free Press Herald, (Midland, ON), May 8, 1945.
Free Press Herald, (Midland, ON), May 9, 1945.
News-Letter (Orillia, ON), May 9, 1945.
Sun, (Stayner, ON), May 10, 1945.
Exernal sources consulted:
"Commonwealth War Graves Commission." Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Accessed March 2020. https://www.cwgc.org/.
Veterans Affairs Canada. "Books of Remembrance." Memorials - Remembrance - Veterans Affairs, Canada, May 24, 2019. Accessed March 2020. https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/books .
“Home." Canadese Begraafplaats Holten. Accessed May 3, 2020. https://www.canadesebegraafplaatsholten.nl/en/home/. [Holten Canadian War Cemetery Centre]
Related County of Simcoe resources: