The coronavirus pandemic has cancelled virtually all of the public commemorative celebrations that had been scheduled to mark this year’s major milestone of the end of WWII in Europe.
In Canada efforts are being made to remember May 8. Victory in Europe, or VE Day.
Canada Post has just released two new stamps to mark the occasion. They tell both interesting and amazing tales.
- RCI: 2019: History- VE Day
- RCI: April 2020 :Major remembrance ceremonies cancelled but remembrance continues (interview)
In April, Canadian Pte Leo Major of the Regiment de la Chaudiere was with the Canadian force advancing through Holland and liberating the Dutch. A grenade blast earlier had left him with only one good eye but he had refused to be shipped home. Having already proven his incredible daring on several occasions since landing on D-Day, he volunteered with his friend, Cpl Welly Arsenault for a reconnaisance mission to the town of Zwolle before the planned artillery barrage.
The two figured the heavily occupied town was too beautiful to be destroyed so they figured they would liberate it themselves. Arsenault was killed in a skirmish with a German patrol, and Major, infuriated at the death of his pal decided to proceed alone.
With a captured German staff car, he ordered the driver to take him to the commander and incredible bravado and bluster he fooled the Germans into believing they were surrounded and should evacuate. Leaving the commander he then ran through the town shooting and throwing grenades so the Germans would think an assault was underway. Along the way he captured several German patrols.
By morning with the Germans gone, it was clear Major’s heroic bluff and daring had worked and he had single handedly liberated and preserved the town. To this day is memory is honoured by the town of Zwolle.
The other stamp commemorates Veronica Foster. Thanks to American influence on Canadian culture, many Canadians will have heard of the fictitious “Rosie the Riveter” a tribute to the women who took over men’s jobs to work in the factories and shipyards, and aircraft makers during the war.
What most people don’t know is that this well-known American icon was copied from Canada’s real life munitions worker Veronica Foster, a worker at the Inglis factory in Toronto.
Inglis was an industrial maker of such thing as industrial pumps, big ship’s boilers and engines and other heavy manufacturing. During the Second World War, the factory began producing firearms, notably the Browning Hi-power pistol, and the iconic Bren light machine gun.
Ronnie the Bren Gun girl was a creation of the government as a public relations campaign to promote women workers during the war and encourage other women into the workforce as more male workers joined the military. The concept was very successful leading Americans to copy the idea and create their fictional character.
The new stamps join other commemorative product from the Royal Canadian Mint to commemorate VE Day.