On Tuesday, May 8, 1945, citizens of the the Allied Powers celebrated V-E Day, which marked the final victory over Nazi Germany.
The plans for Victoria’s local observances had been finalized in mid-April, in anticipation of the German surrender. At 6:36 AM on Monday, Victoria residents tuned to CJVI Radio had heard the official news of the end of the war in Europe. The following afternoon, when amateur filmmaker George F. Lowe went out to join the city’s V-E Day celebrations, he took along his 8 mm movie camera.
Mr. Lowe arrived at the corner of Douglas and Fort Streets some time before 2 pm. People would soon be lined up “ten deep” all along the route of the victory parade. Eventually, he picked a spot on the east side of Douglas—between Fort Street and View Street, across from the David Spencer department store—and captured footage of the parade. Afterwards, he followed the crowds to Beacon Hill Park, where an outdoor service of thanksgiving would take place.
My description of Mr. Lowe’s footage has been supplemented with details from coverage in The Daily Colonist and the Victoria Daily Times.
Parade watchers on the east side of Douglas Street at Humboldt, Victoria, May 9, 1945. (BC Archives I-20520 [detail]; Frank Boucher photo]
0:10 The camera looks on as people gather to watch the parade. Some (who may also have cameras) are already standing on car bumpers or stepladders. (Initially, Mr. Lowe’s view is obscured by the backs of heads; by 0:53, however, he has found a better vantage point.)
0:36 Several minutes later, the parade is well underway, and the Victoria Girls’ Drill Team marches by. Each member of the team is carrying a small flag — either Canada’s Union Jack, or the Stars and Stripes of the U.S.A. Three months later, this very popular drill team would also march in Victoria’s V-J Day Parade.
0:53 Two girls in traditional costume pass the camera, carrying Norwegian flags. Immediately behind them is a contingent of Russian Canadians, with banners for three ethnic cultural groups: the Ukrainian Canadian Association, the Russian Canadian Federation, and the Workers Benevolent Association.
1:08 More flags precede a unidentified marching band. (Can anyone tell us who they might be?)
1:22 A large delegation (“more than 100”) from Victoria’s Chinese community, carrying flags of the allied nations.
1:38 A cluster of vehicles marks the end of the formal parade. The camera pans right to show the huge press of people, as onlookers surge onto Douglas Street to join the procession. According to the Colonist‘s report of the day’s events, this was the largest crowd ever seen on a single Victoria street. City Hall and the Hudson’s Bay store can be seen in the distance.
1:54 Two fragmentary street shots, possibly showing friends encountered in the crowd.
1:57 At around 3 pm, a crowd is gathering in Beacon Hill Park for the thanksgiving service. In a single 23-second shot, the camera pans from the flagpole at the top of Beacon Hill, down the hill to the football grounds at the end of Niagara Street; some houses at Douglas and Dallas are visible in the background. Here the footage ends.
Another view of the Beacon Hill Park service, May 9, 1945. (BC Archives I-20522 [detail]; Frank Boucher photo)
Mr. Lowe had only part of a 50-foot film roll (about 3.75 minutes per roll) to capture the day’s events; he had already used about 1.5 minutes worth to shoot images of the local apple blossoms. His footage provides an intriguing but incomplete picture of the victory parade. While it includes some definite highlights, it misses out on a few scenes I really wish had been recorded:
1. A 33-piece Royal Canadian Navy Band, marching in a “V” formation at the head of the parade.
2. Representative units from all branches of the armed forces — including the women’s division from each service.
3. Hundreds of First World War veterans, who joined the parade at Humboldt Street, falling in behind the Victoria Girls’ Pipe Band.
4. A contingent of Victoria’s Girl Guides and Brownies.
5. The actual start of the Russian Canadian group, “led by two marchers holding high a picture of Joseph Stalin”. (!!!)
These “missing” shots notwithstanding, Mr. Lowe’s 2 minute and 11 second glimpse of V-E Day in Victoria is a unique and valuable record of a key moment in local (and world) history. We’re fortunate that it is preserved in the BC Archives collection.
This poster was displayed by Victoria area merchants who closed for the V-E Day holiday. (BC Archives I-01070; Duncan Macphail photo)
George F. Lowe (1888-1978) worked from 1936 to 1951 as a construction foreman on marine radio installations for the federal Department of Transport. While on his field visits to D.O.T. facilities on the B.C. coast, Lowe filmed the construction of radio masts, buildings, and lighthouses, as well as coastal communities, shipping, and other maritime activities. The George F. Lowe fonds at the BC Archives, Royal BC Museum, comprises 26 reels of 8 mm footage (totaling about 204 minutes), largely focused on the above subjects. For another example, see my blog post Visiting a Shipwreck (near Pachena Point, 1944). For a full list of the films in the George F. Lowe fonds, click here.
Front page of The Daily Colonist, May 7 1945, Extra edition. (Reproduced from microfilm)