Tag Archives: World War II

May 1, 1938: Vancouverites march for a better world

Shot by amateur filmmaker Oscar C. Burritt, this fascinating footage shows Vancouver citizens and organizations marching in a mass May Day parade through downtown Vancouver and the West End on May 1, 1938. An estimated 5,000 to 8,000 people participated in the parade, which marked International Workers’ Day.

The parade began at the Cambie Street Grounds (at Cambie and Dunsmuir) and followed the route Cambie – Hastings – Burrard – Georgia. Burritt seems to have shot his footage along West Georgia where it nears Coal Harbour and Stanley Park.

A variety of BC labour unions, political associations, ethnic and fraternal organizations, and other groups are represented, and can be identified by their signs and banners. Agitprop floats, displays, and signs reference current social conditions (including poverty, substandard housing, and high mortality in the forest industry). Some also reflect the current world situation, including the Spanish Civil War and the spread of Fascism in Europe. Of particular interest is a banner for the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (Canadians fighting for the Republican cause in Spain), a float for the Communist Party of Canada, and a briefly-glimpsed depiction of Nazi repression.  


The parade ended at Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park, where an estimated 20,000 people gathered to hear speeches and songs. The marchers sang “Hold the Fort,” “The Red Flag,” and “The Internationale.”

Despite the marchers’ hopes for international solidarity and peace, the world situation continued to darken. Sixteen months later, Canada would be at war.

* * *

Additional information about the parade can be found in “Peaceable May Day Throngs Vaunt Solidarity of Workers,” Vancouver Daily Province, May 2, 1938, p. 6, and “Thousands in May Day March to Stanley Park,” Vancouver Sun, May 2, 1938, p. 20.

NOTE: The video clip presented here combines related footage from two different sources at the BC Archives/Royal BC Museum. [May Day parade, Vancouver] (V1990:06/001.01 item #3), Oscar Burritt’s edited version of the event, was loaned to the archives for copying by Douglas Wilson of Toronto in 1990. [Burritt miscellany, reel 2] (F1986:38/006.02), found in a collection donated by the Burritt family in 1986, includes what appear to out-takes of the event.

Snapshot 3 (02-05-2020 11-25 AM)


Victoria celebrates the Victory in Europe (May 1945)

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

 Front page of The Daily Colonist, May 7 1945, Extra edition. (Reproduced from microfilm)


“Sudbury II” joins the IT&B fleet (1958-59)

Here’s another clip from Saga of the Sudburys.

These excerpts from the Island Tug and Barge promotional film feature the powerful deep-sea salvage tug Sudbury II (ex-Caledonian Salvor), which joins the IT&B fleet in Victoria in 1958. In the summer of 1959, she undertakes her first assignment: towing the Liberty ships Carole Lombard and Henderson Luelling to Japan and the breaker’s yard.

The SS Carole Lombard was launched in January 1944, two years after the death of her namesake, the popular American film actress and comedienne. Lombard, aged 33, was killed in a commercial airplane crash while returning from a War Bonds promotion tour.

This is an edited excerpt from Saga of the Sudburys (Parry Films ltd., 1960), BC Archives film item AAAA2659 at the Royal BC Museum.

For an earlier post from the same film, see The Last Voyage of the “Straits Maru” (1956).

Christmas with Kinoshita

The homey opening scene from Keisuke Kinoshita’s Morning for the Osone Family (1946) shows the members of a liberal, artistic Japanese family (the one of the title) celebrating Christmas Eve in 1943—just before World War II encroaches on their home life, in the form of a corrupt, militaristic, domineering relative. From the Criterion/Eclipse box set Kinoshita and World War II.

Military parade (Vancouver, ca. 1944)

Film archivists see so much footage of parades that they can quickly lose their novelty.  However, this particular example is full of interesting and unusual sights.  It’s a wartime military parade in Vancouver, showing Canadian and U.S. troops, women’s military units, civil defence personnel, and propaganda floats — as well as tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, and examples of munitions.

The above clip consists of edited excerpts from the source film.  Some of the highlights include:

0:17        A military band –- not marching, but riding in jeeps!

0:36        American M3 Medium Tanks zip through the frame.

0:51        A large mobile searchlight, no doubt used in Vancouver’s anti-aircraft defences.

1:10        A women’s military unit, probably from the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

1:54        Trailers bearing various types of aerial bombs.

2:02        Another women’s unit –- possibly “WDs” from the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division, or “Wrens” from the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service.

2:11         Propaganda floats with portraits of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2:20        Banner for “North Vancouver Shipyard Workers”.  (Are they the musicians in blue coveralls in the next shot?)

2:28        ARP (civil defence) personnel, followed a Victory Loan banner.

The film ends with a very brief shot (at 2:35) of a propaganda display.  Led by a banner that reads “Do you want this?”, the display depicts “slaves” towing a chariot marked with a swastika and guarded by “German soldiers”.  (In this edited version, the shot has been repeated in slow-motion, so these details can be better seen.)

The footage excerpted here was shot by local photographer and filmmaker Thomas W. Whitefoot (1891-1986).  To see descriptions of other Whitefoot films and footage at the RBCM/BC Archives, please follow this link:  Whitefoot films