Legion marks 70th anniversary of end of Second World War

But there was no dramatic announcement that the war was over, vet recalls

Bill Mitchell was serving in Holland with the Canadian Army when victory was announced.

Bill Mitchell was serving in Holland with the Canadian Army when victory was announced.

The Royal Canadian Legion in Maple Ridge will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the day when the guns fell silent and victory was declared in the Second World War against Nazi Germany.

This May 8, it will be 70 years since Victory in Europe Day was declared, May 8, 1945.

The celebrations will be low key, however, as commemorating war efforts remains focused on Remembrance Day.

But two weeks from now, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Branch No. 88 will host a brief occasion outside its main doors at its headquarters on 224th Street.

A prayer will be said, O Canada and the Last Post will be played and brief speeches will take place to thank those who served. A wreath will be laid, followed by God Save the Queen.

Everyone’s invited to mark the occasion, including veterans from the Second World War.

Bill Mitchell, who was serving in Holland with the Canadian Army when victory was announced, isn’t sure if he’ll make it to the ceremony.

“It’s the first I’ve heard about it.”

He may go and see his son, he added.

Mitchell is about to turn 95.

He served with the Canadian army in what was known as a light aid detachment, a mobile unit that did minor repairs of vehicles damaged on the front lines.

Thanks to his skills with a welding torch and heavy machinery, he was picked to be a “fitter” – a general repairman – when he enlisted and was sent to trade school, first in Victoria, then to Hamilton, Ont.

He arrived in Liverpool, England on April 1, 1943, and joined the Fourth Anti-Tank, part of the Fifth Canadian Division.

After a stop in Northern Africa, Mitchell ended up in Italy, where he fixed radiators and generators, and built replacement parts from scratch to keep the machinery moving.

When victory was declared on May 8, 1945, “We were back up in Holland at the time with the Canadian army again,” he said.

“When we were in Italy, we were with the British Eighth Army, they were our boss.”

His job running a mobile repair service out of his truck, required lots of driving.

“I put 3,000 miles [on the truck] and I put three engines in it.”

He wasn’t on the front lines, but close enough. Once a stray shell landed 50 metres from his truck. The shell hit a tent nearby and killed a sergeant.

Mitchell remembers nothing special about the day victory was declared, a week after Adolf Hitler killed himself and three days after the surrender of German troops.

“It came to an end I guess – and we’d heard about it,” he said.

“Don’t forget, we were pretty young then and probably didn’t realize what was going on.”

Mitchell, a Maple Ridge native, marched in the 2012 Remembrance Day parade, which he agrees has more significance.

“May 8 was just a day, I guess, never paid much attention to it.”