Revelstoke recruits gather at the CPR station as they leave for active duty, circa 1940. (Revelstoke Museum & Archives photo)

D-Day from a Revelstoke perspective

Cathy English

Revelstoke Museum & Archives

Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, spurring Britain and France to declare war on Germany two days later.

Many Revelstoke residents were anxiously listening to their radios to hear the news on the crisis.

It was no surprise to anyone when Canada declared war on Germany on Sept.10, 1939.

Rumours of war had been spreading for months with the increasing aggression by Germany’s Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, so it was with a sense of inevitability that war was finally declared.

Revelstoke responded quickly. Many local men had already enlisted, aware that war was imminent and many more enlisted immediately after the declaration of war.

Over the course of the war, several hundred local men saw active service including several who became pilots with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Thirty-three men from Revelstoke lost their lives during the conflict.

READ MORE: D-Day Normandy sites today captured by drone

Once women’s corps were established, many local women enlisted in non-combatant roles.

A Women’s Emergency Corp was formed in Revelstoke to coordinate home front activities, and throughout the war, a great deal of work was done in providing packages to the soldiers and raising money for the war effort and for relief of civilians suffering the effects of the fighting in Europe.

Revelstoke felt the effects of the war just as other communities did. Rationing was introduced and women took on non-traditional jobs, such as working for the CPR to fill positions left vacant by the enlisted men.

Finally, on June 8, 1944, the Revelstoke Review had a hopeful headline that made residents feel that the tide was turning: “Invasion reports excite citizens, Revelstoke hears long-awaited news of invasion Monday night.”

The article stated that the D-Day invasion of June 6 was proceeding according to plan, saying, “The capture of the town of Bayeux, the first French city to fall to the Allied forces, has given the invasion armies an important initial success, which may soon be developed into further important gains.”

READ MORE: D-Day veterans revisit Normandy, recall horror and triumph

A service was held in St. Peter’s Anglican Church on June 7, followed by a second service in Revelstoke United Church.

The Review noted that many Revelstoke soldiers, sailors and airmen were taking part in D-Day and “thoughts for their safety have been uppermost.”

At the Revelstoke Rotary meeting on June 9, Rev. L.G. Sieber, of Revelstoke United Church, was asked to share thoughts on the birthday of King George VI and on the significance of D-Day.

“It is a tremendous and momentous occasion which will mean more to us as time goes on. Today our minds and hearts and prayers go out to our services personnel They know they are supported by all of us at home from the letters and parcels we send them,” Sieber stated.

A Revelstoke man, Ernest F.J. Phillips, died on June 11, 1944, as a result of wounds received on D-Day.

Phillips was 37 years old and had come to Revelstoke with his parents in 1920. He attended school in Revelstoke, and went to work in his father’s painting and decorating business.

Phillips enlisted in 1941 with the 2nd Battalion Canadian Scottish, and left for England on September 9, 1942.

READ MORE: Mint to make special toonies to mark D-Day anniversary

He was married in Brighton, England, in 1943 and had been looking forward to bringing his wife to Revelstoke to make their home after the war.

The newspaper report on his death said, “He had a quiet and pleasing personality and a voice of considerable charm. As a youth he sang in local church choirs and in many local concerts.”

D-Day was a turning point in the war with the Axis, but the conflict was far from over.

The Allies gained victory in Europe on V-E Day on May 8, 1945, with Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces.

The Revelstoke Review of May 10, 1945 carried the headline, “Revelstoke Rejoices as War Ends in Europe This Week.”

World War II ended with the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945.


 

@RevelstokeRevue
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