Commemorating the end of the Second World War

The First Canadian Army liberated the Netherlands while American and Russian forces drove toward Berlin. On May 8, Germany capitulated; Japan shortly followed suit, officially ending the Second World War on Sunday, September 2, 1945. Victory came at a cost: over 47,000 Canadians were killed in Europe and Asia.

Since the end of the Second World War, Canadians have strived to commemorate the sacrifices made by these men through a number of different endeavours. Poppy Appeals, Remembrance Day and pilgrimages to sites in France: all the traditions created after the First and Second World Wars are still observed by thousands of Canadians each year. As the number of veterans diminishes, current forms of remembrance focus more and more on educating younger Canadians about the wars, and the men and women who lived through them.

One of the most important aspects of new forms of remembrance is connecting people with their own history. Library and Archives Canada was inspired by Smiths Falls teacher Blake Seward, to create the Lest We Forget project, which helps teachers and students conduct primary research on their ancestors who fought during the wars. Historica Canada, and teachers from all over the country, have created and published lesson plans, and source guides to help engage students in their learning. These plans often focus on the visual history of the war, and teaching the students the political, social and, military significance of the wars.

Museums are also working to engage young Canadians. The Canadian War Museum created Awesome Sundays, with activities to engage children in learning history. They focus not only on battles, but also on life on the home front and how women and children experienced the wars. They also have a very popular travelling teaching tool, called Supply Line, which lends authentic and reproduced artifacts from the war to classrooms all over Canada. Adding a visual and tactile element to the curriculum allows students to engage more fully in their coursework on the wars.

Educators are constantly trying to find ways to engage younger Canadians in Canada’s military history. By fostering a love of history in younger generations, they hope students will have a greater appreciation for Canada’s military contributions, and the sacrifices made by our servicemen. 


Canada, Library and Archives. “Lest We Forget: Cenotaph Research,” April 29, 2013.

“Learning Tools - The Memory Project.” The Memory Project. Accessed April 18, 2016.

“Mission | Vimy Foundation.” Accessed April 11, 2016.

“My Incredible Journey Teaching Grade 5/6 Students about Fallen Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan by Alexandra Papazoglou.” Canadian Military History, January 15, 2013.

“Supply Line | Supply Line.” Accessed April 17, 2016.

Featured Image: Credit: Juno Beach Centre /

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