Military History

Library and Archives Canada/PA-140126/Captain Michael M. Dean

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany, 9 July 1945.

“Our Main Duty in Berlin Having Been Fulfilled”: The Canadian Berlin Battalion on Parade in the Fallen Capital, 21 July 19451

by Steven Bright

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Starting his career in Ottawa in 1994, Steven Bright worked in public affairs for many years before setting out on his own inn 2011. He writes digital content and speeches for a range of public and private sector clients, while also pursuing long-standing interests in military history. Based in Oakville, Ontario, Steven holds degrees from Western, McGill, and the Royal Military College of Canada.


Demonstrations of hard-fought victory and unconditional surrender, Allied parades in Europe following the Second World War sent clear messages that years of sacrifices had value. They were highly symbolic for participants and observers alike as combatants tried to recover from the costliest war in human history. What’s more, the physical stamp of Allied boots on the fallen Nazi capital augured a future wherein Germany would become a different kind of battleground for decades to come.

Library and Archives Canada/ZK-1029-3/DND

Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Coffin, DSO, Commanding Officer of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada.

Library and Archives Canada ZK-1030-1

The Regimental Sergeant Major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during the Berlin deployment.

The Canadian Berlin Battalion was constituted for the sole purpose of parading through that collapsed city while the white-hot rubble still smoldered. Some 2,141 days after the senior Dominion joined Britain in declaring war against Hitler’s Germany, Canadians marched alongside the British in a show of unity and victory under the literal and metaphoric shadow of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. Having fought their way from Normandy, up Italy and along the Scheldt estuary in Belgium, the troops of the Canadian Berlin Battalion represented 17,6822 fallen comrades killed during hostilities.

This story, however, tends to sit in the shade of Canada’s immediate post-war narratives that often focus upon reconstruction at home and building new institutions abroad. Canada’s own prime minister largely ignored the Berlin Battalion, and Berliners themselves appear to know little about it. The Alliierten Museum in Berlin, for example, curates a collection that begins its story “with the German defeat in World War II.”3 Yet, they have no papers or artifacts relating to the Canadian Berlin Battalion. “It is a blindspot we have to research ourselves,” wrote Bernd von Kostka, Curator of the Museum, “but it has not been done (yet).”4 Based on war diaries, first-hand accounts, planning documents, and newspaper articles, this article takes an in-depth look at the context, the planning, and the experience of a parade in an effort to shed light on that blind spot by moving it from the shade of history.


The first steps on what became the road to this parade were taken by two Canadian members of the combined RAF/RCAF Service Police Unit Section of the 2nd Tactical Air Force RAF.5

On 7 May 1945, Flight Lieutenant M.M. (Mike) Carmichael and Sergeant L.G. (Larry) Pincombe, members of 2nd TAF, were given a very important order. “I was called off a routine service police job and instructed to go to the airfield near our unit to wait for an escort job,” recalled Carmichael, who was an ex-RCMP officer from Braeside, Ontario, a week later. Accompanied by Pincombe, formerly of the Saint John Police Force, the two Canadians were told to take a flight to Flensburg6 to pick up “six important German officials for the purpose of signing the unconditional surrender agreement” in Berlin.7

They were scheduled to take off the next morning at 08:00 hours, but there was a slight hitch to the plan. “We found out that the German officers had been celebrating the previous night,” Carmichael stoically reported, “and [they] had some difficulty getting ready in time.” The hung-over Germans were no ordinary officers. They were Field-Marshal Wilhelm Kietel, Chief of the Armed Forces High Command,8 Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, German Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine,9 General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff, Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe,10 and their respective aides, all preparing themselves to endure the ignominy of signing documents that would officially end the Third Reich.

Leaving two hours late, Carmichael, Pincombe and their VIP charges landed further south, in the American sector, to meet RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder and some high-ranking American officers. Joined by a Russian aircraft escort, they all took off again for Berlin. Upon landing at Templehof airport, the flags of Britain, Russia and the U.S., held by three Russian officers, “…were floated in front of the guard of honour”11 before the road vehicles drove off just after 14:00 hours on their way to the historic signing.

Carmichael was the first Canadian to step off the aircraft that day. He was thus the first Canadian to step into Berlin throughout the entire war, with Pincombe very close behind him. But they were far from the being last Canadians to walk in Hitler’s collapsed capital. On 21 July, 1945, Canadian soldiers from across the country paraded down a very historic street in that fallen city. The Canadian Berlin Battalion, as their group was known, was put together to demonstrate Canada’s unquestionable participation in the war that had just ended. It also signaled, in a more amorphous manner, an eagerness to play some role in the continent’s future.12

In some ways, that future started on 11 December 1944, when Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s government first approved the participation of Canadian troops in the anticipated British Army occupation of Germany. This intention to participate was formally communicated to the British government on 12 January 1945 in a “Top Secret” memo that began by saying the Canadians had committed to participating “…in the occupation of Germany after that country has been defeated.”13

The “Canadian Force,” as it was originally called, was to consist of an occupational group organized on an infantry formation of approximately 25,000 men.14 [By 11 July, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Canadian Army Occupation Force, (CAOF) was commanded by Major-General Chris Vokes in Bad Zwischenahn in northwest Germany, comprising a total strength of 853 officers and 16,983 other ranks.15] These plans, in turn, fell under the broader umbrella of detailed instructions for the occupation of Germany as laid out in Operation Eclipse. The overall objective of Eclipse was to “…ensure that once and for all no possible shadow of doubt shall be left in the mind of a single German that the military might of the Third Reich has been shattered.”16

Plans evolved as Allied victory appeared to be increasingly likely. In March 1945, Field-Marshal Bernard Montgomery asked the Canadians if they would like to participate in the British portion of a proposed Allied garrison in Berlin. General Harry Crerar, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the First Canadian Army, felt this was more of a political than a military decision. Lieutenant-General J.C. Murchie, Chief of the General Staff back in Ottawa, felt otherwise. As historian C.P. Stacey explained, Murchie said Canadians should participate in the occupation of Berlin. “…both on national grounds and to give Canadian troops satisfaction of having token detachment present at entry of enemy capital.”17 Therefore, a parade it would be, in addition to the CAOF.

The Allies, however, still had to win the war before they could parade victoriously in Berlin.18 And those last weeks of hostilities, as the Allies closed in on the capital, were massively destructive. “We arrived over Berlin to find it covered in a smoky haze,” Pincombe remarked in that radio broadcast of 15 May. “And it was still burning in some places. The city itself was almost completely ruined. Nothing much left except shells of buildings.”19 A story published in The Toronto Daily Star on 9 May by Harold King, the Berlin-born, Paris-based bureau chief of Reuter’s,20 painted a similarly-grim picture of a city he once knew very well: “It is doubtful if one can speak of a Berlin any longer. Death has come to Berlin in an apocalyptic form. The piled-up ashes will weigh heavily on the wings of the German phoenix seeking rebirth.”21

What Pincombe, King and many others observed first hand was the aftermath of a comprehensive pummeling by air and land. Of 13 major German cities bombed during the war, Berlin had received the highest share – more than 68,000 tons of Allied bombs, or almost 17% of the 419,808 tons of bombs dropped by Bomber Command and the United States Army Air Forces.22 Devastation wrought by ground-based Russian troops storming in from the east was enormous in its own right. The Russians burst into Berlin on 21 April and pummeled it to the ground in only 12 days. The resulting carnage was widespread and rapacious.23 An estimated 22,000 civilians inside Berlin died in the all-out battle, on top of approximately the same number of German military.24 Some residents saw suicide as their only way out. In April, 3,881 suicides were recorded in Berlin, nearly twenty times the figure for March.25

The end, however, eventually arrived. On the evening of 4 May,26 Montgomery, assisted by his Canadian aide-de camp, Lieutenant-Colonel Trumbell Warren,27 held a solemn surrender ceremony inside a tent on Lüneburg Heath, east of Hamburg. Admiral Friedeburg signed for Germany, thus signaling the surrender of all German armed forces in Holland, northwest Germany and Denmark.28 [A memo was sent that same evening to First Canadian Army saying, “…all offensive action will cease from receipt of this signal.”29] Two further surrender ceremonies, one in Reims on 7 May, and the other just outside Berlin on 9 May,30 well and truly marked the end of the war against Germany.

The fighting was over and the green shoots of peace slowly emerged from years of darkness. But before anyone managed to sort out the shape or vitality of that peace, soldiers on the ground still had to be accounted for, and eventually, be brought home. CBC Radio war correspondent Matthew Halton, in his dispatch of 5 May from Germany, verbally painted perhaps the best picture of what this very fresh news meant to Canadian soldiers in theatre:

“Today the sun rises as it hasn’t risen for nearly six years and soldiers I’ve talked to don’t quite know what to do about it. They shave and have breakfast. They clean their guns. They try to brush the mud off their clothes. They ask if there is any mail. After all, they’ve lived strange, dangerous lives. It’s hard to believe that no shells will come screaming over. It’s hard to believe that if they stand up in the open, nobody will shoot at them. Death has walked at their side. It’s hard to believe for a day or two that the nightmare is over.”31

The Canadians chosen to go to Berlin were informed before the final surrender was even signed. On 6 May, “in the midst of all this confusion,” wrote Corporal Kurt Loeb, author of much of the war diary of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s):32

“[a] rather sensational item was brought to us …. The Argylls had been chosen as one of three Infantry Battalions to represent the 1st Canadian Army in Berlin. No exact details of the move to the German capital were given, but we were advised that we would remain in Berlin for one month, together with the Fusiliers Mont-Royal and the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, the trio forming a new Brigade to be known as the “Canadian Berlin Brigade.”33

Their new Berlin-bound colleagues in the Loyal Edmonton’s were more effusive about the breaking news and the peacetime adventures it represented.

“Everyone, particularly the officers, were more than thrilled by this news than by the capitulation of the enemy on our front for it has long been the ambition of many of us to march through BERLIN and the honour of representing the 1st Division was greatly appreciated by all ranks.”34

The initial Canadian plan, publicly announced on 13 May,35 was to send a brigade-sized force to Berlin with broad representation by infantry, artillery, engineers, signalers, armoured, administrative and auxiliary units.36 The original Order of Battle outlined 250 officers and 4,997 other ranks, with Brigadier J.D.B. Smith, CBE, DSO,37 as the Officer Commanding.38 Less than a month later, though, it was called off. On 8 June, Major A. A. Tucker of the Loyal Edmontons attended a conference “…at HQ Berlin Bde in the morning and returned about noon with information that the trip to Berlin for this Battallion had been cancelled and we would re-join 2 Cdn Inf Bde shortly. This caused no surprise as it has been long felt by all ranks that the arrangements for the trip had become bogged down.”39

The Argylls received the same information that day, and were equally unsurprised by news, “…which we had been expecting, subconsciously, for quite some time. Our proposed trip to Berlin was cancelled, the Berlin Brigade ceased to function, as such units would rejoin their respective Brigades and Divisions within two or three days.”40

Military plans can change, however, and often did. Within days, the Berlin expedition was back on, but with a significant downgrade to a battalion-sized presence to accommodate the limitations of Berlin’s heavily damaged transportation infrastructure.41 Bringing in thousands of parading Allied soldiers would overly tax an already- overwhelmed system. Given the circumstances, sending a battalion was deemed the better choice.42 A composite battalion was therefore formed, with representation from the 1st, 2nd and 4th Canadian Divisions, the 3rd Division, having already been formed into the CAOF.

The Berlin Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel A.F. Coffin. A pharmacist from Medicine Hat,43 Coffin succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Wigle in the Argylls after Wigle had been killed44 on 14 April, “…while organizing the defence of his tactical battalion headquarters against an attack of German infantrymen.”45 The Argylls were chosen to supply a headquarters company and a rifle company for the Battalion, and as of 21 June, it consisted of 42 officers and 894 other ranks for a total of 936 personnel. Of the officers, 15 were from the Argylls. However, Coffin’s regiment was mathematically-outnumbered in terms of total strength. [See Table 1] Representatives from a variety of other services filled out the numbers.46

Contributing Regiment Officers % of Officers Other Ranks % of Other Ranks
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada 15 35.7 230 25.7
Fusiliers Mont-Royal 12 28.5 320 35.8
Loyal Edmonton 10 24 258 28.9
3 CIC Brass Band 0 0 31 3.5
Canadian Provost Corp 1 2.3 9 1
Royal Canadian Corps of Signals 0 0 3 0.3
Royal Canadian Army Service Corps 0 0 32 3.6
Canadian Film and Photo Unit 1 2.3 3 0.3
Axillary Services 1 2.3 5 0.6
Canadian Dental Corps 1 2.3 2 0.2
Padre and Driver 1 2.3 1 0.1
TOTAL 42 100 894 100

Author from data contained in the Argylls’ War Diary, June 1945, Appendix 9.

Table 1: Composition of the Canadian Battalion in Berlin, 21 June 1945.

Coffin had several issues to resolve in taking on his new responsibilities, the pace of his new troops among them. As reported in a Canadian Press story on 26 June, the Argylls “…prefer their own 110 steps to the minute, but the Loyal Edmontons are accustomed to 140.” Meanwhile, the Fusiliers, “…who use 125, find the 110 pace slow.”47 These variable marching rates – an apt metaphor for challenges that Canada and all combatant countries faced in finding the proper pace and direction of post-war reconstruction – had to be sorted out, and it was sorted out. In the end, Coffin opted for the Fusiliers’ 125-step pace, putting his new battalion on a united march for what would be their one-and-only ceremonial parade in front of the world’s media in defeated Germany.

The Battalion received instructions with respect to their move to Berlin at the end of June, and at 05:00 hours on 2 July, an advance party of 25 all ranks left Braunschweig, Germany, [having arrived there on 19 June from their base in Nijverdal, Netherlands]. The rest followed two days later. “Thus,” wrote Loeb in the Argylls’ war diary, “it was finally apparent that the Canadian Berlin Battalion would soon be able to live up to its name and start functioning in the very heart of Nazism and German or Prussian militarism.”48

Coffin and the others entered Berlin on 4 July in time to see the Union Jack being unfurled over the Charlottenburger Chaussee (i.e., the road along which the Battalion would parade later that month), “,,, with about 2,500 German civilians mingled with English and Canadian soldiers.” This unfurling, like the upcoming parade itself, held more important symbolic value than anything else. “In its simplicity,” The Maple Leaf reported, “the flag-breaking ceremony, which had neither speeches nor a march-past, held a world of meaning for the beaten Berliners, just as its significance was not lost on the troops who helped bring down the Third Reich.”49

Library and Archives Canada PA-160945/Captain Michael M. Dean

Canadian Berlin Battalion being reviewed at the flag hoisting ceremony, 6 July 1945.

When first arriving in Berlin, members of the Battalion did not know exactly what they would be doing. However, it had been obvious to them for some time that they would have something to do with the Big Three conference to be held in Potsdam, just outside Berlin, as of 17 July. Writing in the Argylls’ war diary, Loeb said, “…it was apparent that our role there [Berlin] would be in connection with the impending conference.”50 That connection, as soon became clear, was to fly the flag of victory in Berlin while the leaders of the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union sorted out the new world order. As Loeb wrote many years later, the role of the “boys of summer” was “…purely symbolic, we had no specific military duties, and there were no incidents of German resistance or suicide missions.”51

With time on their hands, many soldiers took to playing sports in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, host venue of the 1936 Olympic Summer Games. The stadium made famous by Jesse Owens only nine years earlier was the perfect venue for track and field events,52 as well as baseball. The Canadians and Americans played several baseball games, each side winning a few games in that “monster stadium.”53

Library and Archives Canada/ZK-1024-2

Marshal Georgy Zhukov, wartime leader of some of the Red Army’s most decisive battles, inspects the Canadian Berlin contingent.

But it was not all fun times… Parading was a serious business that demanded practice, especially since the Canadians would be marching with the 7th Armoured Division – the famous “Desert Rats” – in front of the likes of Churchill, Montgomery, American President Harry Truman, General Dwight Eisenhower and Marshal Zhukov. The Battalion joined a dress rehearsal on 13 July with 2,000 veterans and, “…417 freshly painted vehicles of all types” practicing for what was to come.54 Not all went well, however, and the next two days were spent “correcting the faults” made during rehearsal.55 The men were advised a few days later that the main Victory Parade was to be held on Saturday 21 July. Given ribbons to look particularly smart, the men of the Battalion were “…probably the first Canadians to parade anywhere wearing this war’s campaign decorations.”56

Library and Archives Canada/ZK-1024-1

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and Soviet officers taking the salute at the Brandenburg Gate.

Parade day “…dawned cool and clear and the troops, in excellent spirits on the prospect of getting it over with,” as the Loyal Edmonton war diarist dryly remarked.57 However, like earlier rehearsals, not all went to plan. “For unknown reasons,” Loeb wrote in the Argylls’ diary, “the originally planned joint Allied parade did not take place.” Instead, it was decided to hold separate parades for British, American and Russian troops, “each before their respective representatives in Berlin.”58 Thus, the Canadians would parade with only the Desert Rats.59

Library and Archives Canada/ZK-1027-1

Marshal Zhukov and his senior staff meet with Canadians at the Brandenburg Gate.

The morning’s ceremonial proceedings began with a procession of 50 dignitaries on eight half-track vehicles driving past the assembled units “in nothing flat.”60 Churchill, Sir Allan Brooke, Montgomery and General Lewis Lyne61 rode in the first half-track, the only vehicle carrying four VIPs. [The second through to the sixth half-tracks each carried six VIPs, with the last two carrying eight each.] The first non-British VIPs – Russian Colonel-General Alexander Gorbatov62 and French General Geoffroi du Bois de Beauchesne63 – rode together in the fifth vehicle. No Canadian VIPs rode on those half-trucks, although Loeb pointed in his diary that, “…a multitude of red-tabbed British officers and not-so-fancy civilian representatives” were driven in the trucks along with senior officers.64

The march-past began at 10:00 hours. Walking six abreast, and moving along “…in speedy succession” expedited affairs in a parade that included 10,000 troops, an array of tanks, armoured cars, and self-propelled and tractor-drawn guns along a route of just over two kilometres, stretching from the Siegessaule to the end of the British zone in Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate.65 Led by Brigadier J.M.K. Spurling, DSO, of the 7th Armoured Division,66 the procession was ‘bookended’ by the 3rd Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery, units of which marched first and last. The Pipe Band of the Canadian Battalion was 16th to go, followed immediately by their Berlin Battalion colleagues. Last, in 24th place, came the Motor Cyclists of the 3rd Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery. Four bands, including the Pipe Band of the Canadian Berlin Battalion, brought musical accompaniment to the occasion, and they were joined in the march by three units from the Royal Air Force, and one from the Royal Navy.67 It was all over by 11:10 hours...

Spectators eager to see and hear for themselves the sights, sounds, and symbols of Allied victory jammed both sides of the short route. Included among them was “…an assortment of American, British and Canadian newsreel-photographers,” all of whom were “…trying to outdo one another in the originality of the shots obtained – for which purpose they were hanging from trees, sitting on their trucks or lying on their backs.”68 Churchill left almost immediately after the parade ended to speak with troops gathered at the newly-formed “Winston Club,” where he referred to the parade as a reminder of “…a great many moving incidents of these last long fierce years.” Hundreds of Germans cheered Churchill as he left, a scene that United Press correspondent Ronald Clark said was “the strangest thing [I] had seen since D-Day.”69 Members of the Canadian Battalion, job done, went back to their barracks, “…our main duty in Berlin having been fulfilled.”70

Library and Archives Canada/PA-130018

The Canadian Battalion marches past during the major parade in Berlin, 20 July 1945.

The men, given a day off after the parade,71 spent a few days preparing to leave the capital, and they did so 27 July under the watchful eyes of thankful Berliners. Several locals gathered to watch the Canadians pull out, with one elderly German saying, “Canadians good, good,” as the men left for Holland on their next, and, many hoped, their last step towards finally going back to Canada.72 On returning to the Netherlands, members of the Battalion had stories aplenty to share with colleagues not chosen to parade in Berlin. “It was the best adventure I have ever had,” the Fusiliers’ war diary reported one of their returned soldiers as saying. “The less lucky ones who had stayed behind spent the day questioning their friends on their Berlin adventure.”73

Such enthusiasm was understandable. Members of the Berlin Battalion enjoyed the novelties and distractions of a major urban city – albeit one that barely survived the war – knowing firearms would not target them. Being held overnight in a Soviet prison for being out too late, a fate that befell a few members of the Battalion,74 was about the extent of the risks they ran while living in Berlin for a few weeks. The parade was a highlight of their war experience, and one, they hoped, that marked the end of their life in Europe, and the start of their post-war life back home in Canada.

The same could not be said of the senior-most Allied military and political leaders charged with sorting out complexities stemming from winning the peace, as well as the war. Churchill’s comments about “these last long fierce years” aside, he and his fellow Potsdam colleagues were more focused upon the tricky business of post-war statecraft to be done 35 kilometres away at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam.

Field-Marshal Brooke, who referred to it as “Monty’s victory parade,” wrote in his diary that “…somehow it [the parade] left me cold.”75 Monty, meanwhile, made no reference to ‘his’ parade in his memoirs.76 Nor did Churchill. Given the importance of the ongoing Potsdam Conference and the distractions of waiting for election results from back home,77 for Churchill to neglect mentioning a 35-minute parade was perhaps not surprising. His post-war history dealing with that period focused upon the fifth meeting at Potsdam, during which the leaders debated at length with respect to Poland’s borders. Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King seems to have largely ignored the parade altogether, having made no reference to it in his diary. In fact, the only reference to “Berlin” in his diaries for the entire month of July 1945 was those to Berlin, Ontario, the town in which he was born…78


The participation of the Canadian Berlin Battalion in that victory parade highlighted how thousands of Canadians abroad and back home had fought long, hard, and well throughout the war, and that Canada deserved a place of honour in a public display of Allied victory and German defeat. It also signaled that Canadians would be playing roles for years to come in the new battleground emerging from the rubble of six years of war.

It did not take long, as the Cold War was heating up that same summer of 1945… Indeed, at 20:30 hours on 5 September, only 46 days after the parade in Berlin, a Soviet cipher clerk named Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa with 109 top-secret documents and into the offices of The Ottawa Journal. He was, as Jack Granatstein and David Stafford wrote, “…the man who started the Cold War.”79 Unbeknownst to them at the time, by parading east towards the Brandenburg Gate, members of the Canadian Berlin Battalion marched in victory in the exact opposite direction that many Berliners could only hope to run for freedom many years later.

Library and Archives Canada/ZK-1027-5

Canadian and Soviet officers congregating at the Brandenburg Gate.


  1. The author would like to thank Dr. Andrew Burtch, Dr. J. Andrew Ross, Dr. Michael Bechthold and Dr. Robert Fraser for their thoughts on aspects of this article.
  2. C.P. Stacey, Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific, Ottawa: 1957, Appendix A, Table 2, p. 524.
  3. “About us,” at:
  4. E-mail to author, 20 June 2019.
  5. See Dr. David Ian Hall’s “Creating the 2nd Tactical Air Force RAF: Inter-service and Anglo-Canadian Co-operation in the Second World War,” in Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 3, No.4, Winter 2002-2003, pp. 39-45.
  6. Flensburg in Germany near the Danish border was used during the war as an RAF advanced landing ground.
  7. Stories recounted by Carmichael and Pincombe are found in a radio broadcast by Flight-Lieutenant Charles Hutchings on 15 May 1945. See “The First Canadian into Berlin,” CBC Radio archives, at:
  8. Keitel was tried and found guilty on four counts at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. He was executed on 16 October 1946. Wikipedia, accessed 25 September 2019.
  9. Friedeburg committed suicide on 23 May after becoming a POW of the British. Wikipedia, accessed 21 October 2019.
  10. Stumpff was tried in Nuremberg and released by the British in 1947. Wikipedia, accessed 25 September 2019.
  11. Matthew Halton, “Destruction of Berlin So Complete That City May Never Be Repaired,” in The Globe and Mail, 10 May 1945.
  12. See, for example, Jack Granatstein and R.D. Cuff’s 1977 article, “Canada and the Marshall Plan, June-December 1947,” in Historical Papers/Communications historiques, 12 (1), pp. 196-213.
  13. “The Canadian Army Occupation Force in Germany, May 1945 to June 1946”, Report #174, Directorate of Heritage and History website, at:, p. 1.
  14. “Letter to Under Secretary of State (U.K.) from Chief of Staff C.M.H.Q., 12 January, 1945, contained in “Appendix “B” in “The Canadian Army Occupation Force in Germany, May 1945 to June 1946”, Report #174, Directorate of Heritage and History, at:
  15. They stayed in Germany for 10 months, with Vokes’ headquarters turning over its responsibilities to the British 52nd (Lowland) Division on 15 May 1946. CAOF was officially disbanded on 20 June of that same year. See Stacey, Victory Campaign, pp. 621-622
  16. “The Canadian Army Occupation Force in Germany, May 1945 to June 1946,” pp. 1-16. .
  17. C.P. Stacey, Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume III, The Victory Campaign: The Operations in North-West Europe, 1944-1945, Ottawa, 1960, pp. 620-621.
  18. The quest to take Berlin followed a long and uncertain path. See Cornelius Ryan, The Last Battle, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1966, passim, and Michael Neiberg, Potsdam: The End of World War II and the Remaking of Europe, New York: Basic Books, 2015, pp. 42-44.
  19. “The First Canadian into Berlin,” 15 May 1945, CBC Radio Archives.
  20. Born Harold Koenig in 1898, he later moved to London with his family and his father changed their surname to “King” at the outbreak of war in 1914. King died on 24 September 1990. See “Harold King, Reuters World War II Correspondent, Dies,” Associated Press News, 25 September 1990.
  21. Harold King, “If you would know war come to Berlin – Tedder,” in Toronto Daily Star, 9 May 1945.
  22. Numbers calculated by author based on Table 4.4 in Richard Overy, The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940-1945, London: Viking, 2013, p.301.
  23. Rape by Russian soldiers of German girls and women was widespread in Berlin in April and May 1945. See Beevor, Berlin, pp. 406-420.
  24. Peter Antil, Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich, Oxford: Osprey Publishing, p. 85.
  25. Niall Ferguson, Kissinger,1923-1968: The Idealist, New York: Penguin Press, 2015, p. 170.
  26. The last Canadians killed during the war lost their lives that same day – 20 deaths out of 60 casualties on 4 May. An additional 10 casualties were reported the next day, three of them fatal. However, some of those reported as happening on 5 May have occurred on 4 May. See the asterisk footnote in Stacey, Victory Campaign, p. 611.
  27. Born on 1 August 1915, Warren was the son of Captain Trumbell Warren of the 15th Battalion CEF, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. Warren fils, who joined Montgomery’s staff as a military aide in 1940, prepared the surrender documents on that day in May 1945. Warren died in Guelph, Ontario on 12 September 1999. Ed Butts, “Trumbull Warren was right-hand man to famed Second World War general,” in Guelph Mercury-Tribune, 4 May 2017, plus emails from Butts to author.
  28. Bernard Montgomery, The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Montgomery, Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1958, pp. 302-305.
  29. Memo re-printed on page 11 of “The Canadian Army Occupation Force in Germany, May 1945 to June 1946”, Report #174, written by Major C.E. Brissette, Directorate of Heritage and History website, at:
  30. At 00:15 on 9 May, Keitel, whom Matthew Halton described as “the Junker of the Junkers,” “…fixed his monocle in his left eye, removed the glove off his right hand, and signed the document.” Tedder and Field-Marshal Georgi Zhukov signed for the Grand Alliance, the defeated Germans left the room, and an all-night drinking party ensued. See Matthew Halton, “Destruction of Berlin so complete that city may never be repaired,” in The Globe and Mail, 10 May 1945.
  31. Matthew Halton, “German surrender: ‘The time has come to be glad,’” 5 May 1945, at:
  32. E-mail to author from Dr. Robert Fraser, 1 August 2019.
  33. Argylls war diary, 6 May1945, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), RG24-C-3, vol. 15005, file no. 300, 1944/07-1945/11.
  34. Loyal Edmonton Regiment war diary, 6 May 1945, LAC, RG24-C-3, vol. 15116, file no. 38, 1945/05-1945/08.
  35. “Hamilton unit to participate in occupation,” in The Toronto Star, 14 May 1945.
  36. “Regiment has been chosen for important job in Berlin,” in Hamilton Spectator, 15 May 1945.
  37. Smith was Commander of 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade at the time (Stacey, Victory Campaign, p. 664), having previously commanded the 5th Canadian Armoured Brigade. See Douglas Delaney, The Soldiers’ General: Bert Hoffmeister at War, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005, p. 122. Smith went on to be post-war Commandant of RMC.
  38. Argylls’ war diary, June 1945, Appendix 6.
  39. Loyal Edmonton war diary, 8 June 1945.
  40. Argylls’ war diary, 8 June 1945.
  41. More than 95 percent of Berlin’s tram system was in ruins, with large parts of the city’s U-Bahn and S-Bahn underwater from explosions. Beevor, Downfall, p. 419.
  42. Argylls’ war diary, 8 June, op cit. Robert Fraser, “Black Yesterdays: The Argylls’ War,” Hamilton: Argyll Regimental Foundation, 1996, p. 476.
  43. William Boss, “Canadian Troops Await Order for March to Berlin,” in The Globe and Mail, 3 July 1945.
  44. Rumours suggesting a civilian sniper killed Wigle led to the Lower Saxony town of Friesoythe being set ablaze in reprisal, as witnessed first-hand by C.P. Stacey and told in his autobiography A Date with History: Memoirs of a Canadian Historian, Ottawa: Deneau, 1983, p. 163. In recounting this story, Stacey wrote it was “…the one day in the war when this Whitehall warrior got close enough to the front to hear small-arms fire.”
  45. “Regiment has been chosen for important job in Berlin,” in Hamilton Spectator, 15 May 1945.
  46. Argylls’ war diary, June 1945, Appendix 9.
  47. “Argylls ready for Nazi occupation,” in Hamilton Spectator, 26 June 1945.
  48. Argylls war diary, 30 June, op cit. “Black Yesterdays,” p. 480.
  49. Sergeant Ron Poulton, “Union Jack unfurled in shadow of famous Berlin Monument,” in The Maple Leaf, 9 July 1945, Argylls’ war diary, July 1945, Appendix 9.
  50. Argylls war diary, 17 June, op cit. “Black Yesterdays,” p. 477.
  51. Loeb. “The Boys of Summer,” p. 70.
  52. “Berlin Battalion Caper in Famed Olympic Stadium, in The Maple Leaf, 14 July 1945, Argylls war diary, July, 1945, Appendix 10.
  53. Argylls war diary, 15 July, 1945.
  54. “Canadian Unit in Impressive Berlin Parade”, The Maple Leaf, 14 July, 1945, Argylls war diary, July 1945, Appendix 11.
  55. Loyal Edmontons war diary, “Summary of Activities of ‘A’ & ‘B’ Coys while with the Canadian Berlin BDE, July 1945.
  56. The Maple Leaf, 14 July 1945, Argylls war diary, July 1945, Appendix 13.
  57. Loyal Edmonton war diary, “Summary of Activities,” 21 July 1945.
  58. Argylls war diary, 21 July 1945.
  59. By being chosen to parade in Berlin, the Desert Rats could “make good its cry ‘Alamein to Berlin.’” “British and Canadians Start March to Berlin,” in The Globe and Mail, 2 July 1945.
  60. Loyal Edmonton war diary, “Summary of Activities,” July 1945.
  61. Lyne was Commandant of the British Zone at the time. He died in 1970. See
  62. Gorbatov was commander of the Third Army from 1943-1945 and Soviet commander of Berlin. He died in 1973. See “Gen. Alexander Gorbatov Dies: Leader in War Alter His Purge,”in New York Times, 12 December 1973.
  63. de Beauchesne served as Commandant of the French Sector from 11 July 1945 to 12 March 1946. Wikipedia, accessed 6 September 2019.
  64. Argylls war diary, 21 July 1945.
  65. “Churchill voices Empire’s gratitude to men who gained victory – Hamilton represented,” in Hamilton Spectator, 21 July 1945.
  66. Spurling, a career officer, was in Hamburg on 3 May to accept the German surrender. One month later he led his brigade into Berlin as the first British formation to enter the German capital. See
  67. Argylls war diary, July 1945, Appendix 14.
  68. Argylls war diary, 21 July 1945.
  69. “Germans Cheer Churchill in Strange Aftermath to Victory Parade in Berlin”, The Maple Leaf, 24 July, 1945, Argylls war diary, July 1945, Appendix 17.
  70. Argylls war diary, 21 July,1945.
  71. “Canadian Battalion to Leave Capital,” in The Maple Leaf, 23 July 1945, Argylls war diary, July 1945, Appendix 18.
  72. “German Tear Ducts Tapped in Farewell,” in The Maple Leaf, 28 July 1945, Argylls war diary, July 1945, Appendix 19.
  73. Fusiliers Mont-Royal war diary, 29 July 1945, LAC, RG24-C-#, vol. 15066, 1944/12-1945/09.
  74. Three members of the Battalion, sent 24 hours in advance to Berlin, were held by the Russians for violating curfew. Upon release, they were “…immediately plied with Russian sandwiches and Vodka.” William Boss, “Four Canadian “Firsts’ In Berlin,” in The Globe and Mail, 7 July 1945.
  75. Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman, (eds,), Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, War Diaries: 1939-1945, London: Phoenix Press, 2001, p. 708.
  76. Montgomery wrote about his plane crash on 22 August while flying to visit Vokes and the CAOF, for instance, but not about the Berlin parade. See Memoirs, pp. 345-356.
  77. Churchill learned that he lost this election while still in Potsdam, then flew home on 25 July to be replaced by incoming prime minister Clement Attlee. Winston Churchill, The Second World War: Volume VI, Triumph and Tragedy. London: Cassel, 1954, p. 582, with his review of those days in Berlin and Potsdam, pp. 566-570.
  78. On 28 July 1945, Mackenzie King wrote of his nighttime vision of being back in his father’s law office in Berlin, Ontario. Diaries of William Lyon Mackenzie King, at:
  79. Jack Granatstein and David Stafford, Spy Wars: Espionage and Canada from Gouzenko to Glasnost, Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1990, pp. 47-75. Also see John Sawatsky, Gouzenko: The Untold Story, Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1984, Z.