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Back to Civvy Street: The Return of WWII Soldiers to London
Item 9 of 9
In 1865, Thomas Frazer Kingsmill opened a dry goods store on the main street of London, Ontario. From this same location at 130 Dundas Street, over the next 148 years, this store was a staple in downtown London. This includes during the Second World War when wartime production and industries had to change due to the demand of the war effort.

Kingsmill’s Department store, 18th of November 1962

Kingsmill’s Department store, 18th of November 1962

London mother receiving first family allowance cheque.

London mother receiving first family allowance cheque.

Long gone were the days of department stores like the Kingsmill’s selling bicycles, domestic washing machines, and other common household items. Manufacturing and production across Canada had to switch focus during the war. Similarly, when the war ended, the focus had to be brought back to that of ordinary daily life. In August 1945, manufacturers of London were speedily switching gears into peacetime production. They sought to satisfy the growing market for appliances and furniture, and other items. Furnaces, stoves, refrigerators, and radios were planned to be on the market by Christmas, 1945, and as of August 25th, appliances were already running along the assembly lines at the local General Steel Wares plant in London.  

Another transition that had to be made was for those returning from service. However, the adjustment back to normality was made easier by efforts of the Canadian government. With the proposal of linking Canada via a cross country highway reaching local government in London on July 16th, 1945, it gave those returning home something to look forward to. An additional postwar reconstructive method came to fruition a month after VE Day. In July of 1945 the first “Family Allowance” cheques were being given out to families with children under the age of 16. On July 19th, 1945 the first cheques were delivered in London, Ontario. These cheques were being given out to provide support for families, and the first issuing of these cheques could not have come at a better time.

With all the good that came from returning from the war, there was equal amounts of unpleasantness. The Second World War saw 1,159,000 Canadian and Newfoundlanders serve, and out of that number over 44,000 were killed. Many families had suffered a loss, oftentimes a parent or guardian. Sometimes they would return home as an entirely different person. A returning solider told his family to expect some “rough edges” because of what he had experienced during the war. He had “…seen ruined towns by the score ... and hundreds of poor, dirty children, dozens of dead bodies and many sorrowful things.” Those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would sometimes be referred to wounded not in body, but in soul. The reintegration process was difficult for some, as they lacked their sense of comradeship, direction, and sometimes purpose. The postwar period was a time of change and progress. Despite everything the government and civilians could do, those who served faced a difficult road ahead of them. They had to reconnect with their families and communities, transition back to peace, and back to life in London.

Located across the street is a small terrace like alleyway, if you head through it, you will end of back at Covent Market Garden!

Archives Canada. “Service Files of the Second World War - War Dead, 1939-1947.” Library and Archives Canada, April 4, 2019.

Keshen, Jeff. Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers: Canadas Second World War. Vol. 5. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004.

London Free Press. July 14th,1945

London Free Press. July 19th, 1945

London Free Press. August 25th, 1945

Marsh, Leonard and Allan Moscovitch. Report on Social Security for Canada: New Edition. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

London Public Library, London Free Press.

London Free Press, July 19th, 1945.