Britain will mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day with a spectacular three-day programme of events that will mix nostalgia, thanksgiving and sombre remembrance.
On May 8, 1945, the nation cheered as Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced that after six years of bitter conflict that had claimed millions of lives and demanded massive sacrifices from every family, the Second World War in Europe was finally over.
Now, with 75 days to go until the historic 75th anniversary, the country is being urged to come together to pay its respects to all those who played their part – and to recapture the spirit of unbridled joy that swept across Britain on VE Day.
On May 8, 1945, the nation cheered as Prime Minister Winston Churchill (pictured) announced that after six years of bitter conflict, the Second World War in Europe was finally over
As part of the celebrations on May 8, 2020, extracts from Churchill’s famous victory speech will be broadcast at venues and public spaces up and down the land.
The Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will perform a flypast over Buckingham Palace, while there will also be a procession down The Mall by veterans, remembrance services and parades in Cardiff and Edinburgh, and street parties.
Friday, May 8, has been declared a Bank Holiday (instead of the usual Monday) and pub hours will be extended on that day and Saturday, May 9, to encourage a ‘national outpouring of thanksgiving’.
For many who remember VE Day, this year’s anniversary represents a final, poignant opportunity to take part in a major commemoration of a defining moment in their own lives and in the history of the nation.
The Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will perform a flypast over Buckingham Palace as part of the celebrations on May 8, 2020
There will also be a procession down The Mall by veterans, remembrance services and parades in Cardiff and Edinburgh, and street parties. Pictured: Spitfire P7350 (front) flying alongside Hurricane LF363 (back)
Last night, Boris Johnson called for everyone across Britain to unite to remember the sacrifices made.
He said: ‘The 75th anniversary of VE Day marks a historic moment for our great country to come together and reflect on the heroes of the Second World War.
‘No one will ever forget what they sacrificed in defending our freedom and securing peace across Europe, and we will continue to honour those who contributed at home and abroad.
His victory speech rebroadcast
The stirring words of Winston Churchill on VE Day will be broadcast in villages and towns during this year’s celebrations.
The Prime Minister spoke to the nation on the radio on May 8, 1945 – announcing the end of the war in Europe – and later that day addressed crowds from the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall…
‘God bless you all. This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land.
‘In all our long history, we have never seen a greater day than this.
‘Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tried.
‘Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the independent resolve of the British nation.
‘God bless you all…’
‘This programme of events gives the whole nation a chance to thank all those involved for everything they did – both for those alive today, and for future generations.
‘And by commemorating these moments, we can remember and remind ourselves of the fragility of peace, and the need for us all to collectively uphold this.’
Last night, veterans pledged to take part.
Now aged 94, former Royal Welsh Fusilier Doug Farrington vowed to make the journey from his home in Oldham, Greater Manchester, to London.
Doug, who was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes, said: ‘I wanted to be part of the fight against Hitler.
‘My two brothers, Kenneth and Neville, were killed in the fighting. I was lucky enough to survive. I met my wife in 1947 and was married for 66 years. I’ll be coming to London with a friend. It will be a very special day.’
Bernard Morgan, 95, said he hoped for a ‘repeat performance’ of the party he still remembers from VE Day: ‘I was stationed in Germany at the time when I received a telex telling me the war was ending and the German surrender was imminent. The drinks just appeared from nowhere.’
Jubilant Britons poured on to the streets after Germany’s surrender, including outside Buckingham Palace to cheer Churchill and the Royal Family.
Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret later secretly joined the crowds to celebrate – the future Queen described it as one of the most memorable nights of her life.
All unite again… for celebrations
By Oliver Dowden
Winston Churchill stood on the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall on May 8, 1945, and announced that, after six long years, the most devastating conflict in history was over in Europe.
He told the cheering crowd that ‘this is your victory’.
And it was. At a critical moment in our history, the nation had come together to do what was needed.
Across the country, plans are being made to thank and celebrate the veterans’ contributions within their own communities. Pictured: Soprano Katherine Jenkins to host an evening of patriotic celebration at the Royal Albert Hall
Hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth troops left their homes to fight overseas.
On the Home Front, families volunteered to take in children evacuated to the safety of the countryside or clear up the devastation of the Blitz.
Bumper bank holiday weekend of events
FRIDAY, MAY 8 – Bank Holiday
A service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey to be attended by hundreds of veterans and representatives of the Second World War generation.
2.55pm: Buglers will sound the Last Post & Reveille on the highest points of each country in the UK – Ben Nevis in Scotland; Scafell Pike in England; Snowdon in Wales; and Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland – as well as every city. Also to be played at five of our farthest-flung locations – Land’s End, Cornwall; Lowestoft, Suffolk; St David’s, Pembrokeshire; the Scottish island of Unst; Enniskillen Castle in Co Fermanagh; and Tan Hill Inn in Richmond, North Yorkshire.
3pm: Exactly 75 years after Churchill declared the war in Europe over, an extract of his speech (see left) will be broadcast in villages and town centres.
3pm: Thousands of pipers around the world will play Battle’s O’er, a traditional bagpipe air, marking the end of battle. As well as on the UK’s four highest peaks, pipers will play in Cape Town and in Moscow’s Red Square. Another will play on the bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand in tribute to those who were killed in South East Asia, and others will play at the sites of concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau.
3pm: In pubs and historic sites across the country, people are urged to raise a glass for The Nation’s Toast to the heroes of the war, saying: ‘To those who gave so much, we thank you.’
Afterwards, veterans and those who contributed to the war effort take part in a procession down The Mall, ending with a flypast by the RAF’s Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which includes Spitfires and a Lancaster bomber.
6.55pm: Town criers will call the Cry For Peace Around The World to ‘remember men and women, old and young, who died to make us free’. If no crier is at hand, dignitaries, pub landlords or community leaders are encouraged to read it out.
7pm: Bells will ring out in cathedrals, churches and other locations in a celebration of peace.
7.30pm: Soprano Katherine Jenkins to host an evening of patriotic celebration at the Royal Albert Hall, featuring the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and Military Wives Choirs. To be broadcast in 400 cinemas.
SATURDAY, May 9
Parties and celebrations held in pubs, clubs, hotels, town and village halls and on village greens.
SUNDAY, May 10
10.30am: Church services around the UK, including the reading of the Tribute To The Millions and Last Post.
Older men who had served in the First World War joined the Home Guard to protect their neighbours.
Women, young and old, joined the war effort in factories and the Women’s Land Army.
Without this combined effort of millions of people, victory in Europe and the defeat of Nazism would not have been possible.
I want those who lived through the war to be at the heart of the Government’s programme of commemorative events across the country.
So we are inviting the greatest generation to take centre stage.
We want all those who served in the Forces, the Home Front and the Women’s Land Army, or who were affected by the Second World War, to get in touch with the Royal British Legion so that we can roll out the red carpet for them in London – and let the nation say thank you for their sacrifices.
When Victory in Europe was announced, people in our towns, cities and villages strung up Union Flag bunting, lit bonfires and held street parties.
A national holiday was declared and pubs opened late into the night.
Now, 75 years later, I want people to again feel that sense of pride and celebration, so we are encouraging local communities to host street parties, memorial services and other events.
To get everyone in the right spirit, the early May Bank Holiday has been moved to Friday, May 8, and we have passed legislation that will allow pubs to open until 1am.
In London, hundreds of Forces veterans will take part in a parade down The Mall, Second World War aircraft will fly over Buckingham Palace, and Churchill’s speech will be played to the crowds.
Across the country, plans are being made to thank and celebrate the veterans’ contributions within their own communities.
I want to encourage you to mark this occasion however you see fit.
That could be by hosting a street party with your neighbours, talking to a veteran who lives close by to learn about their experiences, or simply by raising a glass to say thank you to all those who served and sacrificed so much.
Of course, VE Day didn’t mark the end of the war for the many Servicemen and women stationed in the Pacific.
For them, the fighting did end until August.
We will shortly be announcing plans to mark Victory over Japan (VJ Day) on August 15.
But for now, I hope you will join me in planning for how your community can show its thanks to the Second World War generation – whatever role they played and wherever they served – and bring the country together in celebration once again.
Spam: Canned square of pork, salt, water, sugar, potato starch and sodium nitrite
Spam’s back on the menu!
Lord Woolton pies, Spam, curried carrots, ginger beer and cheese and Marmite swirls are among the 1940s culinary delights that people are being encouraged to serve up.
Spam – a canned square of pork, salt, water, sugar, potato starch and sodium nitrite – was invented in the US during the Great Depression of the 1930s as a way to sell the then unprofitable pork shoulder.
Woolton pie (named after the war-time Food Minister, 1st Earl of Woolton) is made of vegetables and lard.
Among those people arranging special events will be a couple in Pembrokeshire on their restored 1944 RAF Air Sea Rescue Launch.
At Studley’s Four Acres Care Home, Warwickshire, Jim Dyer, 103, who served as a baker in the Catering Corps, will undertake The Nation’s Toast.
Twenty young players from Biggleswade Rugby Club in Bedfordshire will go on a special VE celebration tour, while Stuart and Daphne King, from Great Yarmouth, will be at the Sandbostel memorial near Hamburg. It honours 300,000 PoWs and civilian prisoners from more than 55 countries who were in the Stalag XB camp.
Stuart’s father served on HMS Bedouin, which was torpedoed. He was rescued from the sea after eight hours and imprisoned for three years in several camps, including Stalag XB.
Moving tribute to mark battle’s end
A poignant feature of the celebrations will be the piping of Battle’s O’er – ‘I returned to the fields of glory, where the green grasses and flowers grow.
‘And the wind softly tells the story, of the brave lads of long ago.’
It was composed by Pipe Major William Robb in the late 19th Century as way to mark the end of conflict.
Pipe Major William Robb (pictured) composed the piece Battle’s O’er in the late 19th Century as way to mark the end of conflict
Born in 1863, he joined the Army at 13 and served as the Pipe Major in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
He once marched 35 miles from Aldershot to Hyde Park Corner playing the bagpipes all the way.
Pubs, clubs and churches across the country will host events – and licensing hours will be extended by two hours to 1am on Saturday, May 9.
English Heritage expects ‘parties galore in streets, pubs, neighbourhoods, schools and village halls, perhaps with food and dress reflecting the 1940s’.
An official ‘pub toolkit’ available at the website veday75.org advises patriotic drinkers on how to ‘give a toast to the heroes of World War II at 3pm (on the dot) on May 8’.
Inevitably, health and safety officials have become involved, too, warning people to make sure they ‘have a suitable area to gather round and raise their glasses’.