People plan parties at home to celebrate VE Day
VE Day celebrations in London, in 1945. (TopFoto)
On 8 May, celebrations were due to be held to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
What is VE Day?
Victory in Europe (VE) Day was held on 8 May 1945. It was the day when the Second World War came to an end in Europe, after Nazi Germany surrendered. The Second World War was an international conflict fought from 1939 to 1945 between the Allied powers and the Axis powers. The main Allied powers were France, the UK, the US and the Soviet Union (a group of countries that were ruled from Moscow, the capital of Russia). The main Axis powers were Nazi Germany and Japan. It wasn’t until Japan surrendered on
15 August that the war ended across the world.
How was it celebrated at the time?
In 1945, VE Day celebrations actually started on the evening of 7 May. This is when the end of the war in Europe was announced on the radio and people in the UK were told that the following day would be a national holiday. On 8 May, people gathered in the streets to celebrate. Bunting and flags were put up and people lit bonfires and fireworks. The Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI both gave speeches, which were broadcast on the radio. The royal family appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London throughout the day to wave to the crowds below. King George VI’s daughters, Elizabeth – who is now Queen – and Margaret left the palace to join the party. The Queen later said that it was one of the most memorable nights of her life.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Many events that were planned, such as parades, have had to be cancelled or changed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, people said they would celebrate in their own homes. On 8 May, at 11am, a two-minute silence was due to be observed to remember those who died during the war. In the evening, at 9pm, the BBC planned to show a speech by the Queen, which she had recorded for the occasion. It was at 9pm on 8 May 1945 that her father, King George VI, spoke to the nation on the radio. Following the Queen’s speech, a singalong of the song We’ll Meet Again by Dame Vera Lynn was due to take place. The song, which was released in 1939, became famous during the Second World War and was played on the radio to lift people’s spirits. Lynn, who is now 103 years old, was due to lead the singalong from her home in East Sussex, England.
The royal family appear on the balcony in 1945. (Alamy)
What else has been done?
Royal Mail has released a series of stamps to commemorate the occasion, and the Royal Mint released special £2 coins. The Royal British Legion charity has launched its “Tommy in the Window” campaign. They are selling figures of British soldiers (known as “Tommies” during the war) for people to display in their windows. These can be bought on its website and all the money raised will go towards supporting people who have fought in wars.
Memories from VE Day
Alec Borrie, who is now 95 years old, was in the Special Air Service (SAS) during the Second World War. The SAS is a part of the British Army that carries out secret missions. He spent VE Day at a pub in Chesterfield, England. Borrie told Katie Edwards, from the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum, that he remembers talking to someone, only to realise that he was looking at a mirror and speaking to himself, which made everyone laugh.
By midnight on 8 May 1945, around 50,000 people had gathered in Piccadilly Circus in London to celebrate.