VE Day: Britain marks 75th anniversary of end of WWII in Europe

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Britain is to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, with the Royal Family leading tributes as the country remains in lockdown due to the coronavirus.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will lead a two-minute silence at 11:00 BST to honour servicemen and women during World War Two, and the Queen will address the nation later.

The PM thanked the VE Day generation, saying “our gratitude will be eternal”.

Events are taking place all day, but public gatherings have been cancelled.

Victory in Europe Day marks the day in 1945 when then-prime minister Sir Winston Churchill announced that the war in Europe had come to an end, after Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered.

This year’s celebration will be limited as the lockdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic means there will be no large scale street parties or parades.

However, the BBC is airing a series of special programmes to mark the milestone occasion, including a re-broadcast of parts of Sir Winston’s speech.

A pre-recorded message from the Queen will be broadcast on BBC One at 21:00 – the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a radio address 75 years ago.

‘One supreme effort’

In a message, Prime Minister Mr Johnson referred to the virus outbreak, saying it “demands the same spirit of national endeavour” as shown during wartime.

“We can’t hold the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past, but all of us who were born since 1945 are acutely conscious that we owe everything we most value to the generation who won the Second World War,” he said.

Mr Johnson – who is due to have a video call with a veteran later – said: “We survived and eventually triumphed thanks to the heroism of countless ordinary people, who may be elderly today, but who once carried the fate of freedom itself on their shoulders.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to light a candle at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in London, ahead of commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Mr Johnson lit a candle in Westminster Abbey, ahead of the day of commemorations
The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle (left) looks on as Prime Minister Boris Johnson lights a candle at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey in London
He and the Dean of Westminster socially distance at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior

“Across the world, our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Nazis with courage, ingenuity and stubborn endurance.

“On the home front, women defended our cities against air raids, worked the factories, ran the hospitals and broke enemy codes. People of every age, race and background came together in one supreme effort.”

Mr Johnson also wrote to surviving veterans and told them, despite the ongoing lockdown due to coronavirus, their efforts to topple a “ruthless enemy” would “always be remembered”.

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What is VE Day?

Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill stands on the balcony of Buckingham Palace alongside the Royal Family (with the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, on the left) on VE Day, 8 May 1945
Prime Minister Winston Churchill stands on the balcony of Buckingham Palace alongside the Royal Family (with the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, on the left) on 8 May 1945

Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May 1945 saw Britain and its Allies formally accept Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender after almost six years of war.

At 15:00, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced on the radio that the war in Europe had come to an end, following Germany’s surrender the day before.

Spontaneous celebrations broke out across the country and the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, and her sister Princess Margaret, ventured out with a group of friends to experience the excitement in London.

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Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said although people cannot be together this VE Day, “we can still remember together”.

He also referred to the virus outbreak, saying: “We owe so much to the generation of VE Day. We must do everything we can to care for and support them through the current crisis.”

He added: “The crisis in our care homes has gone on for too long and we must do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable, many of whom protected our country in its darkest hour.”

In a video message, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said reconciliation and hope were the “two great tributes we can pay to the 1945 generation”.

Ecstatic crowds celebrating VE Day in London's Piccadilly, at the end of World War II, 8th May 1945
In London’s Piccadily, the end of the war was celebrated with jubilance
VE day, held to commemorate the official end of World War II in Europe, is celebrated by crowds at Trafalgar Square in London, 8th May 1945.
Large crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square

The BBC’s special evening programme will feature Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins, actor Adrian Lester and singer Beverley Knight, who will be performing some well-known songs from the 1930s and 40s.

It will culminate in a public sing along of Dame Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, a song synonymous with World War Two.

Last month, the Queen echoed the words of the now 103-year-old singer – known as the Forces’ sweetheart – when she told those in lockdown “we will meet again” during a rare speech to the nation.

Events scheduled on Friday

  • 10:50 BST: A service in Westminster will see Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle lay a wreath on behalf of the House of Commons. Lord West will lay a wreath on behalf of the Lords
  • 11:00: A national moment of remembrance and a two-minute silence
  • 14:45: In a special programme on BBC One, extracts from Churchill’s victory speech to the nation announcing the end of the war in Europe will be broadcast
  • 14:55: Solo buglers, trumpeters and cornet players will be invited to play the Last Post from their homes
  • 15:00: As Churchill’s speech is broadcast, people will be invited to stand up and raise a glass in a national toast, saying: “To those who gave so much, we thank you”
  • 20:00: Another BBC One special will feature Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins, actor Adrian Lester and singer Beverley Knight, who will be performing some well-known songs from the 1930s and 40s. The programme will culminate in the nation being invited to sing along to a rendition of wartime classic We’ll Meet Again
  • 21:00: The Queen’s pre-recorded address will be broadcast on BBC One. It will be her second televised message during the coronavirus outbreak after a rare speech to the nation last month
  • 21:30: Spotlights will light up the sky in Portsmouth to recall the experience of blackouts during the war. The local council says the lights are also to remind people “that lighter times will come again”

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