So today marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day. On Tuesday 8th May 1945, millions of people rejoiced as the Allies of World War II had formally accepted Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces the previous day.
Of course, the surrender by Germany didn’t mean a complete end to the war, as Japan had still not conceded defeat, but a time of celebration was allowed. In his announcement Prime Minister Winston Churchill said “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead”.
In London, crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square and up The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony, with Princess Elizabeth (our future queen) and Princess Margaret also alongside. In fact, the two princesses were able to mingle and celebrate with the crowds outside the palace, although they had to do it in secret! These joyous scenes were repeated up and down the country as people partied, danced and sang in the streets.
Of course, the celebrations were bittersweet for many, as the country mourned the loss of millions of lives, and worried about those still engaged in combat in the Far East. The war had a profound impact on communities across the UK and the Commonwealth, which continued long after the war came to an end. The nation had to rebuild as the war had been so expensive; clothing and food rationing remained in place and the recovery would be a long and laborious task.
Unfortunately, the UK’s long-planned celebrations of this momentous day (after the Bank Holiday was even moved to coincide with the anniversary) have been curtailed by recent events; indeed, these extraordinary times that we are currently living through have been likened in some ways to peoples’ wartime experiences and spirit. Street parties have been cancelled and all public gatherings and events will now not be able to go ahead.
The Royal British Legion is still calling on people across the UK to join in a moment of reflection and rememberance at 11am today, and pause for a two minute silence together. Whether you choose to join in with this, or to just simply spend the long weekend with your loved ones, we at Arrow Mill hope you stay healthy and safe, and we would like to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to our Armed Forces, both past and present, for their sacrifice and bravery.