Today marks the 70th anniversary of VE day in the United Kingdom. VE stands for Victory in Europe, and it is the anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe.
The leader of Nazi Germany through World War Two, Adolf Hitler, committed suicide on April 30th 1945. Therefore the surrender of Germany was put into place by his replacement, Karl Dönitz.
This marked the beginning of the end to the six years of hardship in the UK, where people had lived under difficult conditions such rationing, constant fear of bombing, evacuation of children, and enlistment in the armed forces.
Across the country, and indeed across Europe, celebrations immediately began, with over one million people moving out into the streets to host parties with cheering, dancing and singing.
At 3pm, many people gathered in Trafalgar Square to hear the official broadcast from Winston Churchill on the radio. The king, George VI stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace alongside Churchill, whilst the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret took part in the celebrations in the square.
His speech was as follows:
“My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny. After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year.”
“There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? [The crowd shouted “No.”] Were we down-hearted? [“No!”] The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of English men and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be-unconquered.” Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle-a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgement and our mercy.”
Around the country today there are many events to mark the anniversary, with a 2 minute silence at 3pm honouring the time when Winston Churchill gave his official speech. There will also be over 200 beacons lit at sundown tonight in various places round the country. There will be a large concert held tomorrow night to commemorate the day, featuring performances by Chris Evans, Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins. Locally, many people are hosting smaller events across the country, such as afternoon teas, street parties and local concerts.
If you are interested in learning more about history and the war why not enrol on our Social and Political History Diploma?