LEADERS across Europe are today marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day, a highly significant occasion when in normal times people would be coming together to reflect and to celebrate the date when six long years of war, hardship and suffering on the continent finally came to an end.
These are not normal times of course. The nations of Europe and the rest of the world are in the midst of a different kind of battle, although now against the new deadly and invisible coronavirus enemy.
Lockdown mean public gatherings are forbidden, forcing ceremonies to be very different affairs from those originally planned. Yet in true fighting spirit, and adapted to the ‘new normality’ of living with the ever present threat from the pandemic, VE Day is by no means being forgotten.
The British Royal Family will be at the centre of today’s official celebrations in the UK. A national two-minute silence at 11am to remember the declaration of victory and the end of the Second World War in Europe will be led by Prince Charles. Later today he will be reading extracts from the wartime journal of his grandfather King George VI, which describes VE Day in detail.
As the centrepiece of the commemorations, the Queen will deliver a personal address to the nation from Windsor Castle at 9pm tonight, the same time her father King George VI gave a radio address in 1945. This will be followed by a national doorstep sing-along of Dame Vera Lynn’s classic wartime song We’ll Meet Again.
Classical singer Katherine Jenkins will perform at the Albert Hall, although without an audience.
Earlier in the day the Red Arrows will stage a fly-past over London, and RAF Typhoons will pass over Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has recorded a message of reflection, and at 3pm this afternoon there will be a broadcast of Winston Churchill’s rousing 1945 victory speech.
“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,” the wartime Prime Minister famously said.
And while street parties are out of the question due to social distancing, the British public has been encouraged to stage their own home confinement, 1940’s-themed celebrations and to enter into the VE Day patriotic spirit.
At a time when everyone’s lives have suddenly and unexpectedly being turned upside down, and when the dark shadow of the coronavirus threat is ever present, the VE Day anniversary can perhaps serve as an inspiration to believe that by standing together and all doing our bit we can win this war and look forward to better times ahead.
Vera Lynn, known best as the Forces’ Sweetheart for entertaining the troops and for helping to keep up morale during the Second World War, at 103 remains a real inspiration for all ages.
“I hope that VE Day will remind us all that hope remains even in the most difficult of times and that simple acts of bravery and sacrifice still define our nation as the NHS works so hard to care for us,” she said.
“Most of all, I hope today serves as a reminder that however hard things get, we will meet again.”