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Victory in Europe 1945

Victory in Europe 1945

Just browsing the photographs of VE Day underscores the jubilation of all the people who celebrated. Women, men and children poured out onto the sunny streets – dancing, singing and drinking to cheer the end of hostility. Many communities organised thanksgiving services, street parties, parades, bonfires and fireworks of the most communal kind. Cameras clicked and captured the images for prosperity.

War in Europe came to an official end with the signing of surrender by Germany on 7th May 1945.  Winston Churchill declared 8th May a National Bank Holiday. To mirror that event, Bank Holiday Monday in 2020 was moved to Friday 8th May.

Sadly, with the country in lockdown the celebrations are muted. That is not to say we should not commemorate the official end of the war in Europe; it was, and is, a hugely important historical date.

After 3rd September 1939 when Chamberlain stated, “this country is at war with Germany”, every person who endured that long and challenging conflict suffered. The revelry in May 1945 was inevitably tainted by the huge cost in human life: everyone knew of someone who was grieving. Many still worried about those still serving in the armed forces overseas.

D-Day a whole year earlier had turned the tide, allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches. Yet, there were setbacks: in September, the Battle of Arnhem, named “a bridge too far” was not a successful mission. There were over 7,500 casualties from a total of 10,000 who parachuted in, or landed by glider. A few months later, the Battle of the Bulge, which began in December 1944, was eventually won by the allied forces in January 1945, yet it took another long, four months before war was declared over.

The hostilities involved soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians. Alas, many who lived through the Second World War, and the subsequent festivities of VE Day in 1945, have passed away. Memories of all the diverse chapters of that long and difficult war are now kept alive in the photographs, the artefacts and in the oral retelling by descendants.

One such descendant is Sam Chaplin in Year 10, whose great grandfather was the Chief Medical Officer at Arnhem, he was one of 10,000 men parachuted into the area with the British 1st Airborne Division. His great grandfather remained with the wounded; eventually, he made it home with the help of the Dutch resistance.

Last September, Sam’s family attended four days of events in Arnhem to mark the anniversary of Operation Market Garden in 1944, which turned into a most momentous battle. Little did the military know that a year later the war would be over: their efforts had not been in vain. Below you can view an amazing video of Sam sharing the story of his great grandfather.

Churchill had motivated the people of the country to fight: never to surrender. His famous speech to Parliament in June 1940 punched hard: “We shall fight in France, … on the seas and oceans, … in the air, … on the beaches, … on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets … in the hills”. The people of our nation did fight in every way described in Churchill’s address to parliament and no-one surrendered: eventually the allies were victorious.

Queen Elizabeth II’s 2020 speech is timed to be broadcast at 9pm. She was active in the war, her memories of that time, of the victory and of the VE Day rejoicing, are part of her, and our, national heritage. Poignantly, her address is scheduled to be aired at the exactly the same time as her father’s was, all those years ago, on 8th May 1945.

King George hoped that all the “blood, sweat and tears” would not be in vain. In that he has had his wish. There has been peace between the European nations since and long may peace continue.

Today, VE Day is as important as ever; it is historically significant: human beings died defending freedom and for that we must commemorate and applaud them.

GMS hope you enjoy your lockdown 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

 

 

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