Never give up, never despair: The Queen's message to the UK in historic VE Day speech

8 May 2020, 21:02

By Megan White

The Queen has urged the UK to “never give up, never despair” in a historic VE Day speech as the UK remains engulfed by the coronavirus crisis.

Her Majesty addressed the nation at 9pm this evening to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

Speaking from Windsor Castle's white drawing room, the Queen told Brits that despite the lockdown, “our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.

Referring to the current pandemic, she said that “when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire.”

Read more: Brits celebrate 75th anniversary of VE Day in lockdown with socially distanced parties

Her father King George VI was an important part of her speech which was broadcast at 9pm, the exact time of his radio address to the nation on May 8 1945.

A picture of the King was next to the Queen on her desk as she spoke, and her address began with black and white footage of her father's wartime speech.

The Queen also recalled her memories of the historic day when Britain and its Allies formally accepted Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender, following almost six years of brutal warfare.

Queen Elizabeth II during her address to the nation and the Commonwealth on the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Queen Elizabeth II during her address to the nation and the Commonwealth on the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Picture: PA

She was just 13 years old when war broke out in 1939, and went on to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service when she undertook National Service in February 1945.

Beginning her address, the Queen said: "I speak to you today at the same hour as my father did, exactly 75 years ago.

"His message then was a salute to the men and women at home and abroad who had sacrificed so much in pursuit of what he rightly called a 'great deliverance'.

Read more: Boris Johnson hails the 'greatest generation of Britons' on 75th anniversary of VE Day

"The war had been a total war; it had affected everyone, and no one was immune from its impact.

"Whether it be the men and women called up to serve; families separated from each other; or people asked to take up new roles and skills to support the war effort, all had a part to play.

She continued: "At the start, the outlook seemed bleak, the end distant, the outcome uncertain.

The Red Arrows flying over the London eye to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
The Red Arrows flying over the London eye to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Picture: PA

"But we kept faith that the cause was right - and this belief, as my father noted in his broadcast, carried us through.

"Never give up, never despair - that was the message of VE Day.

"I vividly remember the jubilant scenes my sister and I witnessed with our parents and Winston Churchill from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

In Pictures: A look back at how Britain celebrated VE Day 75 years ago

"The sense of joy in the crowds who gathered outside and across the country was profound, though while we celebrated the victory in Europe, we knew there would be further sacrifice.

"It was not until August that fighting in the Far East ceased and the war finally ended.

"Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict.

Victory over Germany celebrated at Trafalgar Square in 1945
Victory over Germany celebrated at Trafalgar Square in 1945. Picture: Getty

"They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad.

"They died so we could live as free people in a world of free nations.

"They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe.

Watch: Katherine Jenkins performs to an empty Royal Albert Hall to mark VE Day

"We should and will remember them.”

Referring to the current state of the country amid the pandemic, the Queen said: "Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish.

"Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps.

"But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.

"And when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire.

"I send my warmest good wishes to you all."

During the Queen's address black and white footage was shown of the famous Buckingham Palace balcony moment when the Queen, her family and Sir Winston acknowledged the crowds.

There were scenes of revellers conga-ing through the streets, others ballroom dancing in celebration and street parties being staged with tables full of food.

Even the Queen ventured out with a group of friends, including her sister Princess Margaret, to experience the excitement, with the events forming the basis of the film A Royal Night Out.

The Queen's words were her second televised address during the coronavirus outbreak and followed her speech to the country on April 5, when she delivered a message of hope, saying if we remained resolute in the face of the outbreak "we will overcome it".

The Queen’s full VE Day address:

"I speak to you today at the same hour as my father did, exactly 75 years ago.

"His message then was a salute to the men and women at home and abroad who had sacrificed so much in pursuit of what he rightly called a 'great deliverance'.

"The war had been a total war; it had affected everyone, and no one was immune from its impact.

"Whether it be the men and women called up to serve; families separated from each other; or people asked to take up new roles and skills to support the war effort, all had a part to play.

"At the start, the outlook seemed bleak, the end distant, the outcome uncertain.

"But we kept faith that the cause was right - and this belief, as my father noted in his broadcast, carried us through.

"Never give up, never despair - that was the message of VE Day.

"I vividly remember the jubilant scenes my sister and I witnessed with our parents and Winston Churchill from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

"The sense of joy in the crowds who gathered outside and across the country was profound, though while we celebrated the victory in Europe, we knew there would be further sacrifice.

"It was not until August that fighting in the Far East ceased and the war finally ended.

"Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict.

"They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad.

"They died so we could live as free people in a world of free nations.

"They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe.

"We should and will remember them.

“As I now reflect on my father's words and the joyous celebrations, which some of us experienced first-hand, I am thankful for the strength and courage that the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and all our allies displayed.

"The wartime generation knew that the best way to honour those who did not come back from the war, was to ensure that it didn't happen again.

"The greatest tribute to their sacrifice is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side by side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all.

"Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish.

"Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps.

"But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.

"And when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire.

"I send my warmest good wishes to you all."

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