The Queen to lead nation in commemorating 75th anniversary of VE Day

29 April 2020, 00:03

The Queen will lead the UK in commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE Day
The Queen will lead the UK in commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The Queen will lead the UK in commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE Day with a video address to the country.

It will be Her Majesty's second televised message to the nation during the coronavirus crisis and will form part of a series of events on 8 May marking the Allied victory over Nazi Germany and the Axis powers in Europe.

Sacrifices made by those killed in the conflict will be remembered in spite of the Covid-19 outbreak, however plans have been altered in order to accommodate the event.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden mapped out a new programme for the VE Day anniversary to replace the original plans for a veterans' procession and street parties.

He said: "We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the greatest generation that served in combat and on the home front during the Second World War.

"Whilst we now need to celebrate VE 75 in our homes and on our doorsteps, rather than in parades and street parties, I know the nation will come together to mark this historic occasion.

"In these difficult times, acts of remembrance are even more poignant and I am sure that millions will want to join me to remember and give thanks to those who gave so much to secure peace, freedom and prosperity in Europe."

The qualities displayed by those who lived and died through the era, of stoicism and bravery, have been held up as characteristics to emulate during the current pandemic.

Princess Elizabeth at the wheel of an army vehicle on 01/01/1945
Princess Elizabeth at the wheel of an army vehicle on 01/01/1945. Picture: PA

Following the Queen's broadcast, the public will be invited to join a moment of celebration and thanksgiving by taking part in a rendition of Forces' Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn's wartime anthem We'll Meet Again.

The pre-recorded televised address will be broadcast on BBC One 9pm - the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a radio address on 8 May 1945.

On 5 April, the monarch addressed the UK by delivering a message of hope. She said that if people remained resolute amid the pandemic then "we will overcome it."

During that speech she echoed Dame Vera's words by telling those in lockdown "we will meet again."

Huge crowds at Trafalgar Square in London celebrate VE Day on 08/05/45
Huge crowds at Trafalgar Square in London celebrate VE Day on 08/05/45. Picture: PA

Two TV addresses in just over four weeks highlights the unprecedented nature of what the country is going through under lockdown.

In addition, Charles the Prince of Wales will read an extract from his grandfather King George VI's diary from 8 May 1945, which describes VE Day, including the royal family's memorable Buckingham Palace balcony appearances.

The commemorations will also feature Second World War veterans and those who served on the home front taking part in a series of video calls with members of the Royal Family, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Culture Secretary, with First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford hosting calls with veterans in Wales.

They will begin at 11am with a national moment of remembrance and a two-minute silence, with the Royal British Legion (RBL) encouraging all generations to participate, and also reflect on the impact of Covid-19 on lives across the world.

VE Day celebrations in the East End of London on 08/05/45
VE Day celebrations in the East End of London on 08/05/45. Picture: PA

Bob Gamble, the RBL's director of commemorative events, said: "As we face some of the most challenging times since the Second World War, now more than ever it is important to unite in recognition of people's service to the nation, just as communities did 75 years ago."

He added: "There are many parallels between the struggles of the Second World War and what we are going through today.

"As we mark 75 years since Victory in Europe, we look to our Second World War generation to learn from their experiences, and the Legion continues our critical work to protect them from the threat we currently face."

King George VI and the Queen Mother standing amid the bomb damage at Buckingham Palace on 10/09/40
King George VI and the Queen Mother standing amid the bomb damage at Buckingham Palace on 10/09/40. Picture: PA

Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May 1945 marked the formal acceptance of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender by Britain and its Allies following almost six years of brutal warfare during the Second World War.

It saw spontaneous celebrations break out across the country and even the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, 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 Government had moved the traditional early May bank holiday from May 4 to May 8 to allow for celebrations to take place.

But social distancing requirements have meant the cancellation of street parties, the creation of Victory Park, featuring examples of Second World War life, in London's St James' Park and broadcasts from public spaces of Sir Winston Churchill's famous victory speech.

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