Every year, the first bank holiday in May falls on the first Monday of the month. However, in 2020, it has officially been moved to Friday 8th May. This is so that it can coincide with the date that we celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE day. While this is an important day to Britain, and indeed many other countries, a lot of people don't know much about why. Find out exactly what VE day is and why we celebrate it.
When is the 75th Anniversary of VE Day?
The 75th anniversary of VE day is on Friday 8th May 2020.
What does VE Stand for?
'VE' stands for Victory in Europe, which is precisely what the occasion celebrates.
What is VE day?
On Tuesday 8th May, 1945, the Allied forces of World War II announced that Germany had surrendered in Europe. At 3pm on that day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill made an announcement on the radio declaring the end of the war with Germany to the British public, following the surrender of the Nazis on the previous day.
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The #VEDay75 bank holiday weekend (8-10 May) offers a unique opportunity to bring communities of all nationalities in your town, village, city together in peace and common friendship. . Let us know what you’re planning by registering your local event at veday75.org/register . #veday #veday75thanniversary
What happened on the first VE day?
After the announcement was made, unsurprisingly the people of Britain erupted in high spirits and celebration. There were street parties up and down the country. Many people flocked to the churches to thank God for the victory, and St Paul’s Cathedral in London held ten services, which thousands of people attended.
The First VE Day in London
On 8th May 1945, after the joyous news was announced, people donned red, white, and blue outfits in a portrayal of patriotism, and flocked around Buckingham Palace. The then king, King George VI appeared at the well-known balcony with his wife (the Queen Mother), Princess Margaret, and of course our Queen who was then Princess Elizabeth. The family waved and celebrated with the public. In fact, the princesses were given permission to leave Buckingham Palace and celebrate in secret among the rest of society.
Why did Germany surrender?
Nazi forces had suffered significant defeats in the period running up to May 8th, with Allied forces advancing in West Germany and the Soviet army in the East. Because of this, in January of 1945, Hitler decided to live out the rest of his days in his bunker in Berlin. It was during the Battle of Berlin, (16th April 1945 – 2nd May 1945), when the Soviets took control of the city, that Hitler committed suicide; on 30th April.
In his will, Hitler named Admiral Karl Donitz as the new Head of State, and Joseph Geobbels as chancellor. As the new Head of State, one week later on 7th May, Donitz sent General Alfred Jodl to meet with General Dwight Eisenhower (who later became the US president). They met in Rheims, France, to discuss an amicable end to the conflict. It was during this meeting that Jodl signed the unconditional surrender of Germany. This was to come into effect the following day, at 11.01pm.
Was VE Day the end of World War II?
While the surrender of Germany was considered an enormous victory throughout Europe and the USA, sadly it did not mark the end of the war.
In September 1940, the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan were formed. Within this allegiance two ‘spheres of influence’ were acknowledged, with Japan being declared the leaders of ‘Greater East Asia’. After Germany surrendered, Japan was not ready to end the fighting, still seeking their promised position of power.
This meant that while the war in Europe was over, Allied forces were still needed to fight against the Japanese overseas. It wasn’t until 15th August 1945 that World War II was declared fully over, after the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese soil, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On 15th August, Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced their surrender. This day is known as VJ Day; Victory over Japan Day.
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April 1944, locals share a joke with GIs at the Dove Inn, Burton Bradstock, Dorset. The prominence of the Reading poster is unlikely to be coincidental - active efforts were made to suggest that the D-Day invasion would come from further east. Also of note is how the US troops are drinking beer, and avoiding the strong cider preferred by the locals! #VEDay75 veday75.org
Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of VE Day
VE Day in London in 2020 was planned to be a momentous occasion full of celebrations that were spread across the three day weekend. These included parties, concerts, and many church services. Earlier on in the year, the following events had been announced:
- Red Arrows flypast above Buckingham Palace
- Battle of Britain memorial flight above Buckingham Palace
- Westminster Abbey thanksgiving service
- Veterans, evacuees, and descendants procession through the Mall
- St James’ park will become Victory Park, with stalls displaying wartime life
- Loud-speaker broadcast of Winston Churchill’s victory speech, in public places
Sadly though, amid the coronavirus outbreak, none of the planned events will come to pass. Instead, we are encouraged to observe this important day at home. To mark the occasion, consider taking part in the following;
11am – a nationwide two minute’s silence to honour WWII heroes.
11.02am – following the silence, the Archbishop of Canterbury will address the nation with a special reflection and moment of prayer.
2.45pm – Winston Churchill’s address to the nation, from the first VE Day in 1945, will be screened on BBC One.
3pm – the public is encouraged to raise a glass and take part in the ‘Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW2’.
8pm – in partnership with the Royal British Legion, BBC One will screen a musical celebration. During this, modern stars such as Katherine Jenkins and Beverly Knight will perform their renditions of songs from the era.
9pm – at the same time as her father, King George VI, addressed the nation in 1945, a message from Queen Elizabeth will be televised. The programming will end with a very fitting rendition of Dame Vera Lynn’s, ‘We’ll Meet Again’.
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🎫 Join us at 6pm BST on Friday 8 May 2020, as @royalalberthall @mayorofldn @ssafa_armedforcescharity present “We’ll Meet Again for VE Day 75’. Mezzo-soprano @katherinejenkinsobe delivers a historic set from an empty Royal Albert Hall to mark #veday75. Watch free at youtube.com/royalalberthall #veday #veday75thanniversary #londontogether
While it’s not possible to commemorate this special date in British history in the ways we would have liked, it’s important not to let the day pass without some celebration. Whether for you this means a moment of quiet reflection to think about the strength of our heroes, or it’s a day of television to absorb the national tributes, be sure you find a way to take part in the 75th VE-Day anniversary.