A televised address by Queen Elizabeth followed by a nationwide singalong of We’ll Meet Again were among the highlights during Great Britain’s 75th VE Day celebration on Friday, May 8, 2020.
“Never give up, never despair – that was the message of VE Day,” the Queen said in her address to the nation (the video is below).
VE Day – Victory in Europe Day – celebrates the formal surrender by Nazi Germany on 8 May 1945, marking the end of World War II in Europe. VE Day is celebrated worldwide but is especially important to Londoners, who marked VE Day in 1945 with more than a million celebrating in the streets. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace before cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
VE Day Events in Great Britain on Friday, May 8, 2020 included (all times below are UK time):
- 11 am: Two-minute time of national silence
- 2.45 pm BBC One specials including Sir Winston Churchill’s victory speech that was delivered at 3pm on VE Day
- 3 pm: A nationwide at-home Toast to the heroes of World War 2
- 7 pm: Ringing of bells churches and cathedrals
- 9 pm — Address by the Queen on BBC followed by national doorstep rendition of Dame Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again.
The Queen’s address – which follows a clip of her father, King George VI, addressing the nation 75 years ago – is below. You can find more Royal Family videos celebrating VE Day on the Royal Family Youtube Channel.
Below is a special rendition of We’ll Meet Again featuring a vintage performance by Vera Lynn, followed by a new performance by Katherine Jenkins and everyday Londoners.
A newsreel video of VE Day is below.
Leading up to the celebrations abroad was a PBS special in the U.S. titled, The Queen at War. A preview is below.
About VE Day (from Wikipedia)
Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day (United Kingdom) or V-E Day (North America), is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces on 8 May 1945.
Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, had committed suicide on 30 April during the Battle of Berlin and Germany’s surrender was authorized by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was first signed at 02:41 on 7 May at Reims, and a slightly modified document was signed on 8 May in Berlin.
Most European countries celebrate the end of World War II on 8 May. Russia, Belarus, and Serbia celebrate on 9 May, as did several former Soviet bloc countries. Israel also marks VE Day on 9 May, as a result of the large number of immigrants from the former Soviet bloc, although it is not a public holiday.
Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in Great Britain and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout Great Britain to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
In the United States, the event coincided with President Harry Truman‘s 61st birthday. He dedicated the victory to the memory of his predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a month earlier, on 12 April. Great celebrations took place in many American cities, especially in New York’s Times Square.
Tempering the jubilation somewhat, both Churchill and Truman pointed out that the war against Japan had not yet been won. In his radio broadcast at 15:00 on the 8th, Churchill told the British people that: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing (as Japan) remains unsubdued”. In America, Truman broadcast at 09:00 and said it was “a victory only half won”.