On 7th May 1945, a week after Hitler’s death, the German High Command signed their unconditional surrender at Allied headquarters in Reims, in northern France. The surrender would take effect the following day, and bring an end to the second world war in Europe.
The following day, 8th May, was a day of celebrations across the United Kingdom.
In London, crowds amassed in Trafalgar Square … and all the way up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where the King and Queen, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony to greet the cheering multitude.
I understand Princess Elizabeth (our present Queen) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.
75 years on, we look back to that time of great joy and take heart from remembering the triumph of good over evil as the Nazi regime was defeated and destroyed.
Victory in Europe Day 1945 was marked across the country with street parties and people dancing in the streets. Plans were being made in town and villages like our own to commemorate the 75th anniversary of that day and to re-capture something of that joy before the current “lock down”.
In view of our current situation, it is good to look back and reflect.
Given the situation we find ourselves in today, it is worth remembering that VE Day was not the end of the struggle. The war with Japan continued until 2nd September 1945.
And it was only after VE Day that the full extent of the horror of the Nazi atrocities came to light. To this day, people still struggle to come to terms with what humanity showed itself to be capable of.
The consequences of the war continued in this country too. Bread, which was never rationed during wartime, was put “on the ration” in July 1946. Meat was the last item to be “de-rationed”, and that was not until 1954.
Those who remember VE Day 1945, also recall how they learned to “make do and mend”, and how those lessons helped them to cope through thick and thin.
And it was not until December 2006 that Britain finally completed paying its war debt to Canada and the USA.
But none of that was on peoples’ mind on 8th May 1945 as they were told the tremendous news that the war in Europe was over. VE Day was a day to give thanks and celebrate.
Winston Churchill first made the broadcast announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender to the nation on the radio. He then read the same statement to the House of Commons shortly after-wards. As he finished his address to the House of Commons, he turned to the speaker of the house and said: “I therefore beg, Sir, with your permission to move: …
That this House do now attend at the Church of Saint Margaret, Westminster, … to give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination.”
The prayers said in that church 75 years ago will have expressed thankfulness to God for deliverance from evil, and also our trust in his provision for the future. Let us pray.
O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those men and women
who have died in active service,
particularly in the Second World War,
whose sacrifice brought Victory in Europe.
As we honour their courage and cherish their memory,
may we put our faith in Your future;
for You are the source of life and hope,
now and for ever.
Revd Stephen Robertson
6th May 2020