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Boris Johnson urges Britain to take inspiration from ‘heroic’ war generation

Boris Johnson today urged coronavirus-hit Britain to take inspiration from the ‘heroic’ generation that won the Second World War.

In a heartfelt tribute to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the PM said the efforts against the Nazis had ‘saved freedom’, adding: ‘We owe them everything.’

He said Britons ‘triumphed over every ordeal and hardship’ during the war, and the country now needed the ‘same spirit of national endeavour’. 

The stirring words, in a video message issued by Downing Street today, came as the country commemorates the historic day in 1945 when war officially ended in Europe. 

However, events are taking place across the country in line with ‘social distancing’ guidelines as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

The world-famous Red Arrows have flown over London, while RAF Typhoons will soar over Edinburgh, Cardiff and Bristol in magnificent displays. 

In a heartfelt tribute to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Boris Johnson said the efforts of the wartime generation had ‘saved freedom’, adding: ‘We owe them everything.’

The PM’s VE Day video message in full 

‘Seventy five years ago, the people of this country celebrated victory against Hitler’s aggression. In cities scarred by enemy bombing, the crowds gave thanks for a national exertion greater than anything else before or since. What our country and our allies did was to save freedom.

‘Britain and the Commonwealth and Empire were the only nations who fought Hitler from the first day of the Second World War to the last without being defeated and occupied. For a whole year, 1940-41, we stood alone against him, the last barrier to his tyranny. If we’d gone down, then it wasn’t just our country that would have been destroyed, but liberty and democracy everywhere.

‘But we did not fail: thanks to the heroism of countless ordinary people, who may be elderly today, but who once carried the fate of freedom itself on their shoulders. Across the world, our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Nazis with courage, ingenuity and stubborn endurance.

‘On the home front, women defended out cities against air raids, worked the factories, ran the hospitals and broke enemy codes. People of every age, race and background came together in one supreme effort, and they paid a grievous price, with over 450,000 British people laying down their lives.

‘And yet they triumphed over every ordeal and hardship and because of their victory, hundreds of millions of people live in peace and freedom today. The countries who we fought are now among our closest friends, and most of Europe has enjoyed 75 years of peace. We are now engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus, which demands the same spirit of national endeavour.

‘And that means we can’t hold the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past. But all of us, who were born since 1945, are acutely conscious that we owe everything we most value to the generation who won the Second World War. Today we celebrate their achievement, we remember their sacrifice and we take pride in being their compatriots. We are a free people because of everything they did, and our gratitude will be eternal.’

Prince Charles had led a national two-minute silence at 11am, and the Last Post will be played from the top of the country’s four highest peaks.

Meanwhile, families are being urged to post pictures online of their ‘street parties’ – with the hastag #StayAtHomeParty.   

In a video addressing the nation this morning, the PM said: ‘Seventy five years ago, the people of this country celebrated victory against Hitler’s aggression. 

‘In cities scarred by enemy bombing, the crowds gave thanks for a national exertion greater than anything else before or since. What our country and our allies did was to save freedom.

‘Britain and the Commonwealth and Empire were the only nations who fought Hitler from the first day of the Second World War to the last without being defeated and occupied. 

‘For a whole year, 1940-41, we stood alone against him, the last barrier to his tyranny. If we’d gone down, then it wasn’t just our country that would have been destroyed, but liberty and democracy everywhere.

‘But we did not fail: thanks to the heroism of countless ordinary people, who may be elderly today, but who once carried the fate of freedom itself on their shoulders. 

Across the world, our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Nazis with courage, ingenuity and stubborn endurance.’

Mr Johnson pointed out that it was not just those actively involved in fighting who contributed to the victory.

‘On the home front, women defended out cities against air raids, worked the factories, ran the hospitals and broke enemy codes. People of every age, race and background came together in one supreme effort, and they paid a grievous price, with over 450,000 British people laying down their lives,’ he said.

‘And yet they triumphed over every ordeal and hardship and because of their victory, hundreds of millions of people live in peace and freedom today.’ 

Mr Johnson said the European countries Britain fought ‘are now among our closest friends’. 

And urging the current generation to draw strength from the past, he said: ‘We are now engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus, which demands the same spirit of national endeavour.

‘And that means we can’t hold the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past. 

‘But all of us, who were born since 1945, are acutely conscious that we owe everything we most value to the generation who won the Second World War. 

‘Today we celebrate their achievement, we remember their sacrifice and we take pride in being their compatriots. 

‘We are a free people because of everything they did, and our gratitude will be eternal.’ 

The video came alongside a letter to Second World War veterans, in which Mr Johnson wrote: ‘Please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered.’

Boris Johnson (pictured in Westminster Abbey) has thanked veterans whose efforts to defeat a 'ruthless enemy' would 'always be remembered' on the 75th anniversary of VE Day

Boris Johnson (pictured in Westminster Abbey) has thanked veterans whose efforts to defeat a ‘ruthless enemy’ would ‘always be remembered’ on the 75th anniversary of VE Day

Mr Johnson wrote: 'But please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered'

Mr Johnson wrote: ‘But please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered’

This VE Day marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (pictured, blind war veterans clapping for carers outside Blind Veterans UK, East Sussex)

This VE Day marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe (pictured, blind war veterans clapping for carers outside Blind Veterans UK, East Sussex)

VE Day will be marked with small commemorations in Parliament, with Speakers of both the Commons and the Lords expected to offer tributes (pictured, in New York)

VE Day will be marked with small commemorations in Parliament, with Speakers of both the Commons and the Lords expected to offer tributes (pictured, in New York)

Britain announced 539 coronavirus victims on Thursday, as the UK's official toll rose to 30,615

Britain announced 539 coronavirus victims on Thursday, as the UK’s official toll rose to 30,615

Mr Johnson wrote: 'We are engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus which demands the same spirit of national endeavour that you exemplified 75 years ago'

Mr Johnson wrote: ‘We are engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus which demands the same spirit of national endeavour that you exemplified 75 years ago’

Tributes to veterans of the world war have come from across the political spectrum, echoing Mr Johnson's words of gratitude (pictured, a V-shaped victory party in Brockley, London)

Tributes to veterans of the world war have come from across the political spectrum, echoing Mr Johnson’s words of gratitude (pictured, a V-shaped victory party in Brockley, London)

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the British government opted to move the early May bank holiday – usually held on the first Monday of the month – to May 8 to allow the UK to mark the 75th anniversary of the 1945 Victory in Europe celebrations.

But the ban on mass events, brought in on March 23 to stem the spread of the virus, means the celebrations will be more low-key than initially anticipated.  

The Conservative Party leader labelled the NHS ‘invincible’ in its fight against Covid-19 in a speech following his own release from intensive care last month, having suffered from coronavirus symptoms.

Tributes to veterans of the world war have come from across the political spectrum, echoing Mr Johnson’s words of gratitude.

The Prime Minister praised those who served on the front line and those involved in the home front effort, adding: 'Our celebration of the anniversary of the victory might give the impression that Hitler's downfall was somehow inevitable. You know better'

The Prime Minister praised those who served on the front line and those involved in the home front effort, adding: ‘Our celebration of the anniversary of the victory might give the impression that Hitler’s downfall was somehow inevitable. You know better’

The ban on mass events means the celebrations will be more low-key than initially anticipated (pictured, 94-year-old Doug Farrington in his front room window in Oldham)

The ban on mass events means the celebrations will be more low-key than initially anticipated (pictured, 94-year-old Doug Farrington in his front room window in Oldham)

The Prime Minister described those involved in the struggle to defeat Nazism as 'quite simply the greatest generation of Britons who ever lived' (pictured, 1945 queuing for rations)

The Prime Minister described those involved in the struggle to defeat Nazism as ‘quite simply the greatest generation of Britons who ever lived’ (pictured, 1945 queuing for rations)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in a video message to be released today, will highlight the legacy of ‘those that rebuilt and renewed our country after the war’. 

He will single out the NHS, the welfare state and the ‘recognition of human rights’. 

‘In normal times we would be paying tribute to their achievements in street parties, in gatherings and events at the Cenotaph,’ he will say.

‘This year we can’t do that, this year we can’t be together. We commemorate those who stood together for a better future. 

‘We remember their service, and also their sacrifice.

‘We also pay tribute to those that rebuilt and renewed our country after the war. Based on their values they built a better future.’

Sir Ed Davey, acting Liberal Democrat leader, said: ‘This anniversary we must honour the sacrifices made and recommit to ensuring that international cooperation and hard-won peace across Europe is protected so that we may never suffer the death and destruction of World War Two again.’ 

Sir Keir Starmer will highlight the legacy of 'those that rebuilt and renewed our country after the war' (pictured, injured musicians dancing in London to celebrate VE Day)

Sir Keir Starmer will highlight the legacy of ‘those that rebuilt and renewed our country after the war’ (pictured, injured musicians dancing in London to celebrate VE Day)

The Conservative Party leader labelled the NHS 'invincible' in its fight against Covid-19 in a speech following his own release from intensive care last month

The Conservative Party leader labelled the NHS ‘invincible’ in its fight against Covid-19 in a speech following his own release from intensive care last month

VE Day will be marked with small commemorations in Parliament, with Speakers of both the Commons and the Lords expected to offer tributes. 

They will be followed by a wreath laying service in Westminster Hall, led by the Speaker’s Chaplain to coincide with the two minutes’ silence at 11am. 

A trumpeter from the Band of the Scots Guard will sound the Last Post. 

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is due to read extracts from a speech given by Winston Churchill in the Commons on May 8, 1945, in which he announced the surrender of Germany, bringing the Second World War to an end in Europe.

In the evening, the Queen will deliver a personal address from Windsor Castle.

It will be broadcast on television at 9pm, the same time her father, King George VI, gave a radio address in 1945 to mark the cessation of hostilities on the continent. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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