Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall led the nation in a solemn two-minute silence to remember the fallen on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Charles, 71, and Camilla, 72, known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, each laid a floral tribute at a war memorial at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, before falling silent in memory of the heroes of the Second World War.
The moment held added poignancy for Camilla, who left a touching handwritten note to her ‘darling father’ Major Bruce Shand, a decorated officer who fought with the 12th Lancers.
The royals and politicians today lead the nation in remembrance after large scale commemorative events were cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.
This morning the Red Arrows performed a spectacular flypast over London and at 9pm the Queen will address the nation in a special broadcast from Windsor Castle.
Camilla joined her husband Prince Charles, 71, to lay flowers at the war memorial at Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, before leading the nation in a solemn two-minute silence to remember to fallen and those who fought in the Second World War
Prince Charles looked solemn as he laid a wreath at the memorial and led the nation in a two-minute silence today
Tied to the stems of Camilla’s bouquet was a monogrammed note card with a message that remembered the service of Major Shand and the 12th Lancers, pictured
The Red Arrows carried out a spectacular flypast over London, and Buckingham Palace, this morning
Royal Air Force Red Arrows flying past the Runnymede Memorial in Egham, Surrey
Force Red Arrows flying past the statue of former prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square
A stunning photo captures the Red Arrows in flight over London this morning as part of VE Day commemorations
The Houses of Parliament fell silent for two minutes this morning to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
At Balmoral, Charles wore Highland Day Dress – a Hunting Stewart kilt with a Gordon Highlanders tie and lapel badge – as well as wearing medals and neck order.
Camilla, her 4 Rifles dress, because she is Royal Colonel of the regiment, and her 12th Royal Lancers regimental brooch, looked sombre as she laid the flowers at Balmoral, where she and Prince Charles have been in isolation for several weeks. The bouquet was handpicked by the Duchess from the grounds of Birkhall.
Tied to the stems of Camilla’s bouquet was a monogrammed note card with a message that read: ‘In memory of my darling father, and all the officers and men of the 12th Lancers, who fought so bravely to give us peace. Camilla.’
She took a moment to remember her father, Major Bruce Shand, who joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero, as she laid her flowers. She enjoyed a close relationship with her father until his death in 2006 at the age of 89.
Charles’ handwritten message with his floral tribute read: ‘In everlasting remembrance’.
The Queen will address the country from Windsor Castle at 9pm this evening and afterwards, Britons will be invited to join in with a singalong to Vera Lynn’s wartime classic, We’ll Meet Again.
Charles and Camilla led the way as the UK fell silent to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay are photographed walking towards the Balmoral War Memorial this morning
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay both donned military outfits for the occasion, pictured
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay looked sombre as they marked VE Day together in Balmoral, Aberdeenshire, today
The royals observing a two minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day at the Balmoral War Memorial
The Duke of Rothesay lays a wreath after observing a two minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Prince Charles was watched by his wife as he lay the wreath on the war memorial at Balmoral today, pictured
Prince Charles, who has been in joint isolation with Camilla since March, looked sombre as he lay the wreath this morning
Charles’ handwritten message with his floral tribute read: ‘In everlasting remembrance’, pictured
The poignant moment was led by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who each laid a wreath at a memorial near Balmoral
Charles and Camilla left handwritten notes, with Camilla using hers to pay tribute to her father, Major Bruce Shand
The Duchess of Cornwall placed spring flowers on the memorial, which were picked personally by Her Royal Highness from the garden at Birkhall
The engagement today is the first time the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay have been seen outside in weeks
Charles wore Highland Day Dress – a Hunting Stewart kilt with a Gordon Highlanders tie and lapel badge – as well as wearing medals and neck order
How Camilla’s ‘darling father’ Major Shand became a Second World War hero – and survived a PoW camp
The Duchess’ father, Major Bruce Shand, joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero
The Duchess’ father, Major Bruce Shand, joined the army in 1937 as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers and went onto become a decorated war hero.
In 1942, already decorated with the Military Cross and bar from the early campaign in France, but by then serving in North Africa, he was praised by Churchill during a surprise morale-boosting visit by the Prime Minister.
Churchill spotted his medals and remarked: ‘You’re a very young man [to have won two medals]. How splendid. But you look so thin.’
Soon after, he was posted to the Libyan desert to face the might of Rommel’s tanks in the battle of El Alamein. Later, he described an encounter with the Germans in which his sergeant and the driver of their armoured car were both killed.
Himself already wounded, he managed to jump on to another scout car, but was once again hit.
He recalled in his memoirs, Previous Engagements: “Something like whiplash stung my cheek and Sergeant Francis beside me slumped to the bottom of the car with a large hole in his chest, killed instantly…
‘I do not remember hitting the ground. A buzz of German voices greeted my return to consciousness.”
Shand spent the rest of the war at Spangenburg PoW camp: “It wasn’t Claridge’s, but at least the reception was warming,” he recalled. In fact, the regime was grim and the wait for release long and demoralising, though Shand sat it out with his usual stoic charm.
Major Shand seated in front of Camilla’s children, Laura and Tom Parker-Bowles, and with Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Philip and the Queen, and the wedding of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in April 2005
Major Shand was daughter Camilla’s ‘rock’ during turbulent periods in her life. Pictured, father and daughter leaving the Ritz Hotel in London in 1995
General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff, this morning urged the public to ‘spare a thought’ for those stuck at home at a time of celebration as he said the scaled-down commemorative events necessitated by strict lockdown measures made it ‘tough’ on veterans.
The Prime Minister has also written to veterans, assuring them their efforts will ‘always be remembered’.
In a heartfelt message to the nation this morning, Boris Johnson said ‘our gratitude will be eternal’ to the ‘soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Nazis with courage, ingenuity and stubborn endurance.’
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.
The RAF carried out an incredible flypast over the Horse Guards Parade in London
Two RAF Typhoons performed a flypast over The Titanic slipway in Belfast
The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery carry out a socially distanced parade of 20 soldiers
The Red Arrows treated onlookers to a spectacular display as they flew over London before heading back to RAF Scampton
Red arrows fly over the Mall in London, releasing blue, white and red smoke during celebrations on Friday morning
United in remembrance: How the royals marked VE Day with moving Instagram posts
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have kicked off celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day by sharing a post dedicated to the Queen.
Kate Middleton, 38, and Prince William’s, 37, Instagram account @KensingtonRoyal posted a collection of photographs from the celebrations to mark the big day.
Amoung the images was one of Her Majesty – then Princess Elizabeth – aged 19, with the caption detailing how she worked as a mechanic in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
Kate Middleton, 38, and Prince William, 37, kicked off the 75th anniversary celebrations for VE Day by sharing a post dedicated to the work of the Queen, 93
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s official Instagram page shared several snaps from the celebration, including this one of Trafalgar Square
Prince William and Kate’s Instagram page paid tribute to the Queen’s work as a mechanic during the Second World War in a caption
Sharing a snap of celebrations in Trafalgar Square, the caption went on: ‘When the guns fell silent on this day in 1945, Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret joined the jubilant crowds in central London — the future Queen attempted to stay anonymous during the celebrations by pulling her cap down over her eyes.’
Meanwhile the Queen’s, 93, Instagram account paid tribute to her father’s King George’s historic speech, sharing a clip of the King saying: ‘There is great comfort in the thought that the years of darkness and danger in which the children of our country have grown up are over and, please God, for ever.’
‘During the war Her Majesty The Queen – then Princess Elizabeth – joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she trained as a mechanic, becoming the first female member of the Royal Family to join the Armed Services as a full-time active member.’
The @KensingtonRoyal account posted snaps of people celebrating the end of the war, paying tribute to the ‘millions of people’ who ‘took to the streets and pubs to celebrate peace, mourn their loved ones, and to hope for the future’
In another photograph shared by Kate and William, children could be seen holding Union flags as they marked VE Day
It finished: ‘Members of The Royal Family, including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will mark the day — keep an eye on our feed, and on @RoyalFamily for more later today.’
Meanwhile the Queen’s Instagram page also shared a post to mark the celebrations.
It shared a clip of King George’s iconic evening speech, captioning the video: ‘Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day: the day when people across the Commonwealth marked the end of war in Europe with a mixture of jubilation and quiet reflection on the many sacrifices which had been made for peace.’
‘On 8 May 1945, King George VI made a radio broadcast to the people of the Commonwealth to mark the end of war in Europe.
‘This evening, The Queen will make a special address at 9pm, the exact time her father spoke 75 years ago.’
And Prince Charles and Camilla’s Instagram page also shared a series of black-and-white images to mark the day and invoke the VE Day spirit.
The final story shared by the couple read: ‘Thank you. Today, the Royal Family will help remember those who lost their lives and reflect on the events 75 years ago.’
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.’
The two-minute silence was marked at the Houses of Parliament today, pictured, as the nation remembered the fallen
A note on a wreath read: ‘In memory of all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom’, pictured
The Last Post was played as part of the silent tribute to the fallen at the Houses of Parliament
Bunting covers the facade of Downing street to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day today
Other VE Day celebrations have been put on and adapted so that the public can get involved, while still adhering to social-distancing guidelines.
The Government has created a template pack to enable people to host a 1940s-style afternoon tea from their living rooms or gardens, consisting of VE Day bunting, recipes, and games for children.
The family tree discovery service Ancestry.co.uk will be free throughout the Bank Holiday weekend to give people the opportunity to uncover personal stories of the war, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said
Other broadcast events include a Royal British Legion’s (RBL) VE Day 75 Livestream, which can be accessed at here, featuring a national toast to war veterans at 3pm.
The National Museum of the Royal Navy, the National Army Museum and the Royal Air Force Museum are also joining forces to host a free online festival, bringing to life the stories of those who helped deliver Victory in Europe.
An officer plays The Last Post on the trumpet during the two minute silence at St James’s Park in London on Friday
Officers and soldiers of Household Division observe social distancing as they take part in a two minute silence
Royal British Legion standard bearer Richard Hignett lowers the standard during the two minutes’ silence outside his home in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
92-year-old Lou Myers stood in front of the Cenotaph as members of the public behind followed his lead, bowing their heads in respect
People applaud as a WWII veteran walks past after two minutes of silence was observed in Whitehall
A short service is lead by members from the Inveraray Royal British Legion as they observe a two minute silence on Friday
A gentleman holds two Union Jack flags aloft as respects are paid for the 75th anniversary of VE Day across Great Britain
A handful of people are photographed in Trafalgar Square on VE Day as people respected the lockdown rules on a special day
Members of the armed forces are seen during a service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall