Katherine Jenkins has led the nation in a chorus of wartime songs by Dame Vera Lynn in an empty Royal Albert Hall today as defiant Brits commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
The songbird performed classic anthems including We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover for 30 minutes behind closed doors for the first time in the venue’s 150-year history.
Ms Jenkins, who duetted virtually with 103-year-old troops sweetheart Dame Vera as a young woman, took to the stage next to a solitary grand piano wearing a stunning red floor-length gown.
A light blue banner along the bottom of the video appealed to the British public to donate £5 a turn to the Royal Albert Hall during the coronavirus crisis as Ms Jenkins sang.
Her touching performance was a fitting tribute to the wartime generation – those who served on the frontline in Europe, as well as the men, women and children involved in the home front effort.
Welsh classical singer Ms Jenkins, 39, had previously said: ‘Whilst we may not be able to celebrate this year as we once did, it’s only right that we don’t allow the 75th anniversary of this historic day to be overshadowed.’
Today marks the official surrender of Germany to Allied forces in 1945, bringing the war in Europe to an end.
And while large-scale public events may not be able to go ahead, patriotic neighbours battled on bravely, making the best of the situation as they decorated their streets and held tea parties while observing social distancing.
Many waved from their balconies and gardens as the RAF staged flypasts, with the Red Arrows soaring over Buckingham Palace and the London Eye and Typhoon fighter jets flying over Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Boris Johnson urged Britain to take inspiration from the ‘heroic’ generation that won the Second World as he paid a heartfelt tribute in a VE Day video, adding, ‘we owe them everything.’
Veterans and members of the public, unable to gather by their local war memorials as normal, quietly reflected in their own homes as veterans up and down the country led the way in paying their respects to the fallen.
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.
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, Mr Johnson said ‘our gratitude will be eternal’ to the ‘soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Nazis with courage, ingenuity and stubborn endurance.’
Katherine Jenkins has led the nation in a chorus of wartime songs by Dame Vera Lynn in an empty Royal Albert Hall today, and even duetted virtually with Dame Vera, as defiant Brits commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Defiant Brits across the nation showed wartime spirit in the face of the coronavirus pandemic today as they pulled together to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day (pictured, residents on Novers Park Road in Knowle, Bristol)
Four-year-old Poppie Stacey stands on Novers Park Road in Knowle, Bristol to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Residents on Lon-Werdd Close in Cardiff enjoy a VE Day street party while keeping to tough social distancing rules
Veterans sit outside the Care for Veterans site in Worthing, Sussex, to watch a spitfire flypast to mark the VE Day anniversary
A Union Jack is displayed on Guildford Cathedral on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Guildford, Britain today
Britons across the nation are commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE Day, which marks the official surrender of Germany to the Allies in 1945 (pictured, children celebrating holding paper planes outside their houses in Altrincham)
Residents of Belfast’s Hopewell Street take part in a socially distanced street party to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Joanna, aged four, waves a Union Jack flag as Royal Navy veteran, Charles Medhurst, 95, walks along his street for a victory parade and his neighbours cheer and clap for the 75th anniversary of VE Day in Greenwich, London
Residents of Saunders Ness Road in the Isle of Dogs, east London, throw a street party to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Monty the bulldog celebrated VE day with his family. Boris Johnson urged Britain to take inspiration from the ‘heroic’ generation that won the Second World as he paid a heartfelt tribute in a VE Day video, adding, ‘we owe them everything.’
The songbird is performing classic anthems including We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover for 30 minutes behind closed doors for the first time in the venue’s 150-year history
Dame Joan Collins, whose childhood home was destroyed in the Blitz as she slept in a Tube station, leads the Nation’s Toast from the balcony of her London apartment
Veterans, including Len Gibbon (front centre), 96, sit outside the Care for Veterans site in Worthing, Sussex, to watch a spitfire flypast to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
A man and woman celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day with a UK-themed party outside their house in Worthing, Sussex
A man and woman celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day with a UK-themed party outside their house in Worthing, Sussex
Laura Jeffrey, seven, with her face painted in the colours of the Union Jack and eating an ice lolly at a socially-distanced street party in Trevis Road, Southsea, to mark the 75th Anniversary of VE Day
A home in Wandsworth, London, draped in an enormous Union Flag to mark VE Day celebrations
Families sit outside during a socially-distanced street party in Newcastle-under-Lyme on the 75th VE Day anniversary
Ruby, aged 5 with a Union Jack painted face poses for a photograph in the street at a party in Greenwich, south London
Jane and Toby Lyde, from Tooting, South West London, have pulled out all the stops to decorate their home for VE Day
Jane and Toby Lyde with their dog Tommy outside their home in Tooting
Sheila Daphne, 68, waves to a friend as she joins in her street’s celebrations in Duncan Avenue, Redcar
Ian and Anna Jones, of Launton, Oxfordshire celebrating VE day – and observing lockdown – in style with Hector the hound
Carl Thompson performs The Last Post as residents in Birtley, Gateshead, come outside to start the VE Day celebrations
Emma pictured with two donkeys decorated with Union Jack clothing, bunting and flags in Sweffling village, Suffolk
A homeowner observes a two-minute silence in Helpston near Peterborough to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day today
Residents on Park Street in Windsor are having a street party to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day today
Residents on Park Street in Windsor are having a street party to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day today
Graham looks on as his wife Sue Gillson untangles a flag on their roof on their home ahead in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire
Bichon Frise Ruby joins in the Carswell family celebrations at their socially distanced street party in Knowle, Bristol
The Red Arrows treated onlookers to a spectacular display as they flew over London before heading back to RAF Scampton
Miniature schnauzers Jack, 13 (left) and Ringo, five (right), joined their owners in their garden in Emsworth, Hampshire this morning for the two-minute silence – while proudly showing off their fetching Union Jack bandanas
An aircraft over Henstridge airfield in Somerset wrote a VE Day 75th anniversary message in the sky using skytyping
Footage from inside the cockpit of the RAF jets showed their flight as they soared above the Thames
Royal Navy veteran, Charles Medhurst was met by serving members of the Royal Navy outside his home in south-east London. Aged 17, a year before he was called up aged 18 in 1943, Charles opened the telegram that told his family his 19-year-old brother had been killed by the Japanese in Burma. His ship HMS Malay atook part in trials of the bouncing bomb used on the famous Dambusters raid – a dummy prototype punched a hole in the side of his ship
This veteran was applauded by proud members of the public as he made his way to The Cenotaph
This veteran shared a joke with army personnel at The Cenotaph in Westminster after a two minute silence
The Red Arrows carried out a spectacular flypast over London, and Buckingham Palace, this morning
Left, 202: A handful of people including runners and cyclists gathered outside Buckingham Palace in London this morning. Right, 1945: Britons cheered as the Royal family came out on the balcony, centre, minutes after the official announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. They are from left: Princess Elizabeth; Queen Elizabeth; King George VI; and Princess Margaret
The residents of Cambrian Road in Chester dress up in 1945 clothing and have a social distancing tea party to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
‘We’ll meet again’: Lyrics to Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime classic so YOU can join the nationwide singalong
We’ll meet again
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet
again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please
To the folks that I know?
Tell them I won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet
again some sunny day
Vera Lynn rehearsing in London, 1956
MOMENTS NOT TO MISS:
- At 10.10am, The Red Arrows carry out a flypast over London, while RAF Typhoons will appear above Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast as the Air Force pays its respects.
- At 11.15am, the Royal British Legion is inviting the nation to make a cup of tea and listen to its VE Day 75 Livestream, as young and old unite to chat about their shared experiences. Tune in via the Legion’s Facebook page or website (britishlegion.org.uk).
- At 2.45pm, BBC1 broadcast Sir Winston Churchill’s famous victory speech. Then, at 2.55pm, as BBC coverage continued, the nation’s buglers, trumpeters and cornet players performed the Last Post from their gardens.
- At 3pm Dame Joan Collins, whose childhood home was destroyed in the Blitz as she slept in a Tube station, led the Nation’s Toast from the balcony of her London apartment.
- The toast, which was broadcast on news channels, was on behalf of the women of the nation, acknowledging the many roles they played in the war. The public were encouraged to join in with the words: ‘To those who gave so much, we thank you.’
- An evening of VE Day-themed viewing on the BBC will lead up to an address by the Queen at 9pm, the exact time her father spoke to the nation 75 years ago.
- Then Dame Vera Lynn will lead what promises to be a very loud national rendition of We’ll Meet Again. A bit like the weekly Clap for Carers, the hope is that people will sing from their doorsteps.
- The Mail has also organised a ‘Salute the Heroes’ Spitfire flypast, which will include East Grinstead’s Queen Victoria Hospital, Worthing’s Care Home for Veterans and the home of Colonel Tom Moore.
Trumpeters and buglers up and down the country played The Last Post to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
The piece is often played at military memorials, and was taken up by dozens of musicians across the UK to mark VE Day.
Among those involved was Paul Cartwright, from Ryhill, who plays with the West Yorkshire Police Band, which plays in Ypres every November.
The 48-year-old Church of England priest said: ‘It was to be able to honour those who gave their life for us, and also to honour those who are working so hard for us now in the armed forces, to help with all the Nightingale hospitals and all the logistics.’
Downing Street was draped in flags and bunting today, with neighbourhoods across the country following suit.
Residents enjoyed a huge street party while observing social distancing guidelines in Chester, with locals baking cakes and donning 1940s-style dress as vintage cars cruised through the streets.
In Peterborough, people decorated their gardens with bunting and dressed in red, white and blue. In Gateshead, bugler Carl Thompson played an emotional rendition of The Last Post in front of neighbours.
In Greenwich, 95-year-old Royal Navy veteran Charles Medhurst stood solemnly outside his house with rows of medals gleaming on his chest, while in Redcar Royal British Legion branch chairman, Eric Howden, 75, lowered his standard in respect during the two-minute silence.
Dozens of emergency services personnel and serving members of the Armed Forces also came together to bow their heads as they observed a two-minute silence at the Cenotaph in London.
Wales’ First Minister also paid tribute to the ‘unimaginable courage’ of those who served during the Second World War.
Mark Drakeford spoke with Welsh veterans, now aged between 96 and 103, in calls over Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and over the phone.
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.
The Duchess of Cornwall placed spring flowers on the memorial, which were picked personally by Her Royal Highness from the garden at Birkhall.
Charles’ handwritten message with his floral tribute read: ‘In everlasting remembrance’, while Camilla left a note with her bouquet in memory of her father Major Bruce Shand, who served with the 12th Lancers during the war.
The duchess, who wore her 4 Rifles dress, because she is Royal Colonel of the regiment, and her 12th Royal Lancers regimental brooch, wrote: ‘In memory of my darling father and all the officers and men of the XII Lancers who fought so bravely to give us peace.’
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.
In a special message broadcast on the Royal British Legion’s livestream, Dame Vera Lynn gave her thanks to the wartime generation.
In a heartfelt message to the nation this morning, Boris Johnson – pictured observing a two-minute silence – said ‘our gratitude will be eternal’ to the ‘soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Nazis with courage, ingenuity and stubborn endurance.’
16-year-old Grace Rayner hangs Union Jack flag bunting outside her home in Darlington this morning
A poignant wreath-laying service and two-minute silence was led by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla from Balmoral
Monty the Bulldog, loveable pet of reader Dawn Summers, is photographed celebrating VE Day with two Union Jack flags
Jack the 13-year-old miniature schnauzer donned a union jack bandana in time for VE Day celebrations
Specially-made cakes are put on display by Jane and Toby Lyde in Tooting, South West London, during Friday’s celebrations
Flats in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, are draped with flags to commemorate the special day this bank holiday weekend
Glenise Jones and Ken Taylor, of Propps Hall Drive, Failsworth, Manchester, share smiles and laughs on the special day
Blind war veterans from WWII and their carers outside Blind Veterans UK for VE Day
A huge flag adorned a patriotic property in Streatham, south-west London this afternoon
2020: Trafalgar Square in London during 75th anniversary of VE Day. Right, 1945: Huge crowds at Trafalgar Square
World War Two veteran Len Gibbon, 96, stands to watch a Spitfire fly over the Care for Veterans site in Worthing
Cadets salute 95 year old Second World War veteran Signalman Eric Bradshaw, who is in isolation after testing positive for covid 19, outside Anchors Millfield care home in Oldham, Greater Manchester
Staff and residents at Anchors Millfield care home in Oldham, Greater Manchester
Care assistant Cat Buckley looks after 95 year old Second World War veteran Signalman Eric Bradshaw, who is in isolation after testing positive for covid 19, in Oldham, Greater Mancheste
Julia and Arthur Williamson dress up in 1940s clothing as they sit under a gazebo outside their house during a socially-distanced street party in Bulkington to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day
Officers and soldiers of Household Division observe social distancing as they take part in a two minute silence
The Red Arrows – officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team – flies over the Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace
Bunting covers the facade of Downing street to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day today
The Prince of Wales bowed his head as he led the silence from Balmoral at 11am this morning
May 8, 1945 file photo crowds of civilians, British and Allied troops wave and cheer as Winston Churchill, second balcony from left, and members of the cabinet appear, to celebrate the end of the war in Europe, in Whitehall, London
World War Two veteran Bernard Morgan, aged 96, pays respect outside his home in Crewe during the two minute silence
A short service is lead by members from the Inveraray Royal British Legion as they observe a two minute silence on Friday
A handful of people are photographed in Trafalgar Square on VE Day as people respected the lockdown rules on a special day
A gentleman holds two Union Jack flags aloft as respects are paid for the 75th anniversary of VE Day across Great Britain
Homes across the country were draped in bunting, including these in Hale, as residents observed the two minute silence
Thomas Cleverly, 7, from Carlisle, waves a Union Jack flag during a garden tea party at home on the 75th anniversary
Karen Butt (right) and her partner Ed (left) celebrate VE Day on their canal boat on the Kennet & Avon canal in Wiltshire
Red arrows fly over the Mall in London, releasing blue, white and red smoke during celebrations on Friday morning
Stella, an adorable cat from Gateshead, dons a Union Jack bow tie for the 75th anniversary of VE Day in the north east
An officer plays The Last Post on the trumpet during the two minute silence at St James’s Park in London on Friday
Amy Pateman poses with baby Isaac Pateman as the young family celebrated VE Day. Isaac is only one month old
A woman lays a wreath at the Naval War Memorial in Plymouth to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day
People walk past Wimbledon Windmill, South West London, decorated with Union Jack flags and red, white and blue bunting
Residents of Wimbledon, South West London, stand for a two-minute silence to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day
Katie Wharton and her daughter Evie, 5, stand on their doorstep in Southsea, Hampshire, to pay their respects
In Thorner, West Yorkshire, residents decorated their homes with flags and bunting and a poppy flag is pinned up
Members of the armed forces are seen during a service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall
Tea parties are already under way in Chester this morning, as neighbours come together to mark VE Day
Members of the Armed Forces lay a wreath next to the Cenotaph on Whitehall today
A display by the Ministry of Defence and the British Legion on the Lights in Piccadilly Circus in central London to thank Second World War Veterans and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day today
A veteran makes his way to the Naval War Memorial in Plymouth in time for the service today
Three buglers play the last post at 11am at the Naval War Memorial in Plymouth
Britain is warned not to break lockdown to celebrate VE Day as Boris Johnson prepares ‘to keep restrictions until at least June’
Britons have been warned not to break coronavirus lockdown as they mark VE day on a sunny Bank Holiday – as Boris Johnson seemingly backs off a major loosening of the rules.
Ministers were frantically warning this morning that people should not get carried away with the idea that lockdown is just about to be eased, with the PM due to give a major speech setting out an ‘exit strategy’ on Sunday night.
In a round of interviews today, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden highlighted the good weather forecast for the coming days, with police concerned that the public is getting bored of staying inside.
‘Once again we have that temptingly sunny bank holiday weekend coming up but please people should not be leaving home except for the limited reasons we’ve already set out,’ Mr Dowden said.
But there have been complaints about mixed messaging coming out of No10 after Mr Johnson said he would be unveiling ‘easements’ – only to face a furious backlash from Nicola Sturgeon who insisted dropping the ‘stay at home’ mantra would be ‘potentially catastrophic’.
The Scottish First Minister has made clear the only loosening she will consider this month is allowing more outdoor exercise. Meanwhile, Wales – which also has devolved powers – is due to set out its own exit plan this lunchtime, and Northern Ireland has also made clear there will be no ‘significant’ changes.
Although the UK is marking 75 years since the end of the fight against the Nazis, there is no let-up in the struggle against coronavirus, with ministers and officials attending the usual daily crisis meeting in No10.
Dame Vera’s message read: ‘As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, what a perfect opportunity for me to say thank you to everyone who did their bit to help us fight for freedom.
‘Not only our wonderful Air Force, Navy and Army, but all the munitions workers in factories, those who broke the codes, the land girls and everyone else in the country. Neighbours helping neighbours, every person involved helping in some way.
‘My love and thanks to you all, Dame Vera.’
Victory in Europe Day is a ‘very special’ occasion, Captain Tom Moore has said, as he remembered his comrades from the Second World War.
The 100-year-old veteran and NHS fundraising champion said ‘we all need to be very happy’ during celebrations as the UK marks ‘the end of a very fearsome war in Europe’.
The Yorkshireman, who was just 20 when he was conscripted, has become a national hero by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday, raising more than £32million for the NHS.
After he joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in 1940, he was posted to India the next year, before moving to the humid jungles of Burma.
He had just returned from Asia and was at an army camp in Bovington, Dorset, when news of Nazi Germany’s surrender came through.
But despite the war ending in Europe, Captain Tom has bittersweet memories of VE Day, having returned to the UK to work as a tank instructor while his friends were still fighting in Asia. It was another three months until Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘At the time I was very concerned that all my comrades I had left in Burma were still fighting.
‘My thoughts were with them because although there were great celebrations here all my comrades were still fighting in Burma with the Japanese.’
Captain Tom previously said he would be celebrating by having a ‘very peaceful, quiet day, rejoicing the very fact that this did happen so long ago and with so much benefit to everybody’.
The veteran, who was made an honorary colonel to mark his centenary and fundraising efforts, added that it is ‘rather sad’ that people will not be able to celebrate the occasion in groups together because of the lockdown.
The Prime Minister has written to veterans to assure them that despite the ongoing lockdown, they and their efforts to defeat a ‘ruthless enemy’ would not be forgotten.
‘We cannot pay our tribute with the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past; your loved ones may be unable to visit in person,’ Mr Johnson said in the letter.
‘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.’
Residents in Altrincham sit out on their drive and toast the 75th anniversary of VE Day with a Union Jack flag on their car
People in Altrincham make the famous ‘V for victory’ sign as they celebrate the landmark day during Friday’s great weather
The Altrincham neighbourhood created special VE Day cupcakes white white, blue and red icing spread on top
A child in Altrincham poses with a cupcake while two other children pose with Union Jack flags on the special day
World War 2 veteran Len Gibbon, 96, watches a Spitfire in the distance as it flies over the Care for Veterans site in Worthing
Eric Bradhaw, 95, a veteran Signalman, waves at a young child with his care assistant Cat Buckley in Oldham, Manchester
A house in Streatham is draped with a huge England and Union Jack flag with the words ‘we’ll meet again’ on Friday
Residents of Stuart Way, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire celebrate Victory of Europe Day at a social distance on Friday
MailOnline reader Rhiannon Evans knits a Tommy Tucker for her 87-year-old mother who is isolated during lockdown
Street parties across the UK have erupted during lockdown as the 75th anniversary of VE Day is celebrated
A woman from Bristol wearing a Union Jack sparkling dress is pictured by a special Lest We Forget van on VE Day on Friday
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
The Duchess of Cornwall placed spring flowers on the memorial, which were picked personally by Her Royal Highness from the garden at Birkhall
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 led the way as the UK fell silent to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day
People applaud as a WWII veteran walks past after two minutes of silence was observed in Whitehall
Soldiers chatted animatedly with a WW2 veteran in Whitehall after the poignant silence at 11am
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
Royal Navy veteran, Charles Medhurst stands outside his decorated house during a two minute silence on the 75th Anniversary of Victory Day in Greenwich
Officers and soldiers of Household Division observe social distancing as they take part in a two minute silence
Staff at the deserted National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire
A restored Second World War amphibious DUKW vehicle drives through Helpston near Peterborough
The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery carry out a socially distanced parade of 20 soldiers
Royal British Legion standard bearer Richard Hignett lowers the standard during the two minutes’ silence outside his home in Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
Scottish Minister Nicola Sturgeon observes a two-minute silence alongside (left to right) British Army Corporal Fiona Williamson-Jones, Royal Navy Lieutenant Donovan Davy, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture Fiona Hyslop, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone QPM, British Army Warrant Officer Class 1 Edinburgh Garrison Sergeant-Major Scott McFadden and RAF Flying Officer Luke Hilton outside St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh
Paramedics and a firefighter during the two minute silence to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day in St James’s Park, London
A Bugler plays the Last Post as the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery carry out a socially distanced parade in Woolwich
A Royal British Legion standard bearer lowers his standard in respect during a two minute silence in Redcar, North Yorkshire
Force Red Arrows flying past the statue of former prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in Parliament Square
RAF Typhoons carried out a flypast which soared over Edinburgh Castle this morning
WWII veteran Bernard Morgan, 96, takes part in the VE day two minute silence outside his home and alongside neighbours in Crewe. RAF Sergeant Morgan was a 20-year-old code and cipher operator, part of the 2nd Tactical Air Force. His role was to advance with the land forces across Europe and encrypt messages for pilots and UK command. He received and printed out the first official original telex message, declaring the end of hostilities and the ‘THE GERMAN WAR IS NOW OVER’ and now proudly keeps in this in his possession
Billboards in central London displayed messages and advertisements from VE Day in 1945
Two RAF Typhoons performed a flypast over The Titanic slipway in Belfast
Lou Myers, 92, bowed his head during the silence at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall today
Royal Air Force Red Arrows flying past the Runnymede Memorial in Egham, Surrey
Veterans and ambulance workers at The Cenotaph in Westminster ahead of the commemorations
A veteran was joined by two ambulance workers at The Cenotaph in Westminster this morning
The Royal Family and Kensington Palace Twitter accounts today shared historic photos and an address from the Queen’s father
The RAF carried out an incredible flypast over the Horse Guards Parade in London
Although large-scale public events are unable to go ahead because of coronavirus restrictions, the RAF delighted people who were able to look up from their gardens and balconies in London this morning
The breathtaking display brightened up the mood in the Capital this morning, which has been sombre in recent weeks amid the pandemic
The RAF soared across the River Thames and above the London Eye, to the delight of onlookers below
VE Day 75 has been mowed into a field in Abbots Leigh to commemorate the 75th anniversary
Even pets are joining in the celebrations in Chester today, with neighbours playing music and baking food for the whole street
Piper Louise Marshall plays at dawn along Edinburgh’s Portobello Beach overlooking the Firth of Forth on the 75th anniversary of VE Day
A guardsman stood beside a memorial to servicemen in London this morning, ahead of VE Day celebrations
The ‘Tommy’ war statue by artist Ray Lonsdale in Seaham, County Durham at sunrise this morning
Piper Louise Marshall plays at dawn along Edinburgh’s Portobello Beach this morning
Russian president Vladimir Putin has sent a message to the Prime Minister on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
In his message to Boris Johnson, the Mr Putin said: ‘The Great Victory was a pivotal event of the 20th century with enduring significance for the fate of all humankind. It was achieved thanks to the joint efforts of the Soviet Union and the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition. That invaluable experience is no less needed today.’
The Kremlin said he also expressed confidence that the memory of the two nations’ ‘brotherhood-in-arms’ would lead to a ‘constructive’ Russian-British dialogue and co-operation.
Meanwhile World War Two navy veteran, Ken Benbow, also appeared on GMB to commemorate V.E. Day.
Mr Benbow, who went viral for a video which showed his care home carer, Kia Tobin, handed him a cushion with his late wife’s image on it, spoke about how much celebrating V.E. Day means to him.
‘I wasn’t in the UK when V.E Day happened. I happened to be in the Pacific, we were on our way to invade Japan. We were picking up men in the sea that had been shot down and taking them back to their aircraft carriers.
‘We were doing various things, but we heard on the wireless that the war in Europe had ended and Germany had been defeated, which was a wonderful feeling and we all were so very, very pleased. But we couldn’t do much, because as I say, we were in the middle of a battle.’
Talking about wanting to get back to the UK to celebrate with his friends and family, Mr Benbow said: ‘Definitely, that was the most important thing.’
When asked what he will be saying in his speech later today in the care home, Mr Benbow said: ‘I’ll thank the Lord for my life. I’ve had a marvellous life, I had the most wonderful wife in the world. I’ve got the most wonderful carer now, but they’re all angels here, I couldn’t wish to be in a better place.’
On the video of Kia handing him a cushion with his late wife’s image on it going viral, Kia said: ‘It’s been really crazy. I can’t really describe what it’s been like! It’s been lovely to see the support that we’ve been given – and the letters that have been written. I’ve been in tears looking through them.’
Neighbours in Chester got ready to enjoy the celebrations today, while abiding by social distancing guidelines
On the eve of VE day blind war veterans from the WWII and their carers clap outside Blind Veterans UK
There is bunting aplenty out in Chester today, with everyone wearing 1940s style dress for the celebrations
The statue of Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill casts a shadow in Parliament Square in London on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II
A fleet of vintage cars have made their way through Cambrian Road in Chester to mark the events
Residents of Portsmouth decorate their home in Union Jack bunting and flags (pictured, Katie Warton with her daughter Evie in preparation of VE Day)
The residents of Cambrian Road in Chester are out in force today, marking the 75th anniversary
Chester residents are looking suitably fashionable for the occasion this morning
‘If you had yielded, then Britain and our entire continent would have succumbed to tyranny’: Prime Minister pens heartfelt letter to veterans on 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
In his letter, the Prime Minister wrote: ‘I am delighted to offer my profound thanks for your service in the Second World War.
‘I write with deep humility because the truth is that no other generation of Britons can rival your achievement.
‘When Hitler conquered almost all of Europe, the survival of our country – and of freedom everywhere – rested in your hands.
‘If you had yielded, then Britain and our entire continent would have succumbed to tyranny. The world today would be unrecognisable and safe only for oppressors.
‘But you did not yield: you persevered through every ordeal and hardship and you prevailed against a ruthless enemy, achieving victory 75 years ago.
‘Those of us born after 1945 are acutely conscious of the debt we owe.
‘Without your trial and sacrifice, many of us would not be here at all; if we were, we would surely not be free.
‘To us, you are quite simply the greatest generation of Britons who ever lived.
‘Our celebration of the anniversary of victory might give the impression that Hitler’s downfall was somehow inevitable. You know better. You will remember moments of crisis, even desperation, as our country endured setback, defeat and grievous loss.
‘What made the difference was your valour, fortitude and quiet yet invincible courage.
‘On the Home Front, women broke the enemy codes, worked the factories, sustained the economy and fired the anti-aircraft guns, even as our cities were bombed night after night.
‘And all the while, on battlefronts across the world, our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought a remorseless enemy.
‘On this anniversary, we are engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus which demands the same spirit of national endeavour that you exemplified 75 years ago.
‘We cannot pay our tribute with the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past; your loved ones may be unable to visit in person.
‘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.’
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.
‘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.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will also release a pre-recorded commemorative message, and tributes will be offered by speakers in both the House of Commons and House of Lords.
A two-minute national silence will be observed at 11am to honour the memories of the British servicemen and women who gave their lives during the conflict.
The silence will be led by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and broadcast from a location in Scotland, where they are self-isolating.
Meanwhile, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will reflect on the ‘courage and sacrifice’ of the war generation, describing reconciliation and hope as the ‘two great tributes we can pay’.
At 9pm, the Queen will address the nation in a televised message – the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a speech over the radio three-quarters of a century earlier.
Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than £32 million for the NHS in April, will share his memories of wartime in an ITV documentary called Captain Tom’s War, which airs at 8pm.
In it he recalls having his spirits lifted by Dame Vera Lynn, whose songs include We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs Of Dover.
‘She did a little song for us, so it really boosted the morale of everybody,’ he said. ‘She was great.’
Sir Nick described the centenarian fundraiser as ‘a bit of a legend’, but said fellow veterans deserved to be in people’s thoughts amid the muted celebrations.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Of course it will be different and I think that’s tough for the veterans and all of those who have lived through the war, because they would like to see a parade and they would like to be involved in that.
‘So I think we should spare a thought for them having to commemorate and celebrate at home.
‘These tremendous people, what they give us is, they give us hope, and I think that word hope is very important at the moment.
‘I do think we should spare a thought for the young – it was tough for them in the 1940s but it will be tough for them going forward, I fear.’
VE Day minute-by-minute: How Britons will join together to commemorate the end of the Second World War 75 years ago today
Billboards at Piccadilly Circus, London, will screen VE Day advertisements.
The world-famous Red Arrows will fly over London, while RAF Typhoons will soar over Edinburgh, Cardiff and Bristol in magnificent displays.
BBC1 will air The Nation Remembers. Prince Charles will lead a two-minute silence to mark the anniversary and pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. There will be 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.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will 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.
BBC1 will air The Announcement Of Victory. Alongside a pre-recorded film, the broadcaster will beam Churchill’s historic victory speech.
Members of the Air Training Corps, Army Cadets, Sea Cadets and the Combined Cadet Force will play the Last Post at the top of the four highest peaks in the UK – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Mount Snowdon and Slieve Donard.
To mark the moment that Churchill announced that the war with Germany was over, thousands of bagpipers from the UK and Denmark to South Africa and the US will play Battle’s O’er, a traditional melody performed at the end of a battle.
At the same time, Dame Joan Collins will lead the nation’s toast from the balcony of her London home. She will say: ‘To those who gave so much, we thank you.’
The British public are expected to post pictures of their street parties across the UK to the hashtag #StayAtHomeParty in keeping with lockdown rules.
Katherine Jenkins will perform for 30 minutes to an empty Royal Albert Hall for the first time in the venue’s history. She will sing wartime songs by Dame Vera Lynn including We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover.
Town criers will undertake a special international Cry For Peace Around The World.
Church bells are expected to ring across the country in a rally for peace.
BBC1 will air a special episode of The One Show hosted by Alex Jones, which pays special tribute to Britain’s Second World War heroes.
Channel 5 will broadcast The Lost Films, a collection of rarely seen clips from amateur filmmakers capturing the mood in Britain on May 8, 1945.
ITV will air Captain Tom’s War, during which the beloved 100-year-old NHS fundraiser will share his memories of serving in the Burma campaign. During the programme, he talks of the brutal fighting.
BBC1 will broadcast The People’s Celebration. Presented by Sophie Raworth, the Royal British Legion, and performers including Katherine Jenkins, Adrian Lester and Anton Du Beke will show thanks to Britain’s veterans.
The Queen will address the nation from Windsor Castle at the same time her father George VI gave a radio address in 1945 to mark the cessation of hostilities in Europe.
Her Majesty’s address will be followed by a rendition of We’ll Meet Again.
Children sit down to a victory party at a V-shaped table, given by residents at Kentwell Close, Brockley in south London
VERA LYNN URGES THE COUNTRY TO ‘REMEMBER THE BRAVE BOYS’ AHEAD OF VE DAY
Dame Vera Lynn has said the nation must ‘remember the brave boys and what they sacrificed for us’ ahead of the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
The Forces Sweetheart, who paid morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, said she hopes this year’s celebrations ‘remind us all that hope remains even in the most difficult times’.
In a statement, she said VE Day is ‘one of the most important days in our nation’s history’.
She added: ‘It marks the day when freedom returned across Europe, and when peace was restored after the most difficult of times.
‘As we commemorate 75 years since Victory in Europe, we must all remember the brave boys and what they sacrificed for us.
‘They left their families and homes to fight for our freedom and many lost their lives trying to protect us and our liberties.’
The US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, wrote in The Sun that on VE Day ‘we celebrate the heroes and victories of the past, we are also looking forward to the future and laying the groundwork for a new era of success in the special relationship’.
The nation is also invited to come together in a rendition of We’ll Meet Again on BBC One, following the Queen’s address.
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.
A milkman delivering milk in a street, devastated in a German bombing raid, in the Holborn area of London, 10th September 1940. Firemen are dampening down the ruins behind him
Britain Queues For Food: Rationing and food shortages in London in 1945. Women and children queue past several shops to buy goods from ‘Patsy’ the greengrocer, on a shopping street, in the Capital
Sing along with Vera Lynn: Celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day with this definitive TV guide… plus how to make bunting and Winston Churchill’s Swiss Roll
A definitive guide to how you can enjoy the celebrations on TV today
FRIDAY, MAY 8
The Nation Remembers
Nationwide two-minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe, paying tribute to heroes past and present.
The Announcement Of Victory
Tribute to the war generation including Churchill’s radio address from Downing Street at 3pm on May 8, 1945, announcing the end of hostilities. Celebrities will read personal testimonies from the day’s celebrations, there’ll be music by military bands, and Prince Charles will read an extract from his grandfather George VI’s diary for May 8.
The One Show
A definitive guide to how you can enjoy the celebrations on TV on Friday including an address from the Queen
The People’s Celebration
Hosted by Sophie Raworth, an evening’s entertainment with some of Britain’s top musical talent performing songs from the 1930s and 1940s, such as Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover and When The Lights Go On Again. Artists include Katherine Jenkins, Adrian Lester, Anton Du Beke, Shane Richie and Helen George. Interviews with those who remember the day.
Churchill’s Swiss Roll
After giving a VE Day speech, Churchill told his chef Georgina Landemare he could not have got through the war without her. Now try one of the favourite recipes she cooked for him:
- 130g caster sugar plus extra
- 3 eggs
- 85g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Strawberry or raspberry jam
Beat the eggs and sugar together for five minutes. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Grease and line an oblong baking sheet and spread over the mixture. Bake at 180C for eight minutes. Turn immediately on to sugared paper, trim edges. Spread with hot jam and roll up.
At the exact time of day that her father, George VI, spoke to the nation in 1945, Her Majesty makes her own address. Followed by the whole country joining a singalong of We’ll Meet Again, led by Dame Vera Lynn, 103, from a window at her home in Sussex.
Sir David Attenborough, Patrick Stewart and June Whitfield, among others, share memories of the end of the conflict.
CAPTAIN TOM’S WAR
ITV, 8pm, ITV
Documentary about former Army officer Captain Tom Moore, 100, just made an honorary colonel after raising more than £32 million for the NHS by doing laps of his garden. Features Tom’s time serving in India and Burma.
Film remake from 2016 of the classic series, starring Toby Jones, Bill Nighy and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
OTHER TV CHANNELS
VE DAY: THE LOST FILMS
Eyewitness accounts and cine films of everyday life – some in colour.
TONY ROBINSON’S VE DAY
The Discovery Channel, 9pm
Presented by Tony Robinson. The day retold minute by minute, from soldiers’ first tentative steps out of PoW camps to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret slipping out of Buckingham Palace to mingle unrecognised with the public.
VE DAY IN COLOUR
Together TV, 9.30pm
Memories of the day from servicemen such as the PoWs who yearned for their first hot bath for years.
RACE TO VICTORY
History UK, 9pm
Analysis of the uneasy alliance formed by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin against Hitler.
Jeremy Vine show special
Radio 2, 12pm
FULL WORKS CONCERT
Classic FM, 8pm
Concert of music and words presented by Sir Nicholas Soames, who will recite famous quotes and speeches of his grandfather, Winston Churchill.
VOICES OF WAR PROJECT BRINGS VE DAY 1945 INTO PEOPLE’S HOMES
First-hand accounts from an army nurse who served in Egypt, a Jamaican aircraftsman, and a Jewish man who spent six weeks in a concentration camp are being released to help mark VE Day.
They form part of the Imperial War Museum’s (IWM) Voices Of War project, which goes live today.
The museum aims to mark the 75th anniversary of the momentous day by bringing voices of the past into people’s homes across the country.
Households are asked to take a moment on VE Day to play the four-minute Voices Of War piece to hear about May 8 1945 from unexpected perspectives.
It brings together first-hand accounts of VE Day from IWM’s sound archive, ranging from an army nurse who served in Egypt at the time and a Jamaican aircraftsman who emigrated to the UK aboard the Empire Windrush in 1948, to a Jewish man from Berlin who spent six weeks in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and prime minister Winston Churchill.
Diane Lees, director general of IWM, said: ‘Originally we had planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in public spaces around the UK.
‘Due to the current situation, this is no longer possible.
‘However, the need to commemorate this national anniversary and to remember the sacrifices made on our behalf by past generations is as pressing as ever.’
Ms Lees said Voices Of War would bring the stories and memories of those who lived through the conflict directly to homes across the UK.
She continued: ‘We want the public to reflect on this important historical milestone as many others did 75 years ago – in the privacy of their own kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and gardens – and be part of this important national moment with IWM and with the rest of the country.’
SPITFIRE: THE PEOPLE’s PLANE
BBC Sounds podcast available from May 8
Ten-part series presented by actress Tuppence Middleton about the fighter – which played an iconic role in the Battle of Britain – and its pilots.
VE DAY IN COLOUR
Today, C4, 8pm
Documentary about the experiences of everyday folk.
OUR FINEST HOURS
Tomorrow to Friday, BBC1 11.45am (different in Wales)
Sophie Raworth narrates a series comparing the Blitz spirit to how we’re now facing Covid-19.
BRITAIN’S GREATEST GENERATION
Tomorrow to Thursday, BBC2, 7pm (6.30pm Thursday)
Four-part series on the inspirational stories of men and women who fought in or lived through the Second World War.
Tomorrow to Thursday, BBC2, various times
Series profiling the man who symbolised Britain’s war effort.
COUNTDOWN TO PEACE
Wednesday, Yesterday channel, 8pm
Colour film footage from the streets of London, Paris and New York, as well as in villages, on VE Day.
DAME VERA LYNN: WE’LL MEET AGAIN
Thursday, BBC1, 7.30pm
After the wartime singer’s recent We’ll Meet Again duet with Katherine Jenkins to raise money for the NHS went to No 1 in the iTunes chart, this film tells her remarkable life story with help from her daughter, Virginia.
Tomorrow to Friday, BBC World Service, 8.50am and 12.50am
Series including first-hand archive accounts of Hitler’s death, the Soviet occupation of Berlin and how Germany has since commemorated VE Day.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Despite the cancellation of most public events, veterans and others are holding their own celebrations.
Anyone wanting to mark the anniversary is invited to have a tea party in their home and to make a toast at 3pm on Friday: ‘To those who gave so much, we thank you.’ This will be preceded by buglers across Britain playing The Last Post and Reveille at 2.55pm.
There’s an official website – at ve-vjday75.gov.uk – offering a ‘toolkit’ of bunting templates, colouring posters, a party playlist and menu suggestions.
The English Heritage website also offers a playlist and tips to dance in Lindy Hop style.
On Friday, members of the Royal Family and Government Ministers will take part in video calls with veterans, before the Queen addresses to the nation at 9pm, followed by the We’ll Meet Again singalong.
The website ancestry.co.uk is making all historical records free for the public from tomorrow until Sunday, giving people the opportunity to find out what their ancestors did in the war.
Families are invited to share their war stories on social media with the hashtag #VEDay75.
‘God bless you all. This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land’: Winston Churchill’s poignant speech announcing the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945
God bless you all. This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this.
Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tried. Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the unbending resolve of the British nation.
My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny. After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year.
Did anyone want to give in? Were we down-hearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle.
So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of English men and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say, ‘do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straight forward and die if need be − unconquered’. Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle – a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgment and our mercy. But there is another foe who occupies large portions of the British Empire, a foe stained with cruelty and greed – the Japanese. I rejoice we can all take a night off today and another day tomorrow.
Tomorrow our great Russian allies will also be celebrating victory and after that we must begin the task of rebuilding our hearth and homes, doing our utmost to make this country a land in which all have a chance, in which all have a duty, and we must turn ourselves to fulfil our duty to our own countrymen, and to our gallant allies of the United States who were so foully and treacherously attacked by Japan.
We will go hand and hand with them. Even if it is a hard struggle we will not be the ones who will fail.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives his trademark victory sign from the balcony of the Ministry of Health on May 8, 1945
Captain Tom’s ‘forgotten war’: £32m NHS fundraising hero who fought on the front lines in Burma in WWII says conscription did him ‘no harm’ and shares bittersweet VE Day memories
By Jack Wright for MailOnline
Captain Tom Moore has told of fighting in the ‘forgotten’ Allied campaign in Burma during the Second World War and his bittersweet memories of VE Day.
The former British Army Officer, who raised over £32million for the NHS during the pandemic, survived dengue fever, the Japanese and giant spiders in Asia.
In the ITV programme Captain Tom’s War, which is being aired tonight to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the beloved 100-year-old has revealed that he was enthusiastic about being conscripted and enjoyed being in the Army.
While serving in the brutal Burma campaign, known as the ‘Forgotten War’, Captain Tom’s role was to fight on the frontline while riding a motorbike.
Captain Tom’s involvement in the world war began in 1940, when the then 20-year-old Yorkshireman was conscripted into the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment
Captain Tom (pictured front centre, sitting on a tank), has also shared memories of watching Vera Lynn perform for the troops, and his bittersweet recollections of VE Day
He has also shared memories of watching Vera Lynn perform for the troops, and his bittersweet recollections of VE Day which took place after he got home.
Captain Tom’s involvement in the world war began in 1940, when the then 20-year-old Yorkshireman was conscripted into the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.
He was posted to India, then under British control, the following year.
‘Being conscripted didn’t do me any harm at all,’ he says.
‘The reason for conscription was that the country had got desperately short of soldiers. I didn’t mind at all. I mean at 20 you don’t think too hard about it.
‘I thought, ‘Oh great, it’s going to be great’.’
He describes India as ‘an entirely different world to anything I’ve ever been in before’, and says the air conditioning they had was ‘quite necessary’.
Captain Tom’s role was to ride to the frontline on a motorbike because he was an expert motorcyclist, having bought his first vehicle aged 12 (pictured, sitting with trophies)
‘It did get a bit hot,’ Captain Tom chuckles.
Captain Tom is hoping to draw attention to the Burma campaign, which was part of the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War.
One million Allied troops from 40 countries attempted to repel Imperial Japan from the then British colony over almost three years, between 1942 and 1945.
Speaking of the Japanese fighters, he recalls: ‘They were quite a formidable force because there were people who didn’t mind if they died’.
He continues: ‘They were awful, they were what we say, were completely without morals. They starved people to death and didn’t care. That was bad.’
‘I was only 21 or 22,’ he admits. ‘You don’t get very frightened at 22’.
Captain Tom’s role was to ride to the frontline on a motorbike because he was an expert motorcyclist, having bought his first vehicle aged 12.
‘During the night, I was at the forefront with the Indian Army, fighting the night Japanese. And then, in the morning, when we thought the Japanese had gone home, my motorcycle came back into the picture,’ he explains.
Captain Tom walks behind an NHS hero sign just a week after his 100th birthday celebrations
The ‘Forgotten War’: Burma’s involvement in the Second World War
The Burma campaign was a series of battles fought in the then British colony of Burma, now Mynamar.
It was part of the South-East Asian theatre of the world war, and primarily involved the Allied powers: the British Empire, the US, and China.
They faced Imperial Japan, supported by the Thai Phayap Army and two collaborationist independent movements and armies, the first being the Burma Independence Army.
Puppet states were established in the conquered areas and territories were annexed, while the Allied forces in British India launched several failed offensives before August 1945.
There were four phases: the Japanese conquest of Burma in 1942; failed attempts by the Allies to mount offensives into Burma from 1942 to early 1944; the 1944 Japanese invasion of India, which ultimately failed following the Battles of Imphal and Kohima; and the successful Allied re-occupation of Burma by mid-1945.
The Burma campaign was the only land campaign by the Western Allies in the Pacific Theatre. It was prolonged by seasonal monsoon rains, which allowed effective campaigning for only just half of each year; by famine and disorder in British India; and by the priority given to defeating Germany.
‘The only way of getting to the front from the tanks was on a motorcycle through several miles of jungle, which fell to me again. I went back to the Regiment and that was a signal that the roads were clear and people came out again.’
Alongside Japanese soldiers, he says he had to battle fever and spiders ‘the palm of your hand’, adding: ‘That takes a little bit of getting used to’.
Captain Tom says his commanders kept up troop morale with live music.
‘This charming young lady appeared. It turned out to be Vera Lynn. And to a lot of men who hadn’t seen girls for a long time, it was quite something,’ he reveals. ‘She did a little song for us, so it really boosted the moral of everybody.
‘All I know is she appeared amongst us with Lord Mountbatten. I thought at the time, these top people get the best jobs!’
Dame Vera told the programme: ‘Burma was a special time for me and one that I will never forget. I was well protected by all the boys and never felt frightened. It was so good to help them feel that they were not so far away from home.’
Captain Tom also shares his memories of VE Day, which happened after he returned to the UK and became a tank instructor. They bring back some bittersweet memories, he says.
‘We stopped instructing for the day and there were certain activities in the bars. A lot of girls and a lot of boys and put those together and you get a good time.
‘I wasn’t all that happy because all my friends were still out in the Far East, still fighting. They didn’t have a day off for VE Day, they were still fighting. I was a little bit unhappy about that bit.’
It would be three more months before the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, and the world war against the Axis powers was finally over. A cold war between the USSR – one of the Big Three – and the US and its allies would come to divide the world and dominate the rest of the 20th century.
Reflecting on his experiences, Captain Tom says: ‘I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself because I did… being in the Army, I really enjoyed being in the Army’.
The programme is narrated by actor Sir Kenneth Branagh and features contributions from the 100-year-old’s daughters, Lucy Teixeira (left) and Hannah Ingram (right)
Captain Tom was awarded a Colonel’s rank by the Queen after fundraising for the NHS this year. He is offering words of comfort for Britons stuck at home.
The secret to persevering through a tough challenge is simply, he explains: ‘You start off with the first one, it’s a bit hard. Then you do another one, and another and think, well I can do another one, and that’s how you have to keep going.
‘The Yorkshireman, his word is his bond. I said I’ll do it and I’ll do it.’
The programme is narrated by actor Sir Kenneth Branagh and features contributions from the 100-year-old’s daughters, Lucy and Hannah.
Captain Tom’s War is on ITV tonight at 8pm.
A minute-by-minute account of VE Day… 75 years on: Brought gloriously to life here, it was the moment Britain exploded in joy, relief and national celebration after six long years in the shadow of war
By Jonathan Mayo for the Daily Mail
After Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, German forces surrendered region by region. On May 4, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery took the unconditional surrender of the German troops on the western front, greeting their commanders with a terse: ‘Who are you? I’ve never heard of you. What do you want?’ The full German surrender was signed in French city Reims on May 7 — 335 days after D-Day. News of the surrender spread around Britain during the afternoon and immediately bunting and flags appeared in the streets. At 7.40pm, the BBC announced that May 8 would be a VE Day holiday…
Midnight, May 8, 1945
In No 10 Downing Street, Winston Churchill is working late dictating to his secretary, Elizabeth Layton. Suddenly a huge storm breaks over London, with thunderclaps sounding like bombs. Churchill teases her and says with a smile: ‘What was that? Oh, thunder. Might as well have another war.’ A special ‘Victory’ edition of the Daily Mail is running off the presses, declaring on its front page: ‘VE DAY — IT’S ALL OVER.’
Since April 1, American troops have been slowly fighting their way across the Japanese-held Pacific island of Okinawa. Suddenly the U.S. forces on land and at sea cease fire, and for a moment there is silence. Then they simultaneously launch a single massive salvo at the Japanese. The U.S. army radio operators tune into every Japanese frequency and defiantly announce that the volley is in celebration of Victory in Europe.
VE Day celebrations in the fountain of Trafalgar Square 1945
In the past few months in Britain the most draconian wartime measures have been relaxed. It’s now possible to buy a large map, to have a radio in your car and to release a racing pigeon without notifying the police. The Board of Trade announced yesterday that until the end of May ‘you may buy cotton bunting without coupons, as long as it is red, white or blue’. Worthing housewife Joan Strange is waking up to the sound of her mother wrestling with the family’s moth-eaten flags that last came out for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. They are both disappointed to see that they aren’t the first in their street to hang flags out — neighbours have got there first. Across the country many people are getting ready for work, not realising that most shops and factories are closed today. The people of the Channel Islands have been living under Nazi rule since June 1940. News of the surrender was greeted yesterday with relief by the islanders and even by some of the German occupying forces eager to go home. Food has become so scarce the troops have resorted to shooting seagulls and stealing cabbage stalks from fields. In a last attempt to assert their authority the Germans have banned the display of Union flags until the war is officially finished at one minute past midnight tonight, but the flags are already everywhere. A pair of Royal Navy destroyers are en route from Plymouth to accept the German surrender at 2pm this afternoon.
In his London home, Lionel Logue, King George VI’s speech therapist for the past 19 years, receives a message from Buckingham Palace that says: ‘The King would like to see you at dinner tonight, and bring Mrs Logue. Tell her to wear something bright.’ Lionel is helping the King prepare for one of the most important moments of his reign when, at 9pm, he broadcasts a VE Day message to Britain and the Empire.
In the prisoner of war camps in Thailand, news of the German surrender is picked up on numerous clandestine radios. Peter Fane, a PoW in Chungkai camp, remembered: ‘It was absolutely wonderful. But we were terrified that the Japs would know from us what had happened if we went about being cheerful or singing.’ Prisoners could be beaten to death if a radio was discovered. Across most of Britain it is a perfect spring day and many churches are already ringing their bells in celebration. A grey-haired old lady is walking slowly up towards Biggin Hill aerodrome on the outskirts of London. Betty Wood, 74, has come to pay tribute to the pilots who died in the Battle of Britain.
In her hand is a posy of flowers and in her pocket she has photos of her grandsons Cecil, John and James who are serving with the Army overseas. Betty makes her way through the gates and towards the small RAF chapel where she puts the flowers carefully on the blue and gold altar. She notices that the birds are singing and remembers that she never heard them when the Battle of Britain was raging. 9am Hermann Goering, Hitler’s former commander of the Luftwaffe, is being interrogated by U.S. Brigadier General Robert Stack. Goering has made a special effort to be at the HQ of the U.S. 36th Infantry Division in Kitzbuhel, Austria, at 9am — he usually sleeps in until 11am. He surrendered two days ago and has with him a selfimportant letter for General Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, offering to help in the reconstruction of Germany. Stack recalled: ‘He seemed to have no idea that he might be regarded as a war criminal.’ The Soviet Red Army has seized the ruined German city of Dresden.
The rising sun reveals soldiers looting houses and shooting shopkeepers who try to protect their property. Women are being dragged into the streets along with their mattresses and raped. The Hoch family, who own a large house, are hiding as many local girls as they can and have shoved furniture in front of their door to keep the soldiers out. Their teenage son Karl-Ludwig writes bitterly in his diary: ‘The rule of the Bolsheviks is beginning.’ 10am At Buckingham Palace the royal duties continue: King George VI is handing out medals to servicemen and women. Waiting in line is Royal Navy Wren Edith Pargeter, later known as thriller writer Ellis Peters. Yesterday, when Edith heard the news of the German surrender, she feared the ceremony would be called off.
Royal Navy warships around the world will sound their sirens and beam searchlights to mark VE Day
Royal Navy warships around the world will sound their sirens and pierce the darkness with searchlights on Friday to mark VE Day.
From Bahrain to the Caribbean to the Falklands, to the White Cliffs of Dover, the men and women of the Naval Service will join their countrymen in remembering the sacrifices made between 1939 and 1945.
The Royal Navy lost more than 250 warships defeating Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, and more than 40,000 sailors and Royal Marines were killed in the Atlantic, Arctic and Mediterranean.
While the pandemic has forced large numbers of commemorations to be cancelled, the Royal Navy refuses to let the occasion go unmarked.
Among those pausing to reflect will be Warrant Officer 2nd Class Jules Cook, Bandmaster of The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines CTCRM, based at Lympstone in Devon.
‘My granddad Eric Cook sadly passed away last year at the age of 99,’ he said.
‘He served in Africa as a gunlayer in the Royal Artillery and if I could speak to him now I’d say to him, ‘I’m still really proud of you, granddad. Miss you loads and I cannot wait to tell you some more stories one day’.’
The King shakes Edith’s hand and gives her a British Empire Medal for her war work. Since the start of the conflict, he has personally decorated 32,000 men and women. On the other side of the Channel, the French port of Dunkirk has been under siege since September 1944. The German forces there know surrender is imminent and subject the Czech forces surrounding them to a devastating barrage until they are out of ammunition. A group of German soldiers start to walk towards the Czech lines shouting ‘Kamerad! Kamerad!’ The Czechs offer them their rations and show them pictures of the recently liberated concentration camp of Belsen but the Germans dismiss the photos as mere propaganda. The war has not ended in the Czech soldiers’ homeland. In the centre of Prague a unit of German soldiers accompanied by tanks and artillery is fighting Czech resistance forces. The town hall is soon ablaze and the SS start to round up and shoot civilians; women and children are being forced to march in front of armoured vehicles as human shields. The fighting in Prague won’t end until May 11.
Churchill has been in bed for most of the morning working on the text of his VE Day radio address. A telegram arrives from his wife Clementine, who is in Moscow on a mission for the Red Cross. ‘All my thoughts are with you on this supreme day, my darling,’ it says. ‘It could not have happened without you.’ He gets out of bed to deliver gifts of champagne and a large Gruyere cheese to his staff in the Downing Street Map Room. Midday The temperature in London is in the 70s. People are on the streets wearing paper hats in the shape of police helmets and crowns. Someone has chalked ‘Hitler Missed This Bus’ on one on Whitehall. In a Lyons Corner House just off Piccadilly Circus, two 18-yearold officer cadets, John Lowry and Geoffrey Howe, the future Chancellor, are enjoying a free lunch because they are in uniform. This morning they caught the 1.20am train from Exeter to Paddington and have been exploring the capital since. Howe remembered feeling ‘an extraordinary sense of bewildered exhilaration’.
Churchill is having lunch with the King at Buckingham Palace and they toast the end of the European War. The monarch wrote later that night: ‘The day we have been longing for has arrived at last and we can look back with thankfulness to God that our tribulation is over.’ In Courland in Latvia, the German 563rd Grenadier Division is holding out against overwhelming Russian forces. A Soviet officer shouts to the Germans that they should lay down their weapons as peace is imminent. The Grenadier Division clamber out of their trenches, shake hands with the Russians and swap cigarettes. It is a surreal scene; German Corporal Friedrich Kaufmann said: ‘Around this impromptu gathering lay the dead from the last Soviet attack, but this did not seem to dampen the bonhomie.’ A Russian officer asks Kaufmann how many troops he has, and when he replies little over a hundred the officer exclaims: ‘How could you hold the line with so few people?’
Off the coast of Guernsey two Royal Navy destroyers, HMS Beagle and HMS Bulldog, have arrived to accept the German unconditional surrender. A German minesweeper pulls alongside and young naval officer, Lieutenant-Commander Arnim Zimmerman, climbs aboard the Bulldog and shouts ‘Heil Hitler!’ to the astonished crew. Zimmerman declares that he has come to discuss armistice terms, not unconditional surrender. When the British officer in charge, Brigadier A.E. Snow, tells him bluntly that this is out of the question, Zimmerman replies that the destroyers must retreat to a safe distance or they will be fired upon by German coastal batteries.
Snow tells him that if they open fire he will ensure that Zimmerman is hanged the following day. But once Zimmerman has sailed back to Guernsey, Snow decides it would be wise to withdraw. Many of the Allied troops in Europe are in a reflective mood. A ceremony for Canadian forces is taking place at a small rural church near the German town of Marx. One gunner there, James Brady, wrote: ‘There is no feeling of exaltation, nothing but a quiet satisfaction that the job has been done and we can see home again.’ Commanding officer Colonel Gagnon starts to read the list of the 36 men they have lost, with tears in his eyes. Unable to go on, he hands the list to an adjutant who puts it in his pocket, saying quietly: ‘It’s not necessary. They were comrades. We remember.’
Outside the Cabinet Room in Downing Street, where in September 1939 Neville Chamberlain had announced the declaration of war with Germany, a large number of typists and private secretaries are eavesdropping on Churchill’s rehearsal for his radio broadcast. ‘What are you doing?’ they hear the Prime Minister bark at an aide. ‘They are just fixing the microphone, Sir.’ ‘What are you doing with that? No, leave it there.’ Churchill then blows his nose loudly and says: ‘Pull those blinds down. Can’t see what I’m doing!’ In Birmingham, large crowds have gathered in front of the Council House hoping to hear the PM’s radio address relayed by loudspeakers, but there are none. The embarrassed Mayor does his best and opens up the window of his parlour and puts his own wireless on the window ledge but the crowd is too far away and the set is too small to be heard.
In the White House in Washington the Press are being shown into the Oval Office, where President Truman is waiting for them, together with his wife Bess and daughter Margaret. Truman took over the presidency only a few weeks ago following the death of President Roosevelt and last night was the family’s first in the White House; later today Margaret’s piano is being delivered through a window by a crane. The new President tells the Press he will read them a statement that he’ll broadcast to the American public in a short while. He reassures them that it’s short and they will have time to file their story. Truman then tells them that today is a double celebration as it’s his 61st birthday. ‘Happy birthday, Mr President!’ everyone in the Oval Office choruses. Then Truman reads: ‘Today is a solemn but glorious hour. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly all over Europe.’ He concludes by saying Japan now faces the full might of the American military machine. ‘I want that emphasised time after time,’ he tells the Press, ‘that we are only half through.’
Children wave British flags from their bombed homes on the news of VE Day
In the Cabinet Room, Churchill begins his broadcast to the nation. He announces that hostilities will officially finish at one minute past midnight tonight and says: ‘We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toil and effort that lie ahead…’ In Paddington Green Hospital in London, a children’s ward is listening silently to Churchill’s speech. A little girl grasps the hand of nurse Jane Gordon and asks: ‘What does it mean?’ Jane explains that the war has ended. ‘What does that mean?’ the girl replies. The nurse thinks for a moment and says: ‘Well, it means you will see lights at night in the streets and windows lit up. It means you will never hear a siren again.’ ‘Never hear a siren again? Never again?’ the girl repeats. Jane can see by the look in her eyes that she doesn’t believe it could be true.
In the Channel Islands radios have been illegal for five years but now they have been proudly placed in open windows with the volume turned up full. Churchill is saying: ‘Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, but in the interests of saving lives, the ceasefire began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed today.’ Crowds in St Helier and St Peter Port listening in town squares on loudspeakers roar their approval. They start to sing God Save The King, which has also been illegal. Some islanders are unimpressed by the Prime Minister’s speech. Sisters Gwen and Pearl Smith are listening to their crystal set in their bedroom in Guernsey. Pearl says angrily: ‘Our dear Channel Islands? What a nerve! He couldn’t have cared less if we’d all been shot!’
In Paris, General De Gaulle is addressing a large crowd outside the Hotel l’Opera. ‘Friends, Hitler is dead! The war in Europe is won! France is free again!’ Rolf Weinberg, 26, a German Jew who fled to join the Free French Forces, is so overcome with emotion that he faints. When he comes around in his hotel room he finds a young nurse holding his hand. She says kindly: ‘You should be enjoying yourself with the others; let’s have some champagne!’ Rolf replies: ‘For me this isn’t a time for a fiesta because I’m thinking of all my comrades and all those killed by this damn Nazi regime. I’m so glad that I had the chance to wipe the regime out.’
In the British Embassy in Moscow, Churchill’s wife Clementine has arranged for a party to coincide with her husband’s historic speech. Now the speech is over, Clementine grabs a glass of champagne and climbs onto a chair shouting: ‘We will drink to victory!’ But the celebrations are tinged with sadness. A couple of days ago, Clementine was shown secret cables about Russian atrocities in Eastern Europe and Germany. Churchill wrote to his wife: ‘I scarcely need to tell you that beneath these triumphs lie poisonous politics and deadly international rivalries.’
The Prime Minister believes that the Nazi menace has been replaced by a Soviet one and in four days he will write to President Truman that ‘an iron curtain’ has been drawn down on the Russian front. Churchill’s speech has been relayed to all the ships in the British Pacific Fleet at action stations 600 miles south of Japan. Officers on board the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable are celebrating VE Day by splicing the mainbrace and, in the words of a journalist watching, ‘rejoicing at the thought of the bells ringing and the lights blazing out again over England’. But for the sailors, the end of the war seems a long way off. The captain speaks over the Tannoy, telling the 2,000-strong crew: ‘Thousands of British and American troops will now be coming to join us. We are the vanguard!’
Churchill is being driven in an open car the short distance from Downing Street to the House of Commons, where he will read the statement he’s just made on the radio. The crowds are so large and enthusiastic that mounted police are having to clear the way. The PM is standing on the front seat of the car next to his detective Walter Thompson and shaking hands with the crowd as the car inches forward. The engine isn’t running — it’s being pushed by the people surrounding the vehicle. The car passes through the gates of the Houses of Parliament just feet away from the young officer cadets Lowry and Howe, much to their delight. Years later, Howe will take that route into Parliament many times as an MP and Cabinet Minister.
Goering’s interrogation by Brigadier General Robert Stack is almost over. The German is about to be put on a plane to the HQ of the U.S. Seventh Army and taken into custody. Goering remains arrogant in defeat and says to the interpreter: ‘Ask General Stack whether I should wear a pistol or my ceremonial dagger when I appear before General Eisenhower.’ Stack hasn’t let on that he speaks fluent German but, unable to contain himself, snaps back: ‘Das ist mir ganz Wurst!’ (‘I don’t give a damn!’) Goering is stunned at the reply. In many British towns and villages, effigies of Goering and Hitler, complete with uniforms and medals, are being made to be placed on bonfires for VE Day celebrations this evening.
Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie’s Hitler’s Last Day: Minute By Minute is published by Short Books at £8.99.
The final push to defeat Adolf Hitler: How D-Day began the chain of events that led to the end of WWII
Waged across every inhabited continent, the Second World War was the most costly conflict in history, claiming the lives of around 57 million people.
By 1944, the tide was turning against the Nazis, particularly after the successful D-Day landings of June that year.
Following Germany’s defeat during the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, the surviving troops limped back to the Rhine to defend the frontier. They were eventually dislodged by a major Allied attack involving a million men.
This is a timetable of the main events:
January 22: British and American troops land at Anzio.
June 4: Rome falls to the Allies.
June 6: D-Day invasion begins on the beaches of Normandy in the famous Operation Overlord.
June 13: First V-1 bombs land on London.
July 20: Bomb plot against Hitler narrowly fails.
August 15: Allies invade the South of France.
August 20: Battle of Normandy ends with the closing of the Falaise Pocket. Advance to the River Seine begins.
August 25: Paris is liberated.
September 3: Brussels is liberated.
September 17-26: Operation Market Garden, the “Bridge Too Far” airborne mission to cross the Rhine at Arnhem, fails with the loss of around 18,000 Allies.
October 5: British forces land in Greece.
December 16: German offensive in the Ardennes region launches Battle of the Bulge.
January 17: Russian forces capture Warsaw.
January 27: Auschwitz concentration camp is liberated by Russian troops and the full horrors of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust slowly emerge.
January 28: The final shots are fired in the Battle of the Bulge, giving victory to the Allies, but at a heavy cost in men and equipment.
February 13: RAF launches carpet bombing raid on Dresden, followed by three further raids by US Air Force.
March 23 to 24: A million Allied troops cross the Rhine during Operation Plunder.
April 12: US President Franklin Roosevelt dies.
April 30: With Soviet troops marching on the Reich Chancellory in the heart of Berlin, Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin Fuhrerbunker – shooting himself in the head as he bites on a cyanide pill.
May 1: Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife kill themselves.
May 2: German forces in Italy surrender.
May 4: Montgomery receives surrender of German forces in Holland, north-west Germany and Denmark on the Luneberg Heath.
May 8: Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) as Admiral Karl Donitz, appointed President by Hitler before his death, unconditionally surrenders.
May 9: Nazi Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signs unconditional surrender to Red Army in Berlin.
August 6: “Little Boy” atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima by US B-29 bomber Enola Gay.
August 9: “Fat Man” atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki.
August 14: Emperor Hirohito announces unconditional surrender of Japan and papers are signed on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
August 15: Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day), or VP Day (Victory in the Pacific) is celebrated.