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ROBERT HARDMAN: 75 years after VE Day we’ll have a star-studded veterans’ party

With every passing day, it becomes harder to find parallels and precedents for this torrid General Election campaign.

No sooner were we digesting yesterday’s dire warning from the Chief Rabbi that ‘the soul of the nation is at stake’ on December 12 than Jeremy Corbyn was unveiling Labour’s grand plans for a new Whitehall unit which will not only point out all the evils of the British Empire but add them to the school curriculum.

If it all seems increasingly depressing, there is at least one piece of history which Mr Corbyn and his commissars cannot rewrite; there remains one day, not too distant, which we can all look forward to, regardless of the election result.

It was the day when nearly six years of blood, sweat and tears finally delivered a victory that saved Europe and much of the world from tyranny. Millions had lost their lives, including more than 350,000 British servicemen and women killed in the line of duty. Pictured: Hundreds gathered to commemorate the official end of Britain’s involvement in WWII

Stellar

For May 8, 1945, was perhaps the greatest day not just in the history of Britain but of the British Empire, too.

And, today, the Mail is delighted to announce plans for the 75th anniversary of VE — Victory in Europe — Day.

It was the day when nearly six years of blood, sweat and tears finally delivered a victory that saved Europe and much of the world from tyranny.

Millions had lost their lives, including more than 350,000 British servicemen and women killed in the line of duty.

There would be three more months of savage fighting in the Far East before two atomic explosions forced the surrender of Japan.

Yet VE Day represented salvation for hundreds of millions, including the long-suffering, malnourished, war-weary people of Britain.

May 8, 1945, was perhaps the greatest day not just in the history of Britain but of the British Empire, too. Pictured: Guardsmen of the Scots Guards march during a parade on the final day of the 70th Anniversary VE day commemorations in 2015

May 8, 1945, was perhaps the greatest day not just in the history of Britain but of the British Empire, too. Pictured: Guardsmen of the Scots Guards march during a parade on the final day of the 70th Anniversary VE day commemorations in 2015

It was an excuse for a hell of a party which brought the entire country out on to the streets — as well as two eager young princesses who sneaked out of the side door of Buckingham Palace to join in.

And, 75 years on, the UK is preparing for a long weekend of festivities. Having moved the May Day bank holiday back to the end of the week, the government is hoping to recreate that magical atmosphere at events great and small all across the country.

Come May 8 and the evening of VE Day itself, all eyes will be on the Royal Albert Hall where veterans, VIPs, celebrities and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra will gather for an unforgettable party.

The Mail is not only proud to support VE Day 75, in aid of the Armed Forces Charity, SSAFA, but also to give our readers a special opportunity to buy tickets to this event before they go on general sale later this week.

From today, you can secure a place for family and friends at an evening of fabulous music, high emotion and great patriotic pride, starting with those inspirational words of Winston Churchill declaring ‘Victory in Europe’.

His great-grandson, Randolph Churchill, and other members of the Churchill family will be among a packed house enjoying the greatest works of our finest composers — from Elgar’s Nimrod and Holst’s Planet Suite to wartime classics such as William Walton’s Spitfire Prelude & Fugue, and Ron Goodwin’s Battle Of Britain Theme.

The Mail is not only proud to support VE Day 75, in aid of the Armed Forces Charity, SSAFA, but also to give our readers a special opportunity to buy tickets to this event before they go on general sale later this week. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the famous V sign (victory sign)

The Mail is not only proud to support VE Day 75, in aid of the Armed Forces Charity, SSAFA, but also to give our readers a special opportunity to buy tickets to this event before they go on general sale later this week. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives the famous V sign (victory sign)

And let us not forget those much-loved popular tunes — from big band sounds to Vera Lynn —which kept the home fires burning.

Taking centre stage at VE Day 75, alongside a stellar line-up, will be surviving veterans from every strand of the Armed Forces and representatives of all the Commonwealth and allied nations. Above all, the evening will raise funds for SSAFA, the UK’s oldest national tri-service military charity.

Formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, it was founded in 1885 to help the families of those killed and wounded in the second expeditionary force to Egypt. Last year, it spent more than £13million helping veterans and dependants of all ages, including the wartime generation.

‘It is our duty to keep the events of the past alive in our collective memory,’ says Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA. ‘We hope the nation takes a moment to reflect on the significance of this date, for it was a milestone that changed the course of history for the whole world.

‘And, in doing so, we want to ensure that our surviving veterans enjoy the dignity and independence they deserve.’

The evening will also be a reminder of some of those great wartime gatherings at the Royal Albert Hall — though our most famous national concert venue had a few close shaves.

Two months before the declaration of war in 1939, it was ordered to close for the foreseeable future then narrowly avoided a direct hit in 1940 when a German bomb blew out a lot of glass and plasterwork.

Morale

By 1941, however, priorities had changed and the government decided that, instead of mothballing places such as the Albert Hall, they should be utilised to bolster national morale. Concerts resumed, albeit with a reduced capacity.

It was following a particularly brutal 1941 air raid that the hall took on a temporary role, one for which it is now best known to the wider world. Several bombs had flattened the Queen’s Hall in London’s West End, home to Sir Henry Wood’s world-famous Proms concerts since the 1890s (all the musical instruments were destroyed, but the famous bust of Sir Henry was retrieved from the rubble). The Proms were suddenly in need of a new home, so the BBC booked the much larger Albert Hall.

‘The organisers were worried that they might not fill it but they need not have worried. The Proms turned out to be a great success here,’ says Suzanne Keyte, archivist of the Royal Albert Hall.

The summer festival has remained there, growing in size and stature, ever since. Who would have thought we have the Luftwaffe to thank for all that delightfully batty annual flag-waving mayhem at the Last Night of the Proms?

Glory

The hall would go on to stage great fund-raising events for the Free French forces, the Free Dutch forces and also for the Russian war effort. In 1943, Queen Elizabeth joined the National Federation of Women’s Institutes for a morale-boosting summer conference that continues to this day.

And just days after all that VE Day pandemonium in May 1945, the King, Queen and Princess Elizabeth arrived in the Royal Box for a great victory celebration entitled ‘Festival of Empire — A Tribute To All Who Have Served The British Commonwealth And Empire’.

No sooner were we digesting yesterday’s dire warning from the Chief Rabbi that ‘the soul of the nation is at stake’ on December 12 than Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) was unveiling Labour’s grand plans for a new Whitehall unit which will not only point out all the evils of the British Empire but add them to the school curriculum, writes ROBERT HARDMAN

No sooner were we digesting yesterday’s dire warning from the Chief Rabbi that ‘the soul of the nation is at stake’ on December 12 than Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) was unveiling Labour’s grand plans for a new Whitehall unit which will not only point out all the evils of the British Empire but add them to the school curriculum, writes ROBERT HARDMAN

Everyone from the Chelsea Pensioners and the Women’s Land Army to the Royal New Zealand Navy took part in a magnificent evening of songs and music culminating in a grand finale of — what else — Land Of Hope And Glory and the National Anthem.

While I am not going to give away all the details about the great event next May, I think it is safe to assume that the evening will reach a pretty similar conclusion. Unashamedly red, white and blue, it will be a fabulous event for everyone — even Mr Corbyn, should he choose to come.

And right now, we could all do with something to look forward to on the other side of this dismal winter.

To BOOK your early bird tickets, go to www.veday75.co.uk, click ‘Find Tickets’, then enter the promotional code MAIL75 and choose your tickets. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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