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Celebrate VE Day


On the evening of 7 May 1945, the BBC announced the end of the Second World War in Europe. The following day, 8 May, was designated as Victory in Europe Day, a national holiday celebrated with jubilation.

It meant an end to nearly six years of a war that had cost the lives of millions; had destroyed homes, families, and cities; and had brought huge suffering and privations to the populations of entire countries.

But it was not the end of the conflict, nor was it an end to the impact the war had on people. The war against Japan did not end until August 1945, and the political, social and economic repercussions of the Second World War were felt long after Germany and Japan surrendered.

Various events were organised to mark the occasion, including parades, thanksgiving services and street parties. Communities came together to share the moment. London’s St Paul’s Cathedral held ten consecutive services giving thanks for peace, each one attended by thousands of people. Due to the time difference, VE Day in New Zealand was officially held on 9 May. The country’s leadership wanted to delay the national holiday until peace in Europe had been announced by Winston Churchill. New Zealanders therefore had to go to work on 8 May and wait until the following day to celebrate. In the Soviet Union, too, VE Day was on 9 May due to the different time zones.

At 3pm on VE Day, Churchill made a national radio broadcast. In it, he announced the welcome news that the war had ended in Europe – but he included a note of caution, saying: ‘We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.’

King George VI, like Churchill, also gave a radio address. In it, he praised his subjects' endurance and called for a lasting peace. He also paid tribute to those who could not join in the celebrations, saying: ‘Let us remember those who will not come back…let us remember the men in all the services, and the women in all the services, who have laid down their lives. We have come to the end of our tribulation and they are not with us at the moment of our rejoicing.’

Not everyone celebrated VE Day. For those who had lost loved ones in the conflict, it was a time to reflect. Amidst the street parties and rejoicing, many people mourned the death of a friend or relative, or worried about those who were still serving overseas. For many of the widows the war had produced, the noise and jubilation as people celebrated VE Day was too much to bear and not something they could take part in.