VE day (Victory in Europe day) is held on May 8th.
It commemorates the end of the Second World War in Europe, when the forces of Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allied forces.
The Japanese continued to fight the Americans until August 15th 1945. This date is known as VJ day (Victory in Japan day).
The Second World War lasted 6 years from 1939 to 1945. Sixty million people in Europe, Africa and Asia were killed. On 7th May 1945, the German High Command signed an unconditional surrender document. To give time for the news to spread to the fighting soldiers, it was agreed that the ceasefire should be at 00.01 on the 9th May. However, enthusiastic journalists broke the news early and spontaneous celebrations began almost immediately.
Church bells rang out across the land and churches were packed as people went to give thanks that, after 6 long years of suffering, victory had finally arrived. It was an opportunity to reflect on the millions of lives lost and hardship endured.
VE Day in Britain
In Britain people gathered on the streets, many dressed in red, white and blue, to sing and dance, hugging each other, relieved that the war was finally over. Britain and Western Europe decided to celebrate VE day on the 8th May with street parties and fancy dress parades for the children. In Russia VE day is celebrated on May the 9th, the official date the war ended.
Food was rationed, so people had to pool together their coupons to have enough to provide party food. Many of the street party decorations were handmade. Decorations could not be easily bought in war-weary England. Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe stuck to the original agreement and still celebrate on the 9th May.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth waved to cheering crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Their daughter, Princess Elizabeth (who became the present Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret mingled anonymously with the huge crowds in the Mall and Trafalgar Square.
Official announcement by Winston Churchill
The Prime Minister Winston Churchill officially announced the surrender of Nazi Germany which was broadcast around the world to British soldiers. He gave thanks to God and then went to join the Royal family on the balcony of Buckingham palace and told the crowds. “This is your victory… Advance Britannia”.
The celebrations continued all night with fireworks and bonfires where images of Hitler were burnt and many pubs ran out of alcohol.
Was Britain ever occupied by the Germans?
The Channel Islands – Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and Herm were all occupied by the Germans between 1940 and 1945. They were liberated on VE day with the occupying forces of Nazi Germany surrendering to the British Navy.
Why do we still celebrate VE Day?
It is an opportunity to commemorate and reflect on the experiences of the Second World War, an occasion to remember those who died and why. It also offers a focus for thinking about wars and combats past and present.
Does Germany celebrate VE day?
It is not a Bank Holiday, but on the 9th May some parts of East Germany still celebrate the end of Nazism in 1945.