Today marks the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. 75 years since we were Victorious in Europe. 8th May 1945 being declared a bank holiday for all to celebrate, and today, 75 years on, we too mark the VE Day anniversary with a bank holiday, which on this occasion has been moved from the Monday so that the holiday is taken on the actual anniversary date.
Victory in Europe; the end of the war; a momentous occasion, and one which is etched in the memory of all who were there to experience this. Six years of war was now over, a war which had destroyed lives, families, homes, towns and cities. People in Britain, celebrated this victorious day with singing, dancing and street parties.
The formal military act of surrender was signed by Germany in 1945, ending the War in Europe, although the death and the atrocities still continued in Europe for a long time, and the conflict in Japan continued until the August. The social and economic impact of war was felt by so many for such a long time, and the psychological affects probably lasting even longer, as cities, towns and lives were rebuilt.
In lockdown “School of Mum” I have done lots of History, English and Art lessons around the topic of WWII. We’ve watched lots of lessons by Western Approaches, streamed from the underground bunker in Liverpool, and we’ve watched some documentary videos on BBC Bitesize. Western Approaches have been totally fabulous; the lessons have been both informative and interesting, and the worksheets which have accompanied these lessons have been brilliant, and I can’t wait for us all to go on a day trip to visit this place when things are unlocked and back to normal. Oliver has learned about the Declaration of War, The Blitz, Atlantic convoys, coding, rationing and wartime diets, evacuation, propaganda and of course, VE Day.
There are so many comparisons to be made between wartime Britain, and the crisis which Britain is facing today, that it all feels rather poignant. Even Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister is Churchillian in his manner, and his speeches. Our enemy today is the virus, our healthcare professionals are on the frontline, our scientists and government draw up the battle plans and mobilise troops as necessary, and propaganda is rife. Doctors and nurses have come out of retirement; medical students escalated through to graduation so that they too can add to the numbers of medical professionals needed on that frontline. Factories and businesses producing and supplying the protective equipment, the armour so desperately needed by those in our NHS going into battle and facing the enemy.
We are in unprecedented times. A time of national crisis, requiring emergency services to be on the frontline, rather than the armed forces. A time requiring resourcefulness and resilience, rationing our food supplies so that others may be able to purchase products, eking food out so that we don’t have to keep going out to the shops, growing our own veg, and seeing a resurgence of home cooked meals and home baked cakes.
A time of crisis calling on volunteers to help the national effort, solidarity amongst the public, patriotism in listening to our government and our country’s leaders, adhering to government guidelines. The country has come together, united in its efforts and its goal, with so many people making personal sacrifices for the good of the many.
Communities coming together to help each other, helping the vulnerable and the needy, watching out for our neighbours and offering help where we can. Chatting to more people and enjoying family time. There’s a slower pace of life, less cars on the road, taking our daily exercise, walking, exploring, observing, noticing, and having the time to enjoy the little things, the ordinary things. Imagination and creativity is taking the place of canned entertainment.
As Churchill declared 8th May 1945 a public holiday to mark VE Day; we too will celebrate this day 75 years on.
Yet in 1945 this was not a time for everyone to celebrate, people mourned their lost friends and loved ones, others were still engaged in combat out in the Far East, and in Europe many atrocities and deaths were still happening. Today, there will be families grieving their friends and loved ones, others will still be employed doing essential work, some of which will be on the frontline in our NHS, for some their lives will not be so great as businesses close and there is financial hardship.
But for many in Britain, both today, and in 1945, VE Day was a day of celebration. Oliver has learned about and talked about VE Day, and we’ve reflected on and compared our current situation. We’ve cut paper triangles to make paper bunting, which we’ve decorated and coloured, and which now hang in our window above the brightly coloured printed and painted pictures of rainbows we proudly display. I doubt street parties will be taking place this year, given we’re all social distancing, but maybe when our current crisis is over, we will come together with our family, friends and neighbours and celebrate that we have come through this time, that our lives were saved by those who worked on our front line, and that we helped the national effort by staying home, protecting our NHS, and saving lives.
VE … Victory in Europe; yes we remember and celebrate this, but we might also reflect and remember the VE Day of today being when we had a Virus in England, the Valour of Everyone, Varied Education, Vacated Eateries, Vanishing Eggs and flour, Vanity Extinguished, Victims Escalating, Volumes Enormous, Vamoosed Equipment, Ventilated Emergencies, Valkyrie Ensues, Valuing Essential Workers, Vagarious Experience, Vague Explanations, Vaccines Expected, Viable Exit, Vindicating Events.
There will no doubt be many personal stories of those who stood together during a time of national crisis, as there were 75 years ago, when people reflected on their experience of war, and those too will likely be read, studied and talked about in years to come.
In my usual vein I wanted to finish with some meaningful words, by way of a song, a poem, or a hymn. In this national time of coming together, of solidarity and patriotism, there are so many words I could choose. I could go down the route of songs synonymous with wartime entertainment, and write about “The Long and the Short and the Tall”, or “We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line”, or even the iconic words sang by dear Dame Vera Lynn, which are it seems just as appropriate today as they were then, with us all wondering when “We’ll Meet Again”. Alternatively, I could go down the patriotic route with The National Anthem for a start, or maybe Jerusalem; but I’ve actually chosen to go with the words of “I Vow to Thee my Country”, a poem written by Sir Cecil Spring Rice and set to music by Holst. Again, this ties in nicely for me as we’ve been learning about our solar system in our home school lessons. Oliver coincidentally chose to learn some facts about Jupiter, and therefore Jupiter, and the words set to this piece seem more than appropriate to use here. It’s about how a Christian owes his loyalty to his homeland, and also to the kingdom of heaven, and I think perfectly fits with our pulling together and camaraderie, our patriotism, our thanks to those who have put their lives on the line for us, past and present, and our love for our families, friends and neighbours.
I vow to thee my country
All earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect
The service of my love
The love that asks no question
The love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar, the dearest and the best
The love that never falters
The love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted
The final sacrifice
And there’s another country
I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her
Most great to them that know
We may not count her armies
We may not see her King
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering
And soul by soul and silently
Her shining bounds increase
Her ways are ways of gentleness
And all her paths are peace.
By Elizabeth Dee