Today marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. The end of the war was marked by jubilant scenes of celebration on 8th May 1945 and, 70 years later, three days of events will mark this special anniversary.
Victory in Europe Day (more commonly known as VE Day) marks the end of the Second World War in Europe, when the Allies formally accepted the surrender of Nazi Armed Forces. The German Instrument of Surrender (act of military surrender) was signed on 7th May 1945 in Reims, France, and 8th May 1945 in Berlin.
The end of the war was announced in Britain by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and led to mass celebration in the streets – even the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret, were permitted to join in (remaining incognito).
This weekend, celebrations will take place across Europe, to mark the 70th anniversary of WWII. Here in Britain, there will be 3 days of events to mark the occasion. Today, Friday 8th May, VE Day itself, will be a day of remembrance. There will be a service at the cenotaph, as well as a nationally-observed 2-minute silence at 3.00pm, which will mark the moment that Churchill gave his now famous speech signalling the end of the war with Germany. In the evening, a chain of beacons spanning the length and breadth of the country will be lit.
Tomorrow, Saturday 9th May, will be a day of celebration, with cathedrals around the country ringing their bells at 11.00am, followed by a special concert at Horse Guards Parade in the evening.
Sunday 10th May will be a day of thanksgiving, starting with a service at Westminster Abbey, attended by members of the Royal Family and representatives from countries that fought alongside Britain in WWII. There will then be a parade featuring serving personnel and veterans, followed by a reception for veterans in St. James’ Park. There will also be what promises to be a spectacular flypast set to include a Spitfire, Lancaster and Hurricane, as well as a display of 1940s vehicles.
VE Day is a time to remember the sacrifice of those who fought for us in WWII and to ensure that the memories and lessons learnt are passed down to future generations. It might be interesting for students to also consider how the Germans experienced the end of the war, as this fascinating piece from Spiegel covers.
Some of our most popular history tours are our WWII battlefield tours, and our Nazis and the Holocaust-themed trips, which allow students to contextualise the history that they have been studying in class. Contact us now to find out how we can help you bring history to life for your students.