RAF jets roar over Britain to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, as Boris Johnson urged the nation to unite in tribute to the achievement and sacrifice of the wartime generation.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall led a two-minute silence from Scotland on a day of celebration and commemoration which also includes a “national toast”, an address by the Queen, and a nationwide sing-a-long of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again.
Original plans for VE Day 75 had to cancelled due to Covid-19, so national events were adapted. The public which were still in lockdown were encouraged to celebrate Victory in Europe from their gardens, doorsteps and living rooms. The prime minister said: “Seventy-five years ago today, the people of this country celebrated victory against Hitler’s aggression.
“On the frontline, they fought with courage, ingenuity and endurance, and on the home front, women defended our cities against air raids, worked the factories, and ran the hospitals. This country triumphed thanks to the heroism of countless ordinary people, and because of this, hundreds of millions of people now live in peace and freedom today. Today we must celebrate their achievement, and we remember their sacrifice.”
“We are a free people because of everything our veterans did – we offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered.”
The Red Arrows led the tributes with a breath-taking flypast over Central London while Royal Air Force Typhoons simultaneously flew over the cities of Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Armed Forces came together on the White Cliffs of Dover to display their gratitude to the Second World War Generation. A Lone Piper from the Scots Guards played whilst two Spitfires performed a flypast overhead.
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said: “We want these flypasts to lift eyes and spirits in celebration of peace in Europe 75 years ago. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to that generation of heroes, from all backgrounds and many countries, who gave so much to defend the United Kingdom and free Europe from Nazi tyranny.”
Although the enormous public events planned for Central London were unable to go ahead, messages of thanks to Second World War veterans were sent from across the Armed Forces, thanking them for their resilience, determination and sacrifice.
Royal Navy warships and support vessels for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary at home and deployed around the world will blast their sirens for a minute to celebrate victory, marking the moment of Winston Churchill’s address at 3pm.
The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said: “Although we cannot celebrate that precious connection with our veterans on the scale we had planned, we should all pause and reflect on their inspirational achievement. As Churchill said, ‘God bless you all, this is your victory’.”
During the day, special television and radio programmes included the broadcast of Churchill’s historic victory speech and Prince Charles reading extracts from the diary of his grandfather, George VI, written on 8 May 1945. The entries describe events including the royal family’s appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and the king’s lunch with Churchill.
The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “As we stay home to protect the NHS and save lives, I know the British people will mark this historic occasion in new ways to show our deepest gratitude and respect for those that gave so much to bring peace, freedom and prosperity to Europe.”