The 8th of May 1945 - Victory in Europe Day was a day long sought after by all of those who experienced it - it brought an end to nearly six years of war that had had such a devastating effect on everyone who lived through it, whether through the destruction of homes, businesses and entire cities or through the suffering experienced by many through rationing or internment.
Many people took to the streets, relieved that Germany had surrendered - in towns and cities throughout the world, people marked the day with street parties.
VE Day did not mark the end of conflict, as the war against Japan continued until August 1945 - nor did it mean the end of rationing which continued post-war.
Many people in Britain did not wait for the official day of celebration and began the festivities as soon as they heard the news on 7 May. After years of wartime restrictions and dangers, with food and clothes rationing to the blackout and bombing raids, it was understandable how eager they were to finally be able to let loose and enjoy themselves. Colourful bunting and flags soon lined the streets of villages, towns and cities across Britain. On the eve of VE Day, bonfires were lit, people danced, and the pubs were full of revellers.
A national holiday was declared in Britain for 8 May 1945. In the morning, Churchill had gained assurances from the Ministry of Food that there were enough beer supplies in the capital and the Board of Trade announced that people could purchase red, white and blue bunting without using ration coupons.
Various events were organised to mark the occasion, including parades, thanksgiving services and street parties.
Winston Churchill was the man of the hour on VE Day. Britain’s Prime Minister had been a major driving force behind the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany and, now that peace had come, the British people were keen to celebrate it with him.
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.’ He knew that the war was not over: Japan still had to be defeated. Later on, Churchill appeared on the balcony of the Ministry of Health building in central London and gave an impromptu speech. Huge, cheering crowds gathered below and he declared, 'This is your victory.' The crowd shouted back, 'No – it's yours!
The British Royal Family also played a central role in London's victory celebrations. Huge numbers of people surged down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and their daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, soon appeared on the balcony to wave to the cheering crowds.
In total, the King and Queen made eight appearances on the balcony, and at one point were joined by Winston Churchill.
An estimated 50,000 people were crowded around Piccadilly Circus by midnight.
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