A special day of reflection

Celebrating VE Day in 1945. (Photo by R J Salmon/Getty Images)

By Oliver Dowden Clulture Secretary

Oliver Dowden Culture Secretary; Picture by Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament

Later this week we will mark 75 years having passed since the momentous day peace was declared in Europe.

On Friday 8 May, we will stand as a nation, and give thanks to the Second World War generation.

For six long years between 1939 and 1945, fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers and sons were fighting on the frontline overseas. Children were evacuated from their homes to the countryside for their own safety.

Mothers, wives, aunts, sisters and daughters served in factories and dug the land to feed the nation.The whole country was enlisted. People of every age made sacrifices. Everybody did their bit.

People across the whole country and the Commonwealth, no matter how old or young, played their part. Everyone made sacrifices. Without the work of everyone, peace would not have been possible.

So it is absolutely right that this weekend we say thank you - but we’ve had to rethink how we do this in a way that keeps that greatest generation, and the whole country, safe.

The Second World War generation have always been, and always will be, at the centre of our plans and our priority is their health and wellbeing. This is why, instead of our national moment in London and events, services and street parties around the country, we are now inviting everyone to join in from the safety of their own homes.

The day will begin with a moment of reflection for all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. For two minutes at 11am we will stand silent in our homes and remember those who did not return.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addresses the crowds from the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall on VE Day, 1945.. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

To mark the moment Churchill announced to the nation that the war in Europe was over, at 3pm extracts from his iconic speeches from that day will be broadcast across TV and radio.

Later that evening, at 9pm, Her Majesty The Queen will address the nation and thank the Second World War generation, just as her father, King George VI, gave a radio address at 9pm on 8 May, 75 years ago.

Current circumstances mean we are now spending more time connecting with loved ones through video calls than ever before, and on VE Day Members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister and I will be having calls with Second World War veterans.

VE Day will also be a day for celebration, so in the evening I want to encourage you to join in and sing Dame Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ - arguably the most famous song that emerged from the Second World War.So everyone can get into the spirit, we have prepared a ‘how to’ guide so you can create a 1945 style afternoon. This includes war time recipes, ideas for games, activities and even bunting and colouring packs for children so you can decorate your home.

As part of my own preparations to mark VE 75, I researched my own family’s role in the Second World War and was fascinated to learn about the part they played. I am sure that there are many stories to be discovered and we have partnered with ancestry.co.uk to create free resources so everyone can research their relatives’ experience.

I do hope that you will join in for this anniversary and give thanks to our greatest generation. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, we need to ensure that we say thank you from home to protect our NHS, save lives, and for the safety of the generation that did so much for our future.

On Friday, we will come together to thank them for their sacrifice, thank them for their hard work and most importantly, thank them for helping to restore peace, liberty and democracy to Europe and for shaping our nation today. I hope that you will join me.