VE Day 70th anniversary 2015 & the best UK events

70 years on, we celebrate the anniversary of the day Britain received the news that the war in Europe was over, plus the best UK VE Day events 2015

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The Thunderbolts Band of the United States Army Air Forces¹ 78th Fighter Group perform at the VE Day party at RAF Duxford on 8 May 1945. Image credit: IWM.

For anyone who lived through the war, 8 May 1945, Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, was probably one of the greatest days of their lives.

After six years of war and an estimated 60 million fatalities, culminating in Hitler’s suicide, his successor, Karl Dönitz, signed the act of military surrender to the Allies on 7 May 1945.

The following day was declared VE Day, and impromptu celebrations sprung up all over the nation. Street parties with strangers embracing each other saw Britons mark the end of years of austerity, rationing and fear. People huddled around wireless radio sets to listen to Winston Churchill‘s now famous VE Day speech, broadcast at 3pm. Later, the Prime Minister addressed the crowds gathered in Whitehall, offering such stirring words as, ‘‘My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny” and ‘‘God bless you all. This is your victory!”

Bunting and flags were draped all over house fronts and streets and the people wore rosettes and patriotic paraphernalia as the public enjoyed a day of drinking and merriment. King George VI and the Queen appeared eight times on the balcony of Buckingham Palace while outside its gates, a carnival atmosphere took over and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret mingled with the crowds.

The post-war recovery had officially begun.

Best VE Day anniversary events 2015

IWM Duxford

On 23 and 24 May 2015, a special VE Day Anniversary Air Show at IWM Duxford will pay tribute to the people who endured Second World War. The flying display, to commemorate the 70 years since VE Day, will honour the Allied forces from across the world, that contributed towards Victory in Europe. As a mark of gratitude, Second World War Armed Forces and Home Front Civilian Forces veterans will be granted complimentary entry to the VE Day Anniversary Air Show.

The National Memorial Arboretum

The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire will commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day with a short service of Remembrance, followed by a street party on 10 May reminiscent of the celebrations in 1945. There will be 1940s music, entertainment, food, a pop up vintage and handmade goods market, flag making and games for children and World War II memorial guided walks. Families are invited to get involved with preparations for the event by helping to design a piece of VE Day bunting.

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Normandy veterans with HRH Prince Philip.

Remembrance tours

To highlight the bravery of our Armed Forces on the anniversary of VE Day, Remembrance Travel, the travel arm of the Royal British Legion, has devised a series of tours to key historical sites of both World Wards.

The trips, to Northern Italy, Boulogne, Westminster Abbey and more, have been arranged in association with experts Arena Travel and are accompanied by a Support Party, consisting of a senior member of the Legion, an experienced guide, a Standard Bearer and a medic.

One tour, to the Normandy beaches to commemorate D-Day, will offer veterans who served in Normandy at the time a free place for them, a relative and a carer, funded by the Government from LIBOR bank fines.

IWM North

Head to IWM North for a packed programme of VE Day events, talks, activities and screenings on 3 May, also coinciding with new displays of objects, research and stories, including that of a Victoria Cross recipient who died just days before Victory in Europe.

On display for the first time at IWM North will be the Oscar awarded to a 1945 documentary film depicting the victory in Europe. Meanwhile, the premiere screening of a new film compilation will reveal archive footage of VE Day celebrations unfolding and exclusive talks will explore life in 1940s Britain. Plus, author Julie Summers will discuss how fashion played an surprising part in the Allied victory.

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Magnificent Blenheim Palace. Image credit: Visit England.

Churchill & Blenheim tour 

A little later on in the year, on 30 November, there will be tours throughout the day focusing on Churchill and Blenheim during WW2 These will explore the history of Churchill’s family during the Second World War and the the energetic part the Estate staff and the Palace played in the war effort. A school was evacuated to the Palace during the war for one academic year, after which MI5 moved in. The tour tells the story of how the Palace prepared for the worst, housed four hundred boys evacuated to Blenheim and kept the secrets of MI5, introducing key characters along the way.

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Britain commemorates the 70th anniversary of D-Day
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