Never, Never, Never Give Up

Winston Churchill

So said the great wartime leader, Winston Churchill and his words came to fruition on the eighth of May 1945 marking the day when German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms. On this day both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations, as well as formerly occupied cities in Western Europe, put out flags and banners, rejoicing in the defeat of the Nazi war machine. Churchill himself raised his fingers to form the now famous "V" for "Victory" salute over Westminster.

The war-weary British began to rejoice straight away rather than waiting for the official day of celebration on the 8th. There had been years of austerity and rationing: five inches of water for a bath, few eggs, no bananas and the motto ‘make do and mend’. Half a million homes had been destroyed, thousands of civilians had been killed and many millions of lives disrupted. And, although the casualty lists from the battlefields were lower than in World War One, they were still terrible and this was a war that was fought both at home and abroad.

However, for the many people mourning a loved one killed in service or a German air raid, the moment of victory was bittersweet. For others, after the parties were over, there was a sense of anti-climax. Some found that they had lost a sense of purpose in their lives, a feeling that was to be exacerbated by the austerity to come. The war had been won, but the peace did not promise to be easy – and it was not. Of course, this was not the end of the Second World War and Japan did not surrender until August 15th 1945. However the war with Italy and Germany was over.

The 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day will be celebrated on the anniversary day, Friday 8 May 2015. A series of national commemorative events are taking place in London over the weekend, with community events and celebrations being organised across the country.

Even though he is best remembered as a wartime leader, perhaps it is apt for us to reflect on what Churchill actually thought about war when he said "If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another."

Ray Henshaw