It is seventy five years ago this month that Britain celebrated Victory in Europe. The war had affected the whole world, Europe was a fortress occupied by the Germans until the Allied invasion of the 6th of June 1944. Many innocent people had been killed in these countries, groups seen to be inferior or political enemies were rounded up and exterminated or taken to Labour camps. Resistance groups through-out Europe risked everything they had, including the lives of themselves and that of their families. From June of 1944, following D-Day the Allied Armies pushed the Germans back, regaining the freedoms for the people of those countries they liberated. Still there were to be hardships to endure for some time to come, food shortages, rebuilding factories that had been destroyed, rebuilding the economy and rebuilding families that had suffered with partners being away, whether serving their country or taken to the Labour Camps or prisons. Many would never return. As for the British people it was for many a time for rejoicing and celebration. The War in Europe was finally at an end on the 8th of May 1945.
This was not the end though, with the War against Japan still raging. Many British servicemen that thought their time was finished found themselves being prepared to travel to the Far East with the aim of ending that campaign. For some families there was to be no big celebration as many had had family members captured, killed or wounded. It was to take many months for the servicemen and women to come home. The civilian population through-out Britain had stood firm, putting up with the hardships forced upon them. Many had held down their day jobs and did voluntary jobs as well, Fire Watchers, the Royal Observer Corps, the Home Guard, ARP services, WVS and many more organisations. The blackout that had been in force since the 1st of September 1939 had been partially relaxed in November of 1944 and street lighting came back at full strength in April 1945. In Britain rationing was still in force and was to remain so until the last item, sweets came off of the ration in 1954, everything else came off in 1953. Petrol was rationed until 1950. A little known fact is that a junior minister by the name of Harold Wilson announced in 1949 that clothing coupons would be discontinued, for those of us old enough to remember him as Prime Minister.
Regardless of these problems large crowds turned out to hear the bells of churches ringing out for the first time since the outbreak of war. During the war the bells would have been the signal of an invasion. The streets of London were crammed with people celebrating, dancing and singing, people from all walks of life mixed. Service personnel that were on leave or stationed nearby joined the crowds. Throughout Britain this was repeated in towns and cities.
The Royal Family stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to the joy of the crowds. The King and Queen had stayed in London for the duration of the war rather than be separated from their people. It was reported that Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret left the Palace to join in with the people.
In the countries that had been liberated parades had already taken place when the Allies marched through the Capitals. The Victory in Europe gave them ever more reason to celebrate and look to the future.
As I mentioned earlier this was only the start of the end, with the settling down into a peacetime role but with many hardships and shortages to endure.
Let us at this time remember every-one that lived through this time, no matter what their age or circumstances as they all played a part even if was only a child that did not get to know what exotics fruits were until some-time later. Many people had been given opportunities that would not have been available to them had it not been for the war. Women in the work place had proven themselves once again in the work place, as they had during the First World War.