VE Day 75
Today marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.
Hostilities in Europe had officially ended at one minute past midnight and the news was welcomed with impromptu marches late into the night. The next day, 8th May 1945 was designated as Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day for short.
Pictured below is the front page of the Northern Whig headlined ‘VICTORY’ alongside images of Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill (NIWM Collection – NIWM:2020.2576)
At 3pm Churchill’s speech was played through loudspeakers to the crowds gathered around Belfast City Hall (pictured courtesy of Belfast Telegraph) and was greeted by the ringing of church bells, factory horns and ship sirens.
Parties, decorated with the flags of the major Allied Nations such as Russia, the USA, France and the UK, were held in streets and places of work to celebrate victory and peace. Pictured below are those at the switch room in Telephone House, Medway St, Glenwood St, North Boundary St, and Foundry St (all Belfast Telegraph photos)
These parties again lasted long into the night. Below is a photo of children dancing around a bonfire in the early hours of the morning of the 9th May at Woodvale Gardens (Belfast Telegraph).
Later today you’ll hear more about how VE Day was celebrated across the country from the participants of our oral history projects.
In short, the Guildhall in Derry was illuminated that night for the first time since September 1939 and large crowds gathered at Guildhall Square while a Salvation Army band lead a procession after playing a service at the Diamond.
Crowds gathered on High St Portadown (pictured courtesy of Craigavon Museum Services) and in Armagh the band of the Royal Irish Fusiliers played on the Mall.
In Bangor crowds gathered on the sea front around the McKee clock whilst an effigy of Hitler hung from the gallows atop an air raid shelter on Main St.
And in Omagh, people thronged the streets to witness a parade, led by the band of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Royal Ulster Rifles, of more than 2,000 soldiers.
Whilst the celebrations were overwhelmingly jubilant, many people’s thoughts turned to those still serving in the Far East against Japan and thanksgiving services were held in memory of those who did not return. Again, pictured below is an image of soldiers at prayer on VE Day at Belfast Cathedral.
In the back of many minds was the uncertainty of what was to come next. The war had brought a relative sense of prosperity but unemployment was already on the rise.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has limited the scale of events, there are still nationwide events going ahead that you can get involved with;
11:00 Two minutes silence
15:00 BBC broadcast of Churchill’s speech
21:00 The Queen will address the nation, just as her father did 75 years ago. This is followed by a UK wide singalong to Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again
Over the last week or so we have been sharing resources that can help you to celebrate the occasion at home. These can be found on our website at http://www.niwarmemorial.org/learning-resources/ and throughout the day we will continue to post further resources as well as memories of this day, 75 years ago.