On 8 May the United Kingdom celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day – Victory in Europe – in recognition of all those who had fought in the Second World War (1939-45). Having addressed the nation during the corona virus pandemic, her Majesty the Queen again broadcast a message to the people. Mindful of the continuing lockdown because of the pandemic, she recognised that ‘today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish. Instead we remember from our homes and from our doorsteps.’
Paying recognition to the wartime generation who risked their lives ‘so all our families and our neighbourhoods’ would be safe, her tribute included those people from the countries of the Commonwealth and the former British Empire who fought alongside British and Allied troops, notably those of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Africa, the West Indies and South East Asia, whose countries make up the Commonwealth we know today.
As we continue to count the number of those who have sadly died during the corona virus pandemic, it is staggering to contemplate that, as a result of the Second World War, an estimated 70-85 million people worldwide died, constituting approximately 3 per cent of the world’s population in 1940.
One of the suggestions of how we could celebrate VE day at a ‘social distance’ was to decorate our balconies with the colours of red, white and blue. And so I got out the Union Jack which – when my parents died in 1984 and 2004 – had draped both their coffins in recognition of their years of service in the armed forces – my father in the Royal Navy and my mother in the Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) – and hung it from a flagpole on my balcony. As the Queen said: ‘Never give up, never despair, that was the message of VE Day.’
Victoria Schofield is the Chair of the Round Table Editorial Board.