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VE Day: Nation pays tribute to ‘greatest generation of Britons who ever lived’

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Despite lockdown, celebrations are planned across the country culminating in a doorstep sing along to We’ll Meet Again.

The country will remember VE Day at 11am today with a two-minute silence led by Prince Charles.

At 3pm this afternoon, the nation will toast veterans and at 9pm the Queen will deliver a personal address from Windsor Castle – the same time her father, King George VI, gave a radio address in 1945 to mark the end of World War II.

It will be followed by a national doorstep singalong to Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again.
VE Day celebrations may have been scaled back, but if anything, our connection with the historic moment is heightened in 2020 as this generation tries to emerge from a dark moment in its history.

The prime minister has said the country needs the same spirit to defeat coronavirus as the Second World War generation demonstrated in their struggle to defeat Hitler.

Boris Johnson wrote: “On this anniversary, we are engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus which demands the same spirit of national endeavour that you exemplified 75 years ago.

“We cannot pay our tribute with the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past; your loved ones may be unable to visit in person.

“But please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered.”

The prime minister added: “Our celebration of the anniversary of the victory might give the impression that Hitler’s downfall was somehow inevitable. You know better.

“You will remember moments of crisis, even desperation, as our country endured setback, defeat and grievous loss.

“What made the difference was your valour, fortitude and quiet yet invincible courage.”

The PM said those involved in the struggle to defeat Nazism were “quite simply the greatest generation of Britons who ever lived”.

There are dwindling numbers left alive who helped make VE Day happen.

Geoffrey Pulzer was a tank commander with the 29th Armoured Brigade, the 11th Armoured Division and took part in the D-Day landings on his 21st birthday.

He fought across France and only just lived to tell the tale.

“A mortar landed on our tank. We came out with our ears drumming, blackened faces and pretty shaken

Like the prime minister, Cpl Pulzer compared the wartime spirit to what is happening now dealing with coronavirus.

He added: “I experienced the whole of the Blitz and I see a great similarity between the attitude then – and the attitude now. British doggedness. And a British attitude to say let’s all work together.”

However, Cpl Pulzer did criticise people for panic buying – and says he does not recall his mother doing that during the Blitz.

Seventy-five years ago, thousands took to the streets of London in spontaneous celebrations and pressed into the Mall to see the Royal Family and then prime minister Winston Churchill on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony.

Among the revellers was Marie Scott, who had been a radio operator on D-Day sending messages to the troops in Normandy.

She said: “The whole nation was elated – we were all overjoyed.

“The end of a war is a very special thing. You don’t stop at that moment to count the casualties and what you’ve paid – the price you’ve paid to win that war.

“On VE Day there was delirium, euphoria – you name it, it was there. Everywhere was the same. People singing, shouting, smiling, laughing, kissing, and hugging and it was all totally indiscriminate but great fun.”

Indiscriminate kissing and hugging will not be possible today.

The events will be led by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall who will pay hushed respects from a location in Scotland.

Prince Charles is also due to read extracts from his grandfather King George VI’s diary from 8 May, reflecting on the Nazi surrender after six years of war.

In parliament, a trumpeter from the Band of the Scots Guard will sound the Last Post and Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is due to read extracts from a speech given by Churchill, in which he announced the surrender of Germany, bringing the Second World War to an end.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, in a video message, highlights the legacy of “those that rebuilt and renewed our country after the war”, singling out the formation of NHS.

He says: “In normal times we would be paying tribute to their achievements in street parties, in gatherings and events at the Cenotaph. This year we can’t do that, this year we can’t be together.”



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