75th VE Day Celebrations May 8th 2020

What are you doing to celebrate VE day?

Do the celebrations mean anything to you and your family?  Is it something that you would normally celebrate, or are you celebrating this year as so many of us are in lockdown and it is a different event to be involved in?

We are going to have an afternoon tea to celebrate.  Sadly, we don’t have any bunting, and as I’m not a craft person, there is no likelihood of my making any before Friday!   But, we will do our bit, and celebrate on our own.

My neighbour asked me today if we were going outside to sing ‘We’ll meet again’ at 9 o’clock. We then both had to admit, that we only know the chorus, so don’t think there would be much point. Also, if the numbers of people who join in the Thursday Clapping for the NHS are anything to go by, it seems unlikely that they’ll be anyone out there singing in our road!

Family VE Day celebrations in the past

I have not celebrated VE Day in the past.  As a family, we always went to church on Remembrance Sunday, mainly, as the three of us were in the church choir.  

That service has always held a special place in my heart, and I was, and still feel very moved when the lone trumpeter goes outside and plays the very evocative,  ‘Last Call’.  

However, we didn’t celebrate VE Day and I don’t remember my parents talking about it very much.

Dad’s war

In fact, my father rarely spoke about the war. He said it wasn’t something not to be talked about.

He was in a tank unit, and did once tell me a very gruesome story about someone losing their head in a battle, because he had stuck his head out of the tank and was shot by a sniper.  That was the only story he told me. Perhaps he thought that he would put me off asking again!

Having served in a tank brigade, Dad suffered from claustrophobia forever afterwards. He hated going into small dark place, and the cinema, particularly when the lights were low, and it was very dark.  

Dad’s brother Frank also fought in the war, but I don’t know what his war was like either. Their parents were lucky, as their only two children came home, safe, unlike many families.  

Mum told me stories about how she used to sit under the large wooden dinning table when the bombers flew over their house after raids on Leicester, and Coventry, and often dropped their remaining bombs in the fields.  She said the whole house shook, and windows broke, even though they never received a direct hit. 

Whilst searching for pictures to use, I realised that Dad wasn’t home on VE Day.  He was still in Germany until January 1946 when he was demobbed. 

When Dad came home from the war, he looked incredibly gaunt, and much older than his 31 years. Sadly, he died young too, at 56, a week before my nineteenth birthday.

Parallels with the way people lived during the war, and now.

This is the first time since the war that, as a nation we have suffered any real hardship. Compared to the living standards during the war, this is nothing.  Our homes are not being bombed, and other people are not killing us. This is NOT a war. 

However, we are going through some of the same situations, but with the addition of 21stcentury tech, and living conditions.

  • Children were evacuated from home for their own safety and therefore couldn’t see their parents. With lockdown we can’t physically see our friends and families, but we have technology that means we can see them online, and speak to them.
  • Soldiers couldn’t talk to their sweethearts, and had to rely on letters. Similarly, now, people can talk to each other on their mobiles, tablets, or computers. Our technology is linking us across the world.
  • Food was rationed during and after the war. We have had some shortages in certain food products, but not due to rationing – due to stockpiling by panic buyers.  This was of our own making.
  • Like the war, we are losing people in large numbers, but we can’t see it happening, and don’t know where the virus is.
  • The saddest similarity is, in the war when people were killed; often their loved ones were not reunited with the bodies.
  • This is happening now when people are dying of the Corona Virus; relatives are unable to say goodbye, which is heartbreaking.

One of the things you hear people who lived through the 2nd World War remarking on, is the way people pulled together.  They supported each other, and gave help where needed.

If we can do the same, and there evidence out there we are; then we will also come through this time as stronger and hopefully, kinder people.

Enjoy your celebrations, and stay safe and well.

My poem for VE Day:

VE Day 75thCelebration 

Today we commemorate those who died

Who put other lives first, and from danger ne’er shied.

Thanks to the brave efforts of those who served,

Who we remember by giving them the respect they deserve.

World War 2 in Europe ended on May 8th 1945,

With millions of lives lost, and millions more alive,

Today in the year twenty-twenty

We still have heroes a-plenty.

Today we are not at war, not against other nations;

From that horror, there has been a cessation,

Instead we are fighting an unseen terror

Which has entered our lives, uninvited.

Our frontline saviours are not soldiers

But the nurses, doctors and carers who are the holders

Of our loved ones lives as though close to their own hearts,

Ensuring where possible we are not kept forever apart.

Many have worked tirelessly, and yet lost their own life

Whilst providing others’ with relief.

The carers’ own families now overcome with grief,

And governments around the world vacillate,

Having left their reactions far too late

To halt this cruel, indiscriminate pandemic,

The world waits, more dying each day as the clocks slowly tick.

Today we commemorate those who gave their lives,

In the nineteen-forties, and this year too,

But please, don’t let’s wait until these deaths are part of our archives.

Our frontline heroes need better remuneration

They need more than grateful thanks and donations.

Without them and their dedicated commitment,

This world would be in a far worse predicament.

Thanks to the brave efforts of those who served

Who today, we remember by giving them the respect they deserve.

 ©Lis McDermott 2020