VE Day +75: Voices of Jubilation and Relief

VE Day Celebrations in Britain. A truck of revellers passing through the Strand, London, 8 May 1945. (image via Imperial War Museum)

As we commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day this May 8th, most of us presently alive have no real idea of what it meant to have come through the other side of that long dark winter of war. The grinding, unforgiving brutality from six years of near-constant tragedy, anxiety and privation is not something many of us in the west have any experience with today, thankfully. Our forebears surmounted these injustices so we, hopefully, will never need to again. But we must never forget their sacrifices, not just because we should honor their service, but also because ignorance of such times can lead to complacency… and repetition. We are at our finest when we all work together for a common goal, when humanity triumphs over darkness. So perhaps it is worth hearing from those who were there back in May, 1945, from those who lived through those times, those whom strove for peace…

Fireworks at Eye: The night of VE day on the 490th base at Eye, UK. The men had a celebration with flares. Image by Captain Arnold Delmonico, photographic officer 490th Bomb Group. (image via Imperial War Museum)

Britain’s Imperial War Museum has collected some recollections of that day exactly seventy five years ago from people who lived it, and we thought they were worth repeating here. Take care everyone, and give thanks for this day to the Greatest Generation…

“I was glad to be alive, and women were crying, they were going to see their husbands that they hadn’t seen for two years. It was just jolly, jolly, jolly.”

Today, 8 May 2020, is the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

To mark the occasion, we’ve put together an audio clip that in four minutes gives some idea of how it felt when the war ended in Europe. Voices of War brings together numerous first-hand accounts of VE Day from our vast sound archive.

“It was so sad for those that had just lost, perhaps only the day before, one of their nearest and dearest. It was all so sad. But there was the other side that was so wonderful.”

Although the war in the Pacific continued until August, ‘Victory in Europe’ meant the beginning of the end to a conflict that had cost the lives of millions; had destroyed homes, families, and cities; and had brought huge suffering and privations to the populations of entire countries.

“We fished out a Union Jack which we had which survived the bombing. We hung it outside and there were bonfires outside…and people dancing in the streets and cheering. The relief was unbelievable.”

Take a few minutes to listen to VE Day memories, including those of an army nurse who served in Egypt at the time, a Jamaican aircraftsman who emigrated to the UK aboard the Empire Windrush in 1948, a Jewish man from Berlin who spent six weeks in Sachsenhausen concentration camp and even Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Reflect on a time of both celebration and cautious relief, as we consider what victory really meant for people in factories and fields, and in hospitals and homes, around the world in 1945.

Click here to hear Voices of War.

Picadilly Circus in London on VE Day, seventy five years ago today. (image via Imperial War Museum)

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