Friday, 8 May 2020

"Never Give Up, Never Despair" The Royal Family Lead The Nation For VE Day 75

At the beginning of the year, preparations were being finalised to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day in true British spirit. From street parties and marches to the Royal family gathering on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with thousands joining a procession down the Mall. The current situation meant speedy changes to the plans. We will come together again to mark future anniversaries, until then we are finding new ways to commemorate, honour and remember. As we globally fight a silent enemy, today is particularly poignant. On Wednesday morning, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spoke to veterans and staff at Mais House care home. The footage was shared on tonight's BBC coverage just ahead of the Queen's historic speech.

Care home manager Susan and residents Charles and Jean were delighted to receive a surprise phone call.

'The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were left tickled pink by stories of Churchill's "secret" birthday message to his son when they chatted to Second World War veterans about their VE Day memories. Champagne was flowing when William and Kate made a video call on Wednesday to residents of an East Sussex care home to listen to them reminisce about the day the war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945.
William praised the efforts of the wartime generation, and told them: "Because we can't be together, everyone's still thinking of you all today, and are very proud of everything you've all achieved."
Kate also revealed Prince George and Princess Charlotte have been asked by their teachers to learn Dame Vera Lynn's famous wartime anthem. She said: "The school has set all the children a challenge and they're currently trying to learn the lyrics to the song We'll Meet Again... so it's been really lovely having that playing every day."

Speaking about her paternal grandmother Valerie Glassborow's work as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park, Kate said: "It's so sad that she's not here today, as I would love to speak to her more about it."

Last year Kate made a return visit to Bletchley Park to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. In a foreword for the 2016 puzzle book produced by GCHQ, the UK’s Signals Intelligence and Cyber Security agency, the Duchess wrote: "I have always been immensely proud of my grandmother, Valerie Glassborow, who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. They hardly ever talked about their wartime service, but we now know just how important the men and women of Bletchley Park were, as they tackled some of the hardest problems facing the country".

More from Hello!:

'The royal couple had the honour of speaking with Charles Ward, the oldest resident at Mais House, a Royal British Legion care home in Bexhill-on-Sea. Charles, aged 101, told the Cambridges about working on "secret messages" from then Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
The veteran, from South Kirby in Yorkshire, later described the correspondence he received from the wartime leader, saying: "The message came from Churchill, I had to decipher it, re-encipher it and send it to his son in Yugoslavia to say, 'Happy Birthday'. And then there was another one from the son to Churchill himself to say congratulations on your speech in Parliament. When I told William and Kate that story, they giggled."

The Duchess wore her L.K. Bennett Cayla dress for the call.

The Royal family have always been central on these days. This photo of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret shows one of their eight balcony appearances on Victory in Europe Day.

The Queen was only nineteen years old on VE Day. She recorded her memories of the event thirty years later: "I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief."

This morning, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall represented the Royal family in a two-minute silence at Balmoral War Memorial in Scotland against the backdrop of a piper playing. Charles wore highland dress, a Hunting Stewart kilt with a Gordon Highlanders tie and his medals. The message on his wreath read "In Everlasting Remembrance". Camilla was elegant in her green four rifles dress and 12th Royal Lancers regimental brooch in memory of her father, Major Bruce Shand, who served with the regiment. Camilla wrote: "In memory of my darling father and all the officers and men of the XII Lancers, who fought so bravely to give us peace."

Camilla read excerpts from her father's WWII diary. Major Shand was taken to Germany as a prisoner of war in 1942 before escaping and returning to England in 1945. Click here to listen in full. The Duchess reads her father's words about escaping and losing two of his closest comrades during the Battle of El Alamein. In 2006, Charles and Camilla visited Egypt at Major Shand's request to lay flowers on the graves of her father’s two crewmen, Sergeant Charles Francis and Corporal Edward Plant.

Embed from Getty Images

Camilla spent time today calling to two veterans of the 7th Armoured Division, also known as the Desert Rats, who served in North Africa during the Second World War. The Duchess has previously met both Sergeant-Major Lee Burritt and Jimmy Sinclair and sent both homemade biscuits from Birkhall. A very thoughtful and kind gesture.

Charles read an extract from his grandfather, King George VI's diary from VE Day, 8 May 1945: "The day we have been longing for has arrived at last." Writing about his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret he noted: "Poor Darling. They have never had any fun yet."

Meanwhile, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex made a number of video calls to veterans across the UK. Below, a message Sophie sent to her patronage Blind Veterans UK.

The Red Arrows paid tribute as they flew over central London.

After their London flypast, the Red Arrows flew over the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede in Surrey. The memorial commemorates the 20,456 men and women who lost their lives during the war and have no known grave.

RAF Typhoons performed flypasts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

On 8 May 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill made an announcement on the radio at 3 pm that the war in Europe had finally ended following Germany's surrender. Churchill said: "My dear friends, this is your hour."

There were joyous eruptions onto the streets from those of all ages.

The scenes 75 years ago.

A look at how British newspapers marked VE Day.

On VE Day at 9 pm the Queen's father addressed the nation: "There is great comfort in the thought that the years of darkness and danger in which the children of our country have grown up are over and, please God, forever. We shall have failed, and the blood of our dearest will have flowed in vain, if the victory which they died to win does not lead to a lasting peace, founded on justice and established in good will."

At the same time tonight, Her Majesty followed in her father's footsteps in a rare address. "I speak to you today at the same hour as my father did, exactly 75 years ago. His message then was a salute to the men and women at home and abroad who had sacrificed so much in pursuit of what he rightly called a “great deliverance”. The war had been a total war; it had affected everyone, and no one was immune from its impact. Whether it be the men and women called up to serve; families separated from each other; or people asked to take up new roles and skills to support the war effort, all had a part to play.  At the start, the outlook seemed bleak, the end distant, the outcome uncertain. But we kept faith that the cause was right - and this belief, as my father noted in his broadcast, carried us through."

Her Majesty continued:

'Never give up, never despair - that was the message of VE Day. I vividly remember the jubilant scenes my sister and I witnessed with our parents and Winston Churchill from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The sense of joy in the crowds who gathered outside and across the country was profound, though while we celebrated the victory in Europe, we knew there would be further sacrifice.  It was not until August that fighting in the Far East ceased and the war finally ended.
Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict. They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad. They died so we could live as free people in a world of free nations. They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe. We should and will remember them. 
As I now reflect on my father’s words and the joyous celebrations, which some of us experienced first-hand, I am thankful for the strength and courage that the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and all our allies displayed.
The wartime generation knew that the best way to honour those who did not come back from the war, was to ensure that it didn’t happen again. The greatest tribute to their sacrifice is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side by side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all. 

You'll notice the Queen's ATS cap was on her desk tonight. The Queen held the rank of Second Subaltern on joining the ATS. Five months later, she was later promoted to Junior Commander, the equivalent of Captain. She is the only living Head of State to have served in the Second World War.

I'm closing with a portion of Her Majesty's speech I found particularly moving "Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish.  Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps. But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other. And when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire." I know the Queen's personal and beautifully delivered speech will lift spirits tonight. 


  1. Sarah from Calif.8 May 2020 at 22:55

    Love, love this!

  2. Thanks Charlotte for this beautiful post. Although not together in body, their hearts are bound by memories and love.

  3. Fabulous post, Charlotte. Thank you so much for this! ❤️

  4. As an American, many of my friends tease me about being such an "Anglophile." But when I see the way the United Kingdom remembers and honors it history and traditions, I understand one reason why I feel this way. There may be a special tribute in Arlington National Cemetery today, but nothing has been promoted or publicized here about V-E Day, which me very sad, and quite frankly, angry. My dad served in the war, and I feel that the courage and sacrifice of those brave men and women deserves some recognition and remembrance. The Queen is a remarkable woman, and I honor her for her dedication to her country, and her wise and thoughtful words.

    1. I share the same feeling - as an American and Anglophile there is little significance attributed to this victory in the USA. My father had also served in the war. I find the Queen's words very comforting and uplifting.

    2. A fellow anglophile from South Africa. I agree, love the sense of history and the importance of remembering. As alway, an excellent post by Charlotte.

    3. While I share your sentiment strongly, I have my doubts that all Americans would see the celebration in the same spirit as England. We had a most beautiful 4th of July last year on the National Mall that many pundits and politicians condemned! Any effort to celebrate other special days would meet the same barbaric reaction. We cannot celebrate our greatness together because all do not believe that by freedom alone we are truly great!

    4. I think VE Day is viewed differently in America because the war was not physically here. With the exception of Pearl Harbor which is memorialized every year. The physical location of these events does make a difference to their legacy. London was blitzed during the War so I feel the context is a bit different to celebrating its end in the UK. At the time the surrenders (both VE and VJ) occurred there were of course exuberant celebrations in the US. The world famous picture of the soldier and nurse kissing in NYC for example. But over time the meaning is different because the war wasn’t fought here. I think you will also never see a pronounced celebration of VJ Day by Americans as it came about due to the use of the Atom bomb. There is something distasteful about celebrating such a significant loss of civilian life, regardless of which side of the conflict.

      All that being said while the style is different, America certainly memorializes its soldiers and conflicts. Arlington is a beautiful and moving place that is America’s symbolic location for marking these events. The World War 2 museum in New Orleans is a stunning memorial and education center to this event as well.

    5. Nicole from France10 May 2020 at 17:25

      As a French anglophile , I greatly admire the Queen and envy the British people to have such a person who can speak to all with no politic references , an elected head of state will always show Γ  politic influence in the speech .... I am quite surprised, American friends, that your country do not celebrate the 8th of May, as it has been made possible thanks to the United States coming to help European countries which were already fighting very hard , and in a despairing state for some of them .
      The USA helped to keep a lot of countries free, but do not celebrate .... maybe because that was out of the American territory ? Has it always been so , or just since ... a few years , to put it simply ?

    6. The U.S. has always commemorated its wars in three ways. First is the Fourth of July, which isn't about war so much as it is a remembrance of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
      Then in the 19th century we added Memorial Day, originally Decoration Day. It started as a day to honor the dead from the Civil War by "decorating" their graves. To oversimplify (it wasn't quite this neat and tidy), some time after the war, the tradition developed to observe it on May 30 because that wasn't the date of any particular battle. It now honors all those who served and died in wars and is observed on the last Monday of May.
      The most recent addition was Veterans Day, originally Armistice, to commemorate the end of WWI, but now it honors American veterans of all wars. Hope this answers some of your questions. I find it interesting that we remember the people who fought more than the wars themselves.

  5. What a lovely post Charlotte!! All of it very moving, well done by all the royal family. Another reminder of how important it is that photos capture the spirit of the moment. The Queen is a truly remarkable woman. cc

    1. Zora from Prague9 May 2020 at 20:05

      +1, CeCe! This is a fantastic post. The combination of history and today is so touching! And all of it united through HM who really is incredible. No other nation is able to hear its head echoing the words of his/her father after exactly 75 years. Such continuity! Truly unique. The other members of the Royal Family follow in her footsteps, marking the day in meaningful ways. Well done!
      I love the old photos of the young Queen with her parents and sister and Winston Churchill. What a day it must have been back then!

  6. Allison in US9 May 2020 at 00:17

    There is something so emotional about the UK remembrance compared with the US; I guess it's because the US was in danger mainly on leaving the country, to go fight in other countries. The UK was physically attacked and people had nowhere to be safe. It obviously was so very important to win that terrible war. Because the Queen lived through the war, it is so important to hear from her. C&C and W&K will have to carry on her memories of the war as her direct heirs.

  7. Thank you, thank you Charlotte for your beautiful post! I insisted my American husband watch W & K speaking to the vets, the Queen's speech and C & C. And at the end I turned to him and said "And that is why the British people love their Royal Family."

    1. Thank you for this comment. Many times I feel that a lot of people do not understand what the RF’s role is. Above everything they’re there to honor their country and its people and to make them all feel represented.

    2. Zora from Prague9 May 2020 at 20:07

      I share your feelings, Valerie!

  8. Wow. The queen delivered powerful, yet, warm and personal speeches! Very moving. Happy VE Day! I feel greatful, witnessing (Online & on TV) how relentlessly Queen Elizabeth honors their military and history. She continues to keeps her promises that none will not be forgotten. She speaks for her heart, and from memories, good & bad. I hope the younger Royals will continue these honorable and well deserved tributes with the same passion.
    As a Veteran from a military family, we,especially, celebrate with you.
    Thank you, Charlotte. Your quick & thorough posts are always detailed, informative, and appreciated!

  9. Well done to all. The Queen is the very heart of the country. We all have lessons to learn from her generation.

  10. Susan in Florida9 May 2020 at 03:14

    This the best post you have ever shared , Charlotte. So much history is here. So well researched. I have mentioned before that my (American) Father-In-Law had such great respect the “Princess who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty” I mentioned it in his eulogy. She is now a Queen who inspires with her speeches. He loved his time in the UK before D-Day, the British people were so kind to the soldiers. πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

  11. What a wonderful packed post Charlotte Thank you so much. Keep safe everyone.

  12. Small things, rituals and traditions are so important for community...the personal calls, visits, letters and the ceremonies on balconies and at monuments and at small community halls I think is so vital for all people. Kate and William are doing a marvelous job of trying to continue all this side of being a public figure in a very changing world.

  13. The Queen is amazing! A truly touching speech ❤️

  14. I'm British and I live in a small town a couple of hours outside of London. There were lots of flags and several (suitably distanced) street 'parties'. It's lovely to mark the occasion with our neighbours and I'm glad the Royals managed to find alternative ways to lead the remembrance.

  15. We shall never forget what these men and women did for the future generations. Their Love of God and Country and restore the Freedom for their families and others to come. They gave their life so others could enjoy theirs. An eternal Thank you, to each and all,for their greatest gift to their people. We owe them a debt we will never be able to pay. THANK YOU TO THEM ALL.

  16. Seeing the difference in remembrances in the US and Britain reminds me of the lines
    "Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
    What place is this?
    Where are we now?"
    from the poem "Grass" by Carl Sandburg.
    In the USA and other places, we don't seem to want to remember.
    I remember my high school history teacher who used to say those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it, and he didn't mean the class.
    Thank you Charlotte for all you do to remind us.

  17. Si love the sppeech pf the queen ansi love ow pasionate the duke and duchess of cambridge y9 support the veterns

  18. beautiful post Charlotte thank you for it and God bless the Queen

  19. I’m not sure what you are implying. Are you saying we should have had public celebrations today despite the risks of covid19? I’m on the front line and don’t wish this disease on anyone. Freedom doesn’t mean you can risk someone else’s life.

    1. BethW7372 - First, thank you so very much for your service on the front line. Thank God for people like you. But I want to ask, whom are you addressing? I don't think anyone suggested public celebrations, in the US or in the UK. Some expressed sentiments that the US doesn't celebrate VE day to the extent that the UK does. But no one suggested there should have been any public celebrations at all.

  20. The Duchess looks beautiful in red. I think we will be seeing a lot more of the Duchess in the coming months. I'm sure that all the royal family wish that they could do more to help. The senior members of the family must be very proud that the example they have set is being followed by most.

  21. Charles Ward is an amazing 101 year old man. Hardly a wrinkle on his face and he is like someone 20 or 25 years younger. I'd love to know his secret (his and Thomas Moore's).

    Really enjoyed seeing Kate and William again. Kate always strikes me as being so positive and happy and always ready with a laugh. She inspires me to be the same.

    I agree with previous commenters that it would have been nice here in the US to have had more celebration of VE day.

    1. I often wonder how our German friends feel when the victory in Europe continues to be high-lighted. I believe Angela Merkel was included in at least one memorial from WW II in years past.
      Initially, US citizens celebrated the end of the war in the Pacific. Remember that iconic photo, " The Kiss, " taken in Times Square? As time went by and relations between Japan and the US became friendly, there was a need to put past hostilities in the past. A!most " we will forget, " more than "We will remember."
      In trying to understand this difference I remind myself that Europe was the battlefield not America. Although American soldiers were lost, their familIes remained safe at home. The US does observe yearly December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day. On that day the United States was the unmistakable target. There are no rituals or ceremonies for either Pearl Harbor Day or VJ Day. Only a quiet remembrance. I think the horror of the bombs dropped that preceded the Japanese surrender serves as a necessary but sufficient reminder.

  22. The British have definitely one of the most touching ways in terms of remembering and honouring. They are able to hold the balance between glorification and warning.

    @Charlotte: I read the Queen is reducing her workload and will only do some phone and video calls as she will follow all recommendations for Covid-19 for her age group. Do you think she will keep the reduced responsibilities (in terms a better phrase) after the pandemic? She is 94 after all.
    Do you reckon Charles and Camilla will too? The article made it sound as if the Cambridge’s will be the faces of the monarchy from no one, maybe even till Wiliam is king himself (no way Charles would give up his spot though in my opinion).
    Did you hear anything about it and what are your thoughts if so.
    As someone who strongly believes that a change of engagements numbers and of their work system has already been planned for, the current crisis seems like a convenient opportunity to start implementing changes.

    1. It's a particularly difficult situation with the monarchy isn't it? It's almost impossible to see how the Queen could carry out traditional engagements this year and with Charles and Camilla being over 70, they fall into a high risk category and will need to follow health advice. We could be looking at the three most senior members of the royal family being out of the spotlight for quite a long time.

      I think it will certainly fall to William and Kate to become the public faces of the family when it is appropriate for public engagements to resume properly again. There's an endless number of organisations depending on Charles for example and various events and fundraising dinners throughout the year.

      Of course, it's all going to depend on the containment of this awful virus. The royal summer calendar is all but canceled as are overseas tours. We're going to see changes in the types of engagements moving forward. Sophie has been doing quite a bit of volunteering near her home, so we may see work in that area moving forward. There's been strong suggestions over here children in Reception may go back to school in June and that will mean the Cambridges return to London over the next fortnight. It's all very much up in the air now.

  23. Wonderful. Thanks, Charlotte. So much courageous history. Thank you.


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