On 8 May 1945 Europe celebrated the end of World War II, although it would be mid-August before the world saw peace with VJ Day (victory over the Japanese) when war in the Far-East was declared over.
The German surrender was anticipated for days and General Jodl, the German Army Chief of Staff, finally signed their unconditional surrender at 2.41 a.m. on 7 May 1945. Celebrations were stalled so the allies could synchronise news from London, Washington and Moscow. All German warfare was timed to cease by 11.01 p.m. on the 8 May (European time).
VE Day had British and American citizens rejoicing that the long war was finally over. Britain declared both the 8 and 9 May public holidays.
Six years of brutal war had killed 382,700 members of the British Armed Forces. There were 67,100 civilian dead, one of whom was my fourteen-year-old uncle, who was ‘killed by enemy action‘.
It was reported that Churchill would speak to the nation at 3 o’clock in the afternoon from the War Cabinet Office and King George VI would address the nation at 9 o’clock in the evening. Churchill joined the British royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to witness the jubilant crowds outside, for the second and last time a Prime Minister has taken that spot.
The royal family first appeared on the balcony soon after Churchill addressed Britain and again including Churchill at 5.30 p.m.. Later, the King and Queen once again stepped onto the balcony but Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were not with them, they were amongst the crowds revelling in the freedom from constraints of war. Along with the ecstatic public, they chanted ‘we want the King’ until their parents appeared. Queen Elizabeth II has said it was ‘one of the most memorable nights of her life.’