Chain of beacons to be lit nationwide to mark VE Day

A chain of beacons will be lit across the country, Spitfire and Lancaster bomber planes will take to the skies and a star-studded concert will be held in London as part of commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

Ve Day
Ve Day

A national two-minute silence will be held at The Cenotaph at 3pm on May 8, marking the moment prime minister Winston Churchill broadcast his historic speech to formally announce the end of the war, before the lighting of more than 100 beacons, stretching from Newcastle to Cornwall.

The following day cathedrals across the country will ring bells at 11am in celebration.

Stars will also perform at a 1940s-themed concert held on Horse Guards Parade in London in the evening, to be shown on the BBC.

On Sunday, May 10, veterans and their families will join members of the royal family, politicians, members of the Armed Forces and representatives of Allied nations and Commonwealth countries that fought alongside Britain for a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.

A parade of bands, veterans and current servicemen and women will then make their way from the abbey along Whitehall - past the balcony of the Treasury building, where Churchill made his historic speech before vast crowds on VE Day - before a reception in St James’s Park for 2,000 veterans hosted by the Royal British Legion (RBL).

That afternoon there will be a fly-past of current and historic aircraft from the RAF, including Hurricane, Spitfire and Lancaster bomber planes from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Vehicles dating from the 1940s will also be on display in St James’s Park.

People are encouraged to enjoy their own celebrations by holding street parties.

Announcing the three-day celebrations, William Hague, Leader of the House of Commons, said they would pay “fitting tribute” to those who did so much to defend the country and ensure victory in Europe.

He said: “It is right that we take time to reflect on the sacrifices made, not just by those in the Armed Forces, but by civilians such as Land Girls and those in Reserved Occupations and make sure that the whole country has the chance to take part in commemorating this momentous anniversary and remembering those who gave so much for our freedom.

“The celebrations in London will be echoed by other events across the country to mark VE Day 70, with local authorities and communities encouraged to participate. They will celebrate with members of their communities who contributed to the war effort throughout the Second World War.”

Eric Goldrein, who served with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, was in Italy when the announcement came that war in Europe was over.

Mr Goldrein, from Hale near Liverpool, said: “We celebrated in a field. The Signallers set up speakers playing music and the locals came out and joined in too, happy that the war was finally over.

“I heard about the street parties back home and I’m looking forward to being part of these 70th anniversary celebrations.”

Vice Admiral Peter Wilkinson, national president of the RBL, added: “We are honoured to play our part in helping the nation mark 70 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe.

“The legion has a responsibility to help the memories of those who have fought and died in our nation’s Armed Forces live on for future generations. The commemoration of this conflict, still in living memory, gives us the opportunity to salute the Second World War generation.”

Commemorations will be held later in the year to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, commemorating victory in Japan, with a series of events taking place on August 15.