For, ever since Sir Winston Churchill took to the airwaves on 8th May, 1945 to declare the unconditional surrender of the Nazis, we have as a nation paused on this day to reflect on the sacrifices required of our forebears in order to give the Prime Minister that chance.
We pause to remember those we lost: 384,000 soldiers fell on the battlefield along with 70,000 civilians. More than 40,000 people were killed by the bombs of the Luftwaffe during the Blitz of 1940-41 alone. For many years now we have determined not to endure human and economic losses on that scale ever again.
It is quite right that we remember them, not least to warn future generations of the consequences hatred brings, whilst giving thanks to those who rebuilt Britain.
So, today, we must all raise a glass to the generation that defeated tyranny. But for their selfless gallantry, evil would have triumphed and the liberties we take for granted today may not exist. Today,it is our privilege to be able to thank them.
Join our new coronavirus Facebook group for the latest confirmed news and advice as soon as we get it www.facebook.com/groups/yorkshirecoronavirusHowever, it is true that we find our sacrosanct day of national celebration incongruously juxtaposed with misery and suffering. A public health crisis that in a matter of weeks has seen the death toll maraud relentlessly closer to that of the Blitz. Over 30,000 people have now been killed by coronavirus in this country.
Given that context, the words of Churchill’s victory broadcast in 1945 could not be more apt: we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.
In the week that Britain prepared to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, she became Europe’s worst hit by the pandemic. This newspaper would not be holding true to its contract with the county were it not asking, why? Indeed, Mr Churchill, the toil and efforts that lie ahead are as invidious as they have ever been. The economy itself blitzed to a 300-year low.
As a country, we find ourselves sorely conflicted. With the left hand we wave proudly our Union flags, grateful to the men and women who saved us from the jaws of Hell, forever proud of the giants whose shoulders we stand upon. Our right hand, however, is clenched. Clenched with grief and anger.
The fingers of our fists are wrapped around the question: why have more families in this country had to say goodbye to loved ones - before their time - at heart-wrenchingly inadequate send-offs, than any other country in Europe?
Why have the national defence systems of our generation not performed to the standards of other developed countries in Europe? Eighty years on from the Battle of Britain - this nation’s finest hour - a day when the nation’s world class defense systems prevailed and so many realised they owed so much to so few, we usher in the VE Day anniversary during, arguably, our darkest hour.
In that darkness there have been those whose efforts command admiration: Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, in his calm and assured delivery, abated the nation’s fears. Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, in his baptism of fire as Chancellor, imagined and delivered the most complex of economic rescue packages ever seen. And a Yorkshireman who bears witness to both the finest and darkest hours of this country, Capt Tom Moore, has reminded us of the standards expected of all of us in how we live our lives. There are many, many others to whom this paper in our daily hand-drawn illustrations has paid tribute.
But it is not to dismiss the heroes of this hour to ask difficult questions of those charged with keeping us safe. It does not besmirch the memories of the fallen to interrogate the political rhetoric in search of the truth. It does not silence the applause for the indefatigable NHS to ask why so many of them were recklessly exposed to Covid-19 through lack of PPE, resulting in so many health worker deaths.
We owe it to the heroes of this hour to refuse to be cowed into deference. It is not unpatriotic to ask incisive questions and to search for telling evidence. Today, of all days, we are reminded: it is our duty.
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
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Sincerely. Thank you.