Charities' call to honour Armed Forces and reflect on significance of VE Day

There was a defiant joy evident in soldiers' celebrations to mark Victory in Europe, as a ticker tape rain fell following six long years of conflict.

This coming Friday will mark 75 years since that day, when Winston Churchill announced an end to the Second World War and signalled the surrender of all allied forces.

That sense of "wartime spirit" has never since been so poignant, say Armed Forces charities, though it is in evidence today amid united efforts in defeat of a common enemy.

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And as communities ready this week to remember the service of so many, they are asked once again to take a moment to honour their sacrifice, and the efforts of serving men and women.

Celebrations to mark Victory in Europe, May 8 1945. Image courtesy of SSAFA.Celebrations to mark Victory in Europe, May 8 1945. Image courtesy of SSAFA.
Celebrations to mark Victory in Europe, May 8 1945. Image courtesy of SSAFA. | other

"Too often we take the many freedoms that we have in this country for granted, yet they have been hard won by those who have gone before us," said Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

"It is our hope that the nation takes a moment to reflect on the significance of this date."

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Remembrance

Celebrations to mark Victory in Europe. Image courtesy of SSAFA.Celebrations to mark Victory in Europe. Image courtesy of SSAFA.
Celebrations to mark Victory in Europe. Image courtesy of SSAFA. | other

In May 1945, Yorkshire was still fully engaged in the fall out of the Second World War. York alone had suffered 11 air raids, the city burning in the 'York Blitz' of April 1942.

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In Leeds, more than 7,000 buildings had been damaged, and 200 destroyed. When VE Day came, it was with a fierce jubilation that communities danced through the night.

On that day in 1945, Sir Andrew's own mother Alison Egerton had been serving in the Royal Navy, based just outside Paris, while his father Dick Gregory was still in hospital having been badly wounded in Normandy on D Day.

"I will remember them, and those they served alongside – particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice, with great pride," said the now retired Lieutenant-General, who served as Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff.

Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory's father, Dick Gregory. Image courtesy of SSAFA.Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory's father, Dick Gregory. Image courtesy of SSAFA.
Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory's father, Dick Gregory. Image courtesy of SSAFA. | other

"And I will think of my own military career and reflect on the continuing need for vigilance and courage when this country’s values and freedoms are challenged.

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"It is wholly fitting that VE Day 75 falls at a time where we are again proud of those who serve our nation, in whatever capacity," he adds.

"Everybody should take a moment to honour those who fought during World War II for the freedoms that we enjoy today.

"And we should celebrate and be proud of the fact that their sense of service and sacrifice continues in our present society.

Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory's mother, Alison Egerton. Image courtesy of SSAFALieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory's mother, Alison Egerton. Image courtesy of SSAFA
Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory's mother, Alison Egerton. Image courtesy of SSAFA | other

Brigadier Robin Bacon, chief of staff for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, said VE Day, for many, marked a change in their lives for good.

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"In Britain, thousands of people came together to celebrate in streets up and down the country and while we cannot do this in the current climate, it is a day to celebrate our victory from 75 years ago," he said.

"On May 8 we will remember the loss of so many who fought for our freedom while also paying tribute to those who serve today."

'Tommy in the Window'

Thousands of people across Britain are backing 'Tommy in the Window' campaign by the RBLI, showcasing the figure of a British soldier in their windows to mark the day even as the public cannot gather.

More than 15,000 of these figures have been sold, each made by veterans with disabilities or health conditions at the charity's factory.

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Many people, no matter their situation, are drawing a stength from that sense of solidarity, says charity chief executive Steve Sherry.

"I am sure that almost everyone in the country has an uncle or an aunt, a parent, grandparent, or great grandparent, who served in WW2," he said.

"We are all connected to those people and many of us remember our family stories, and family photos, and reflect on the fact that the whole nation was asked to pull together and had to endure.

"It’s the time we remember that every contribution matters and makes a difference. I know it means something quite unique at this time."

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To find out more about the Tommy in the Window campaign, visit the RBLI website.

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