On Friday 8th May, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, will light the first in the series of over 200 beacons throughout the UK to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe.
The first beacon, on the Long Walk, will be complemented by two others in Windsor Great Park.
Beacons both large and small, from built gas-fuelled structures or simple bonfires, will be lit to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
A beacon will be lit below the world-famous Blackpool Tower and illuminated with a flame effect at the top The flame will be seen for miles and kept lit throughout the weekend.
Earlier on Friday, The Duke of York will represent Her Majesty at a National Service at the Cenotaph to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe.
A Service of Remembrance held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall will pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the Second World War in Europe.
The event begins at 3 pm, with a nationally observed two-minute silence to coincide with the moment Winston Churchill broadcast to the nation in 1945, the end of the war in Europe.
Bishop to the Armed Forces, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, will lead the service backed by the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and will incorporate readings, hymns and a blessing.
A reading of an excerpt from Churchill’s speech followed by Prince Andrew laying a wreath will be part of Friday’s service. Military and political representatives are set to take part in the ceremony as well. He will be joined by over one hundred veterans and their families during the service.
On Sunday, Her Majesty and Prince Philip, will be joined by The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall for a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe.
The service led by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, will see one thousand veterans and their guests in attendance.
The ceremony includes readings by veterans, the themes of thanksgiving for reconciliation and unity, and prayers for peace. The Archbishop of Canterbury will deliver the Address with an Act of Recommitment towards the end of the service.
VE Day commemorates the end of the World War II in Europe, following the surrender of German Forces 8th May 1945.
On Monday 7th May at 02.41. German General Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document that officially ended the war in Europe. Winston Churchill was notified at 07.00. Although no public announcements made, large crowds assembled outside of Buckingham Palace and shouted: “We want the King”.
Before any official announcement was delivered, The Home Office published instructing the nation on how they could celebrate this momentous day. The circular proclaimed: “Bonfires will be allowed, but the government trusts that only material with no salvage value will be used.”
By the afternoon, there was no official announcement yet. Finally by early evening, Churchill decided that a statement was needed.
The Ministry of Information delivered a brief announcement at 19.40. It stated: “In accordance with arrangements between the three great powers, tomorrow, Tuesday, will be treated as Victory in Europe Day and will be regarded as a holiday.”
From across the country, people took to the streets to celebrate. In London from Parliament Square to Picadilly Circus people gathered to revel in the historic day. The crowds went on until a heavy thunderstorm hit around midnight and halted the celebrations.
The next day, Victory in Europe Day saw a host of celebrations recommence. Street parties were set up, and although rationing was still in effect it did not damper the spirit of the country to celebrate.
Churchill went to Buckingham Palace to have lunch with King George VI to mark the day. Then from the Cabinet Room at 10, Downing Street, he spoke to the nation. Churchill reminded everyone that Japan was yet to be defeated but declared to his listeners to: “allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing. Advance Britannia. Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King! ”
Later that afternoon, the Royal Family came out onto a balcony at Buckingham Palace. King George VI wore his Royal Navy uniform while Princess Elizabeth wore her ATS uniform. They were joined by Churchill and over 20,000 who gathered in front of the Place.
The last official event of VE Day was a broadcast to the nation by King George at 21.00. For the first time since 1939, Buckingham Palace was lit up by floodlights for and above St. Paul’s Cathedral, two searchlights made a giant ‘V’ symbolise the importance of the day.
Photo Credit: Michael Gwyther-Jones via Flickr