During a weekend of events to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe, The Duke of York has taken part in the memorial at the Cenotaph. The event took place on the actual anniversary of VE Day itself, May 8th. Representing The Queen, Prince Andrew laid a wreath of red poppies and was joined by political and military representatives and hundreds of veterans and their families.
The ceremony, which included prayers, readings and hymns, started at 3 p.m with a nationwide two-minutes of silence marked by the traditional chimes of Big Ben and the ceremonial guns at the Tower of London and Wellington Barracks. Additional guns were sounded from saluting posts in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. Companies, schools, and the public across the United Kingdom took part in the silence.
It was also a day for memories. One veteran, 91 years old Charles Clarke OBE, who served during World War II as a Flight Lieutenant in 619 Squadron, recalled May 8th 1945 in detail:
“On VE Day I can remember listening to Churchill on a portable radio in Brussels, I felt a sense of excitement and relief as I’d been freed from the PoW camp just 10 days earlier.”
“Life on the camp was tolerable. Fortunately we were young and fit but food was in short supply. The uncertainty was the worst thing about it all. After the murder on camp of 50 people, anything was possible. We were just so relieved to be free at last on what became known as ‘VE Day’.”
Corporal Peter Farrington, 36, a drill instructor for the RAF’s Recruit Training Squadron in Halton, the grandson of an RAF signaler and a Barrage Balloons launcher, which were used to keep German dive-bombers in the air and away from the city, said:
“It is important that we mark VE Day and remember the people who came before us. Being part of VE Day is an incredibly special experience and a moment to thank and honour all those who served during the War to protect the freedoms we all now have. It is important that we never forget what they all did.”
V-shaped beams will light up Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Trafalgar Square throughout the weekend to commemorate VE Day. And The Queen will lead many events – she has lit a beacon at Windsor Castle to start a chain of bonfires across the UK for the anniversary. And on Sunday she will lead the Royal Family at a Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.
photo credit: Crown Copyright 2015, Sergeant Rupert Frere RLC