A host of public celebrations planned to mark this Friday’s 75th Anniversary of VE Day have had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, including some major national and regional events.
At local level too, 1940s-themed street parties, concerts, memorial church services and other gatherings have fallen victim to lockdown restrictions designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Five years ago, London played host to a three-day national celebration marking the 70th anniversary, culminating in “VE Day 70: A Party to Remember”, which was a televised 1940s-themed concert. Held at Horse Guards Parade and hosted by the Royal British Legion, it featured some of the biggest names in entertainment and counted the Royal Family among its live audience.
Sadly, any plans to upstage that event have had to be shelved, but around the UK people will still be holding their own VE Day parties with those they live with, whether in their own homes or community settings such as nursing and care homes. There will also be plenty of VE Day-themed content to tune into on radio and TV, helping revive precious memories of events on May 8th, 1945.
Below are ten of the most anticipated VE Day programmes being broadcast on TV over the next few days to mark the anniversary:
Today (Wednesday May 6th) on the Yesterday channel at 8pm: VE Day: Countdown to Peace. This compelling hour-long documentary uses archive footage to chart the days leading up to VE Day in 1945 as the long war in Europe drew to a close. It culminates in fascinating footage of the celebrations on VE Day and afterwards. It is repeated on Friday from 5 to 6 pm and again from 10 to 11pm.
Thursday May 7th, on BBC One at 7-30pm: Dame Vera Lynn: We’ll Meet Again. Opening the BBC’s extensive VE Day programming is this revised and updated documentary celebrating Britain’s ‘Forces Sweetheart’ and her enduring contribution to lifting the nation’s morale during the war. First broadcast in 2017 to mark Dame Vera’s 100th birthday, it includes archive footage and interviews with the great lady as she looks back on an incredible life.
Friday May 8th, on BBC One at 11am: VE Day: The Nation Remembers. Although VE Day was a time for celebration, it was also a day to remember all those who laid down their lives in the Second World War. On the 75th anniversary, a national two-minutes silence will be held at 11am, marked by the BBC and other broadcasters.
Friday May 8th, on BBC One at 2-45pm: VE Day 75: The Announcement of Victory. On VE Day in 1945, the nation fell silent at 3pm as Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill made a radio broadcast confirming the news that the war in Europe was finally over. This is your chance to hear the historic speech broadcast again, this time alongside a specially-made film.
Friday May 8th, on Channel 5 at 7pm: VE Day: The Lost Films. For those who weren’t there in person, it’s hard to imagine the immense relief and jubilation that VE Day brought in 1945. This programme is a remarkable compilation of rarely seen clips from home movies made by amateur film-makers across the UK, capturing the mood, the street parties and parades and the sheer joy of that great day 75 years ago.
Friday May 8th, on ITV at 8pm: Captain Tom’s War. Surely everyone now knows of Captain Tom Moore, the veteran who caught the public imagination and raised more than £30 million for the NHS by completing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. This 30-minute programme charts the story not just of his remarkable fundraising, but of his personal wartime experience serving with the Allied Forces in Burma – a conflict which continued after VE Day and is often called “The Forgotten War”.
Friday May 8th, on BBC One at 8pm: VE Day 75: The People’ Celebration. Hosted by Sophie Raworth, this is the biggest entertainment event of the anniversary day, as stars from the world of entertainment pay tribute to the Second World War generation.
Friday May 8th, on BBC One at 9pm: Her Majesty the Queen. In what for many will be the highlight of the anniversary celebrations, Her Majesty the Queen will address the nation at the exact time her father, King George IV, made his radio announcement 75 years ago. The Queen, of course, has personal recollections of VE Day, when she and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, slipped out of Buckingham Palace to mingle incognito with the jubilant crowds flooding London’s streets.
Friday May 8th, on BBC One at 9-10pm: VE Day: Remembering Victory. Immediately following the Queen’s speech, this documentary asks many well-known older people to share their personal recollections of VE Day, alongside archive footage of the celebrations. Contributors include Sir David Attenborough, Anne Reid, Patrick Stewart, Michael Parkinson and Honor Blackman, who passed away just last month.
Saturday May 9th, on Channel 4 at 7pm: VE Day in Colour: Britain’s Biggest Party. For those of us who weren’t alive during the Second World War, our experience of it is largely in black and white, from the films shot at the time. This programme brings a vivid splash of colour to the events of VE Day in 1945, using both rare original colour films shot on the day and others which have been ‘colourised’ using digital technology.
One thing you should definitely include in your celebrations is the VE Day Singalong concert produced by Acorn Stairlifts and featuring talented 1940s vocalist Miss Beth Belle. It will be free to view online at a time to suit you, with full details revealed her in tomorrow’s blog.