Wales falls silent to mark VE Day

Credit: ITV Wales

Wales' First Minister has paid tribute to the "unimaginable courage" of those who served during the Second World War.

Mark Drakeford spoke with Welsh veterans, now aged between 96 and 103, in calls over Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and over the phone.

People across Wales, who are being asked to stay at home, will stand in silence at 11am to mark 75 years since the end of the war in Europe.

As part of UK VE Day celebrations, the RAF flew a Typhoon jet over Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast - reaching speeds of 350mph.

Mr Drakeford said: "Speaking with all veterans this week and listening to their extraordinary accounts of torpedo attacks and near misses, brought home the incredible grit and determination of an entire generation who lived through the Second World War.

"All of us can look to them for inspiration, to help us deal with our own unique piece of history.

"I want to thank each and every person across the commonwealth who battled fascism and helped to build the foundations of a society, which we all benefit from today.

"Coronavirus means we must celebrate VE Day in our own homes, but it will not change our determination to pay our tributes."

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The First Minister marked the silence from the steps of the Welsh Government buildings in Cardiff.

The Royal British Legion has said there is no right or wrong way to take part, though some people may wish to step outside their front door or stand at their windows.

At 9pm, people are being invited to open their windows or stand on their doorsteps to sing Dame Vera Lynn's inspirational wartime song We'll Meet Again.

Antony Metcalfe, area manager Wales for the Royal British Legion, said the song had "added poignancy" in current circumstances.

"There are many parallels between the struggles of the Second World War and what we are going through today," he said.

"As we mark 75 years since Victory in Europe, we look to our Second World War generation to learn from their experiences, and the Legion continues our critical work to protect them from the threat we currently face."

During the calls, Mr Drakeford spoke to veteran Gordon Prime, now 96, who received the Legion d'honneur for his heroism as a motorcycle dispatch rider.

He served with the Royal Army Service Corps, attached to the 1st Canadian Army, and was still in Germany when VE Day was announced.

"We had a job to do, we just had to get on with it," Mr Prime, who lives in Pembroke Dock, told Mr Drakeford.

Gordon Prime, now 96, is a WW2 veteran. Credit: Welsh Government

Rob Taylor, now 94, from Ton Pentre in the Rhondda, served as an air engineer in the RAF between 1942 and 1946.

He told Mr Drakeford that he was due to take part in VE Day commemorations but they had been cancelled due to Covid-19.

"The people in the street have put flags out for me and I'm going to walk up the street and down," Mr Taylor said.

He added that he was looking forward to going back to the gym or for a swim when the restrictions are lifted.

Alan Higgins, 96, from Bridgend, joined the Royal Navy in September 1939 aged 15 and started his duties as a telegraphist.

He described how his landing craft suffered heavy losses as it landed on Sword Beach on D-Day.

Mr Higgins was in Malta when official announcement came of the German surrender, with all sailors abandoning ship to form a victory march.

When he looks at his medals, he remembers all those - including his friend from Pontypridd - who did not survive to receive theirs, he said.