VE Day 75 at home: How the West Country is channeling 1945 spirit during lockdown bank holiday

Parties in the streets marked Victory in Europe Day in 1945, with the people in the West Country rejoicing after six long, hard years of war.

This year, the coronavirus lockdown has meant that hundreds of celebrations planned for the 75th anniversary have had to be cancelled.

But in the same way that millions of Britons have used technology to join in quizzes, see family members, and even get married, VE Day 2020 is taking place at home and online.

Children dancing outside the British Legion in Queen Square in Bath following the declaration of Victory in Europe in 1945. Credit: www.bathintime.co.uk ©Bath and North East Somerset Council

How will you be marking the occasion?

Will you be holding a #VEDay75stayathome party or taking part in the Nation's Toast?

Credit: Love Peasedown

Community leaders in a Somerset village are hoping their campaign for VE Day will go national. The councillors in Peasedown St John want to see households marking Friday by toasting the nation's war heroes in living rooms, gardens, on their doorsteps and balconies at 3pm.

The coronavirus pandemic that’s sweeping across the country is making a huge impact on the way we live our lives.

Cllr Karen Walker, Bath and North East Somerset Council
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, visiting bombed-out Plymouth during the Second World War. Credit: PA

In Plymouth – which was bombed on 59 separate occasions during the Blitz – people are being encouraged to put on their dancing shoes at home. Local troupe Plymouth Dance has made online tutorial videos to get the city whirling and twirling to Frank Sinatra classics 'Sway' and 'Come Fly With Me'.

Gloster Aircraft Company's 'Sea Gladiator', which saw service in World War II. Credit: PA

In Gloucester, a series of videos will be shared by Gloucester City Council, looking back at the Second World War, including the incredible contribution of the Gloster Aircraft Company, which manufactured thousands of Hawker fighter planes and other war planes, including the Sea Gladiator..

Have you put your bunting up for VE Day? Credit: PA

Friday is a Bank Holiday in which people in the West Country are invited to acknowledge the bravery and courage of members of the armed forces, the home guard and the British public as well as taking time to reflect on the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

These are some of the events taking place on VE Day, 8 May 2020

  • 11am: A two-minute silence will be held to honour the service and sacrifice of the wartime generation and reflect on the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on so many lives across the world.

  • 11.15am: The nation is invited to join in with the Royal British Legion’s (RBL) VE Day 75 Livestream. Grab a cup of tea and tune in as the generations of the Second World War and today are brought together to chat about their shared experiences. Hosted by TV presenter Sonali Shah, the 45-minute programme will feature stories from those who served and sacrificed, as well as recognising the difficulties people are experiencing today.

  • 12 noon: Bristol Cathedral will broadcast a VE Day service on its social media channels with music recorded by the cathedral choir before the lockdown

  • 3pm: The Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of World War Two. Take part by raising a glass, cheering and clapping on your doorsteps and saying: “To those who gave so much, we thank you.”

  • 9pm: A pre-recorded address by the Queen will be broadcast at the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a radio address on May 8 1945.

  • 9pm: Join in a sing-along. After the Queen’s address, the nation is invited to come together in a rendition of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again on BBC One.

A cream tea in a box is being delivered to 600 older people in Street so they can mark the anniversary. Credit: Salvation Army

In Street in Somerset, the Salvation Army is mobilising forces to ensure that 600 older people will be able to mark the anniversary with a cream tea. Each of them is getting one delivered to their door as they self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.

Envoy Louise Melia with Michaela Edmunds of Crispin Community Centre in Street. Credit: Salvation Army

We were starting to get concerned about the mental health of older people in our community during the lockdown and I came up with the idea of making up cream teas for them on VE Day.

Louise Melia, Salvation Army leader, Street

Louise Melia hopes that the recipients will sit in their front gardens to enjoy their cream tea at 3.30pm.

She says, "It'd be nice if everyone else in Street could maybe have a cup of tea outside their homes at this time, while obviously maintaining social distancing."

Communities across the West Country from Nether Stowey in Somerset to Quedgely in Gloucester are holding VE Day 75 celebrations while respecting social distancing and Government guidance.