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Churchill speech set off massive street party; VE DAY REMEMBERED.


BRITAIN was buzzing with the news that the war in Europe had ended even before the official announcement by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

In anticipation, thousands flocked to Piccadilly Circus in central London where they did the conga and jig, sang Knees Up Mother Brown, whistled and blew paper trumpets as they clambered upon buses and lamp posts.

Britain awoke on May 8, 1945, to see the good news boldly declared across every front page in big headlines - the Evening Telegraph had broken the news in Coventry 24 hours earlier with the headline "Victory is Here".

The Daily Mirror announced VE Day with the headline "VE DAY! IT'S OVER IN THE WEST".

Recalling the rejoicing in Piccadilly Circus, its reporter wrote: "This is IT - and we are all going nuts!

"There are thousands of us in Piccadilly Circus. The police say more than 10,000 - and that's a conservative estimate."

Mr Churchill made the official announcement in a national broadcast from the Cabinet room at 10 Downing Street at 3pm. Official statements were aired simultaneously in Washington and Moscow.

Mr Churchill was speaking from the same room that previous prime minister Neville Chamberlain announced Britain was at war with Germany on September 3, 1939.

Churchill addressed a massive crowd from the Ministry of Health building in Whitehall, saying: "This is your victory. It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land.

"In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this.

"Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tried.

"Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy have in any way weakened the deep resolve of the British Nation. God bless you all."

Until that day the German surrender had been piecemeal, but the unconditional surrender bound the whole German people.

After years of misery, fear and death, war was finally over and now it was time to celebrate.

Once Prime Minister Winston Churchill had confirmed the news over the air waves, millions of people poured on to the streets in jubilation up and down the country.

Impromptu parties sprang up as neighbours, friends and strangers hugged, danced and sang.

Flags and bunting were rolled out, church bells rang and Britons drank countless toasts to the end of the Nazi terror.

Effigies of Hitler were made, hung at the gallows and then burned to a cinder.

London - and Buckingham Palace in particular - drew the masses, with tens of thousands flooding on to the streets.

Trafalgar Square, The Mall and Whitehall were overflowing with gleeful folk. A hoarding at the base of Nelson's Column simply read: "Victory Over Germany 1945."

The King and Queen played a prominent part in the celebrations, stepping out on to the famous palace balcony a total of eight times, much to the delight of the crowds.

Occasionally they were joined by their teenage daughters Margaret and Elizabeth, who also spent time mingling with the crowds incognito.

One visitor on to the balcony who received one of the biggest cheer was, of course, Churchill.

He had driven up the Mall at a snail's pace, giving the Victory sign as he eased through the crowds amid deafening applause.

Britons cheered triumphantly when he told them: "In all our long history we have never seen a greater day."

Amid the strains of the national anthem and Land of Hope and Glory, he added: "This is your victory."

Both May 8 and 9 1945 were made public holidays.

SIX LONG YEARS OF WAR THE Second World War was the most costly conflict in history, claiming the lives of around 57 million people. It brought the previously unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust, nuclear weapons and the mass bombing of civilians, and left Europe locked in the Cold War, fractured between Soviet and Western spheres of influence. This is a timetable of the main events:


September 1: Germany invades Poland.

September 3: Britain and France declare war on Germany.

September 17: Russia invades Poland.

September 29: Russia and Germany agree to divide Poland.


April 9: Germany invades Denmark and Norway.

April 15: British troops land in Norway.

May 10: Germany invades Luxembourg, Holland and Belgium. Neville Chamberlain resigns and Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister.

May 14: German forces invade France.

June 4: Dunkirk evacuation of British Expeditionary Force begins.

June 10: Italian dictator Benito Mussolini declares war on the Allies.

June 25: France surrenders.

July 4: German Blitzkrieg (or lightning war) on Britain begins and sparks the Battle of Britain.

August 13: Day of the Eagle operation by Luftwaffe sees 1,485 German aircraft cross the Channel.

October 12: Adolf Hitler cancels invasion plan for Britain - codenamed Operation Sea Lion - and the Battle of Britain is won.

November 14: Blitz of Coventry and the destruction of the cathedral


January 5: North Africa campaign begins with UK attacks against Italian forces.

February 12: Erwin Rommel and Panzer formations arrive in Libya.

April 17: Yugoslavia falls to Germany.

May 2: Rudolf Hess lands in Scotland.

June 22: Germany invades Russia.

October 6: German forces reach Moscow and Leningrad is besieged.

December 6: Counter-offensive by Russian forces and Germans retreat.

December 7: Japan, already at war with China, enters the conflict with attack on American fleet at Pearl Harbour.

December 8: Japanese land in Malaya, now known as peninsular Malaysia.

December 28: Historic first raid by British commandos is launched successfully on Vaagso, Norway.


January 15: Japan invades Burma, now Myanmar.

February 15: Singapore surrenders.

May 26: Rommel attacks the British 8th Army in North Africa.

August 13: Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery takes command of the 8th Army.

October 23: Montgomery secures victory over Rommel at El Alamein.


February 2: Germans surrender at Stalingrad.

May 13: Germans surrender in North Africa.

July 10: Allied invasion of Italy begins with landings on the Sicily coast.

July 25: Mussolini is overthrown.

September 9: Allied troops invade Salerno on the Italian coast.


January 22: British and American troops land at Anzio.

June 4: Rome falls to the Allies.

June 6: D-Day invasion begins on the beaches of Normandy in the famous Operation Overlord.

June 13: First V-1 bombs land on London.

July 20: Bomb plot against Hitler narrowly fails.

August 15: Allies invade the South of France.

August 20: Battle of Normandy ends with the closing of the Falaise Pocket. Advance to the River Seine begins.

August 25: Paris is liberated.

September 3: Brussels is liberated.

September 17-26: Operation Market Garden, the "Bridge Too Far" airborne mission to cross the Rhine at Arnhem, fails with the loss of around 18,000 Allies.

October 5: British forces land in Greece.

December 16: German offensive in the Ardennes region launches Battle of the Bulge.


January 17: Russian forces capture Warsaw.

January 27: Auschwitz concentration camp is liberated by Russian troops and the full horrors of the Holocaust slowly emerge.

January 28: The final shots are fired in the Battle of the Bulge, giving victory to the Allies, but at a heavy cost in men and equipment.

February 13: RAF launches carpet bombing raid on Dresden, followed by three further raids by US Air Force.

April 12: US President Franklin Roosevelt dies.

April 30: With Soviet troops marching on the Reich Chancellory in the heart of Berlin, Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin Fuhrerbunker - shooting himself in the head as he bites on a cyanide pill.

May 1: Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife kill themselves.

May 2: German forces in Italy surrender.

May 4: Montgomery receives surrender of German forces in Holland, north- west Germany and Denmark on the Luneberg Heath.

May 8: Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) as Admiral Karl Donitz, appointed president by Hitler before his death, unconditionally surrenders.

May 9: Nazi Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signs unconditional surrender to Red Army in Berlin.

August 6: "Little Boy" atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima by US B-29 bomber Enola Gay.

August 9: "Fat Man" atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki.

August 14: Emperor Hirohito announces unconditional surrender of Japan and papers are signed on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

August 15: Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day), or VP Day (Victory in the Pacific) is celebrated.

Confusion as broadcast delayed THE official announcement of VE Day was delayed for technical reasons.

All the arrangements had been completed a day earlier and both Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the King were standing by to make their broadcasts. But the US and Russia wanted to make the announcement simultaneously.

At the insistence of President Truman and Marshal Stalin they had to wait for the final document to be signed and the signal from military chiefs that the Germans were carrying out surrender conditions.

Only then could the Big Three - Britain, US and Russia - make their simultaneous announcement that war in Europe was over.

Mr Churchill was in regular telephone contact with his US and Russian counterparts throughout May 7.

He was ready to speak to the British people at 3pm. Most of the frantic backroom activity to make this broadcast happen had been completed by midday, but telephone calls to Washington and Moscow continued and 6pm passed without a broadcast.

It was agreed that night that the announcement would be made the next day.

By this time speculation was rife. An agency report had stated that unconditional surrender had taken place at 2.41am (French time) on May 7, 1945, at General Eisenhower's headquarters at Rheims.

Confusion and early celebrations were triggered by the delay in making the official announcement.


PEACE AT LAST: Huge crowds celebrate VE Day in Trafalgar Square (left); revellers climb on buses and taxis in Piccadilly Circus (above); and (below) Winston Churchill leaving the Houses of Parliament after hearing that Germany had surrendered
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 3, 2005
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