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Let the party begin.

Byline: By Jane Hall

Ve Day heralded the start of the biggest party the nation had seen, 60 years ago this week. But as Jane Hall reveals, the joyous end to hostilities had an uncertain beginning.

The official announcement of VE-Day in 1945 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, it had to wait until the formal completion of the act of surrender.

Only then could the Big Three ( Britain, the 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. Telephone calls to Washington and Moscow continued and 6pm passed without a broadcast.

Details of the announcement were still being hammered out and 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.

Excited crowds at Whitehall cheered every time a ministerial car drove to 10 Downing Street. Revellers brought out their flags and thousands gathered in party mood at London's Piccadilly Circus.

Jubilation spread around the world.

The great bells of St Peter's rang out in Rome along with a hundred other churches.

Sirens, which last were heard as a warning of the approach of enemy planes, sounded for 10 minutes.

New Yorkers, at first uncertain without confirmation, were restrained. This soon changed to traffic-stopping scenes as thousands packed Times Square.

There was cheering and newspapers were shredded and thrown like confetti in the air. In contrast some people knelt praying in doorways or before the statue of Father Duffy, a hero chaplain of the First World War.

Flag-waving crowds jammed the streets of Geneva but two air alerts in the Swiss city of Berne meant celebrations were withheld until the official announcements.

Hundreds of British and American soldiers helped bolster the initially restrained celebrations along the sunlit boulevards of Brussels, Belgium.

On the eve of VE-Day, students of Trinity College, Dublin, hoisted the Union Flag and the Red Flag over the university's main entrance. Union Flags and the French Tricolour were also hung from the windows as students sang God Save the King and Rule, Britannia!

They were booed. A crowd then tried to rush the college gates and the police were called. The flags had to be taken down.

In Sweden, passers-by were free to help themselves to six magnums of champagne from a second-floor restaurant in Stockholm.

South Africa went straight into party mode. Flags and bunting went up and soldiers were posted by guns ready to fire a salute.

The Canadian Government made May 8 a public holiday and the next Sunday a day of thanksgiving.

In Burma there were no official celebrations, but some unit commanders in Rangoon marked the event by issuing extra rations.

Those fighting on the Pacific Front expected more equipment to speed the final overthrow of Japan. An unnamed commander with the Fourteenth Army and XV Corps told The Times: "The war is over. Let us get on with the war."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 3, 2005
Words:595
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