Friday 8th May marks 75 years since VE day, and time for a national celebration. Having to stay at home doesn’t meant that you can’t get involved in the celebrations of the end of World War Two. Here are our suggestions for how to celebrate VE day at home.
What is VE Day?
VE Day stands for Victory in (or over) Europe Day. It was the day on which allied forces announced the surrender of Germany in Europe on May 8th, 1945, marking the end of the war. All the black and white photos in this piece are from the IWM.
When is VE Day?
VE Day is on the 8th May, which this year became a bank holiday instead of the normal Monday May-day bank holiday. Unfortunately, as we’re all in lockdown, the planned events won’t be happening but there is no need to worry that you can’t celebrate VE day at home.
Why is it being celebrated?
VE Day marked the end of World War Two and the rue of Nazi Germany. It was the end of almost 6 years of fighting and so VE day marked a cause for celebration. On 8th May 1945, at 1500 hours, Prime Minister Winston Churchill told the nation that the war was over. In London, a crowd of 50,000 celebrated the momentous event in Piccadilly Circus, cheering and waving flags in the street. This year is particularly poignant, given that it’s the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
How you can get involved with VE day at home
You may have seen some of our other isolation activities. This time we’re back for bank holiday! We’ve got over 15 ways that you can celebrate VE day at home, no matter your age or interest in History, there should be something for everyone!
Two Minutes Silence
At 11am, a national two-minute silence will be held nationally. You can tune into the main TV or Radio Channels to hear commentary of it. It’s similar to the one held on 11th November, as they are both to remember the sacrifice of those who fought in the war.
Make your own bunting
That’s right, it’s pretty easy to do. Whether you go all out and make it out of fabric, or you just want to do it out of paper. Hey, you could even use old newspaper if you wanted to get in the spirit of rationing! Bunting is the ultimate in 1940s decorations so why not make your own to decorate the house with. There’s some excellent advice on how to make VE specific bunting with kids at home here.
Royal British Legion live stream
Straight after the two minutes silence, the Royal British Legion are hosting their own live stream. This event brings together some of the “World War Two generation” with today’s generation to talk about their experiences. What’s more important is the stories shared will also discuss problems we are all facing today. Information about the stream can be found on the RBL website here. The 80-minute programme hosted by Sonali Shah is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, so grab a cuppa and have a listen!
Make a plane (colouring or Airfix)
Jess, the history nerd, and history teacher, is one to thrive at events like this. One thing we have planned is a few hours of Airfix plane modelling! Niche and not at all free, it was our isolation treat for the week! There are however, other ways you can make your planes. Of course you can make paper aeroplanes as you think of from school, and perhaps you want to have a competition! But, there are also loads of online resources – like this one of making and building (from paper) your own WW2 aircraft!
Have a picnic
What is more British than a picnic in bad weather? Hopefully the sun will be shining and people will be obeying social distancing, but there’s always space for a picnic. We don’t have a garden or grass so will be having a living room picnic with home made picnic foods. Talking of home made picnic foods…
Cook a 1945 meal or bake
Let’s face it, the food in 1945 wasn’t great. Rationing was still in place and food was sparse. We won’t be touching the corned beef or spam recipes, but like those in 1945 we will be getting inventive with our cooking. We’re looking at pies and quiches, potato salads and crumble!
Additionally, we’ll be making scones, for afternoon tea. It’s not often we get to spoil ourselves, so why not! Home made, definitely means less calories too, right?
Take a Lindyhop lesson
What better way to celebrate VE day at home, than through a dance lesson that you might not ever master. Perfect for us non-dancers hey! There are loads online, but this seems to be the most comprehensive and least patronising but you might find others you prefer! We’re going to try to nail this, not only for our wedding but for when we can go and swing dance at Goodwood once again!
The announcement of victory: 2.45pm
On BBC One at 2.45 in the afternoon, they are airing the announcement of victory from Winston Churchill from 1945. Churchill’s historic speech will be broadcast as it was, which, in our opinion provides an amazing insight into what the public will have heard on that significant day 75 years ago.
Toast to the heroes: 3pm
Something we might not be taking part in, but is apparently taking place, is a national toast to the heroes. We are being invited to take to our doorsteps, as we have been weekly for NHS workers and carers, to raise a glass, cheer and clap to the heroes of the second world war. The official VE Day website reads that there’ll be a chant of the phrase: “To those who gave so much, we thank you.” What you decide to do at 3pm is up to you.
Play your VE day Soundtrack
The amazing team at Bletchley Park (which if you haven’t been to you 100% need to when they reopen) have made a VE day 75 Spotify playlist which you can find here. It’s full of old tunes from the 40s, some you’ll recognise, some you’ll love, some you’ll notice that your gran sang when you were young! Get it on the record player love!
As for Bletchley Park – they’re the home of the codebreakers from WW2, you know, the one in that film with Benedict Cumberbatch. The Imitation Game. Strongly thanked for their work in saving Britain from defeat to the Nazis by cracking their impossible codes. Most importantly, most of the code breakers were women.
Do your hair
If you’re really getting into it you may want to dress up with things you can find at home. Apparently a 1940s costume doesn’t count as an essential purchase, but you will be surprised with what you can find about! For VE day at home, you might want to add a victory roll or two to your hair. Tim will not be partaking in this, and if I can get my curls to behave I will have a go, but I’ve only ever succeeded in it one. There are loads of tutorials online, have a look at this one for a start if you need a hand!
Visit the Imperial War Museum
One of the brilliant museums, especially for World War Two historians is the IWM. This year, to coincide with the celebrations and commemorations, they have decided to let you visit…virtually. It really is VE day from home! Not in the way that some of our other posts have told you about museums being open, this is more of a visit to the archives. They have written some great articles about things you need to know about VE day, but their on the day commemoration is a soundscape. This soundscape is called Voices of War and includes first hand testimony of VE day. The main aim of this is to bring people together even more so, so their plea is to spend 4 minutes of your time listening to their archive. The Victory soundscape can be found here.
British Pathe archives
If you’re really into your archival footage, don’t forget one of the best places you can go for old news reels is British Pathe. They have reels of the stuff and it’s always fascinating to see and hear what could be seen and heard in times gone by. You can search for VE day celebrations on their website, or see a more rounded explanation of what it was like Europe-wide here.
RAH event 6pm – 75 annversary performance© IWM (EA 65885)
Royal Albert Hall Event 6pm
The Royal Albert Hall had huge plans for VE day, so in its place they’re showing a 75th anniversary celebrations behind closed doors, for the first time in its 150 year history. You can stream it here for free from 6pm, and have VE day at home with them!
Watch along with the BBC from 8pm
The BBC are hosting “The People’s Celebration” on TV from 8pm, with a host of similar stars to those that are mentioned above! Beverley Knight joins Katherine Jenkins and Dame Vera Lynn as well as people from across the country that were there.
The Queens speech 9pm
Start off your VE day at home with the Queen’s Speech. Queenie will address the nation at 9pm, the same time that her father, King George VI spoke to Britain 75 years ago to announce VE day. In her speech from Windsor Castle, she will talk about the heroes of the day, and hopefully add in some extra brilliant marketing like at the end of her first coronavirus pandemic speech which ended with “We’ll meet again” – the Vera Lynn lyrics.
Sing along with Vera Lynne 9pm
A “national singalong” is expected to take place around 9pm with the gorgeous Dame Vera Lynn, who is 103, leading from her window at home. The singalong of “We’ll Meet Again” is expected to cause tears even if you don’t sing along, because, well, it’s just poignant for now isn’t it.