People had been taking to the streets throughout Britain ever since the formal announcement of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender to Allied Forces, now it was the 8th May, Victory in Europe, or V-E Day, and the party was in full swing.
At 3 pm Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast to the nation by radio from Trafalgar Square.
A little later standing on the balcony of the Ministry of Health in Whitehall surrounded by leading members of his Cabinet he addressed the crowds directly, his words relayed by loud speaker:
My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny. After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year.
There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in?
The crowd shouted “No.”
Were we downhearted?
The crowd shouted “No!”
The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of English men and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straight forward and die if need be-unconquered.” Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle-a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgment and our mercy.
But there is another foe who occupies large portions of the British Empire, a foe stained with cruelty and greed-the Japanese. I rejoice we can all take a night off today and another day tomorrow. Tomorrow our great Russian Allies will also be celebrating victory and after that we must begin the task of rebuilding our hearth and homes, doing our utmost to make this country a land in which all have a chance, in which all have a duty, and we must turn ourselves to fulfill our duty to our own countrymen, and to our gallant Allies of the United States who were so foully and treacherously attacked by Japan. We will go hand and hand with them. Even if it is a hard struggle we will not be the ones who will fail.
Churchill then travelled to Buckingham Palace where he appeared alongside the King and Queen on its balcony.
The celebrations were to go on all day and long into the night and the young Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were to join in for a time at least mingling with the crowds outside the Palace gates.
The Royal Family along with eminent others were to appear no fewer than eight times during the day to wave to the crowds.
It was an unforgettable day, the joy unmitigated, the relief boundless, the atmosphere raucous, the behaviour undignified, and the beer ran out.
The sense of anti-climax that followed was no less memorable.