With just two weeks to go until the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day, new details of the weekend are announced including the news that the world famous Red Arrows of the Royal Air Force have been confirmed to make a flypast with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight over Central London. The Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square, which were floodlit on that memorable day in 1945, will be lit up once again with V-shaped lights over 8-10 May.
People up and down the country are preparing for a memorable weekend of activities to mark the historic occasion, which will involve veterans and serving members of the armed forces, schools and local communities, musicians and stars of stage and screen.
Huge celebrations throughout the weekend will pay homage to the extraordinary generation who secured Victory in Europe.
Friday 8 May - VE Day
At 3pm a Service of Remembrance will be held at the Cenotaph, coinciding with a national two-minute silence, to be televised on BBC One. A beacon will be lit at the Tower of London as part of a simultaneous nationwide event at 9:32pm. Locations that were floodlit on VE Day 70 years ago will be lit up with special V-shaped lights, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday 9 May
At 11am across the UK, churches and cathedrals will ring their bells as a nationwide mark of celebration.
In the evening, thousands of people will attend a Royal British Legion concert produced by Live Nation and the BBC. The star-studded 1940s themed “Party to Remember” will be held at Horse Guards Parade Ground. Broadcast on BBC One, the event will feature performances from acts including Status Quo, Pixie Lott and Katherine Jenkins.
Sunday 10 May
A Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey, attended by Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, Members of The Royal Family, and up to 1,000 veterans and their families. Representatives of Allied Nations and Commonwealth countries who fought alongside Britain in the conflict will also attend.
Afterwards, a parade of over 2,000 Service personnel, veterans and their guests will march from Westminster Abbey to Horse Guards Parade, passing the balcony in Whitehall where Winston Churchill appeared before the crowds on VE Day after his famous speech to mark Victory in Europe.
The world-famous Red Arrows will make a flypast over Central London, following a flypast of historic aircraft from the Royal Air Force – including the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft of the famous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The service and parade will be broadcast on BBC One.
Afterwards, veterans who have taken part in the service and parade will be invited to a reception in St James’s Park hosted by The Royal British Legion. There will also be public entertainment in the park over the afternoon.
Doug Reed 91, an RAF Bomber Command veteran from Plymouth, when asked about his experiences of VE Day said:
At the time of VE Day I was serving in Newark in Nottingham. I was fortunate that I was able to pop down to the local pub to celebrate with my colleagues, but huge numbers of servicemen were posted away and were unable to really experience the occasion.
It would be really something this year to recreate the euphoria of the occasion back then and give the country’s heroes the party they might not have had.
Veterans of the Second World War in Europe are being encouraged to attend the national events taking place in London, such as the Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Friday, and the Service of Thanksgiving and Parade on Sunday. Funding for travel has been made available for veterans and their guests.
If you are a veteran and would like to take part, visit The Royal British Legion VE Day 70 website or phone 0808 802 8080.
The public are being invited to find out what is happening in their area, with the VE Day 70 events map showing many of the events planned for the weekend; and event organisers are encouraged to submit details of their celebrations.
In the coming weeks, further plans will be announced to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ) Day, which will include a day of major events on 15 August 2015.
Public transport will be the best way to get to the VE Day events in London, although stations in the surrounding area (Embankment, Victoria, St James’s Park, Westminster and Charing Cross) are likely to be busier than usual. People travelling to the VE Day 70th anniversary events, or around the areas of the events, are encouraged to check before they travel at tfl.gov.uk/weekend-travel and nationalrail.co.uk/may.
The Royal British Legion was awarded £6 million of LIBOR funding by HM Treasury to support the work of commemorations over the next 5 years. They are using part of these funds for VE Day 70.
For the latest news, follow MoD on Twitter at @DefenceHQ or search #VEDay70.