This page provides general information and lists events taking place throughout the 3-day weekend marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day.
Friday 8 May
Service of Remembrance
The service will be attended by the leaders of the main political parties, the Chief of the Defence Staff, members of the armed forces, and representatives of Second World War veteran groups, together with armed forces charities.
The area immediately surrounding the Cenotaph will be cordoned off for the Service of Remembrance to take place. However, Whitehall will be open. We would encourage all members of the public, wherever they are, to participate in the 2 minutes silence at 3pm.
The timing of the Service of Remembrance is to coincide with the moment Winston Churchill broadcast to the nation on VE Day 70 in 1945.
The service will start at 3pm with a 2-minute silence observed nationally. Following the silence, the Last Post will be played by a Royal Marine bugler and wreaths will be laid at the Cenotaph by political leaders, senior military and civilian services, and charities. The service will include readings, hymns and a blessing and will conclude around 3:30pm with the playing of the National Anthem. After the service, there will be a reception in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the veterans taking part.
Schools can find a selection of resources and materials to help them plan their own celebrations – from assembly plans and factsheets to Churchill’s speech. Many schools will choose to celebrate VE Day by throwing picnics and street parties, inviting veterans to come into the school and tell children about their wartime memories, and reading Winston Churchill’s VE Day radio broadcast aloud. We hope that schools will also join the national 2-minute silence at 3pm on Friday 8 May, marking the exact moment when Churchill announced that the war in Europe was over.
The Second World War is a vital element of the national curriculum. Key stage 3 (age 11 to 14) is when pupils undertake focused study on, for example, the wartime leadership of Winston Churchill, as part of ‘Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world 1901 to the present day’. However, the history curriculum for primary pupils also includes teaching about events that are significant nationally or globally, including events commemorated through festivals and anniversaries. It also provides for pupils to be taught about significant turning points in British history. We expect that many schools will focus on VE Day as part of this work. We are helping schools to find the wide range of resources, ideas and activities available to support their history curriculum and to help them plan their own celebrations by highlighting some of the best at www.tes.co.uk/dfe.
Saturday 9 May
Cathedrals, churches and other faith communities
We will be inviting a broad range of cathedrals and churches to ring their bells. Each individual place of worship will consider whether or not it is able to take part: for example, not all churches have bells. Members of the public may wish to enquire at their nearest cathedral or church.
Devolved administrations will communicate this opportunity to their equivalent church networks.
We are proposing a guide time of 11am on Saturday 9 May for cathedrals to ring their bells. However, we recognise that, as bell-ringers are volunteers and many churches may have existing commitments, it will not be possible for all churches to ring their bells at that time. We welcome churches taking part at other times appropriate to their circumstances.
We are encouraging all faith communities to celebrate VE Day. Different groups will want to make the celebration in the way that is most appropriate and means the most to them. We recognise that other faiths may not have the equivalent of the ringing of bells, but faiths may choose to remember VE day through dignified religious services, for example in a Puja service, or other celebrations.
Live Nation and BBC, in partnership with The Royal British Legion present VE Day 70: A Party to Remember.
Hosted by Chris Evans, this star-studded concert will include performances influenced by the era from actor Adrian Lester, comedian and presenter Alexander Armstrong, Britain’s favourite tenor Alfie Boe, actor Bernard Cribbins, boyband Blue, Britain’s Got Talent winners dance troupe Diversity, musical theatre’s leading lady Elaine Paige, hotly tipped jazz vocalist Gregory Porter, Dads Army’s Ian Lavender, R&B singer Jamelia, stage, screen and TV star Jane Horrocks, UK’s biggest mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins, pop starlet Pixie Lott, one of the best voices to come out of the X Factor singer Rebecca Ferguson, legendary rock band Status Quo and four couples from top entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing.
Tickets for VE Day 70: A Party To Remember are now on sale.
Sunday 10 May
Service of Thanksgiving
The Service of Thanksgiving will be led by the Dean of Westminster and will include thanksgiving for reconciliation and unity, and prayers for peace. The Archbishop of Canterbury will give the address at the service. There will also be an Act of Recommitment towards the end of the service.
Short services of thanksgiving were held every hour in Westminster Abbey on VE Day in 1945 from 9am to 10pm and attended by approximately 25,000 people. A service was also held on the following Sunday, 13 May, when the standards of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were laid on the High Altar to symbolise the loyalty of the whole empire during the war.
Westminster Abbey held services to mark the 40th anniversary on VE Day on 8 May 1985, the 50th anniversary of the end of the war (VE & VJ) on 20 August 1995, and the 60th anniversary of the end of the war (VE & VJ) on 10 July 2005.
A parade of over 2,000 people will take place following the service, from Westminster Abbey to Horse Guards Parade via Parliament Square, Parliament Street and Whitehall. It will pass the balcony where Winston Churchill appeared before the crowds on VE Day after his famous speech to mark Victory in Europe.
Over 100 organisations and associations will be represented to honour the contributions of civilians and service personnel who fought in the Second World War in Europe. Alongside organisations connected to military service, there will also be representation from those who served in a civilian capacity and the generation that lived through the conflict. They will include:
- Association of Air Raid Wardens
- Bevin Boys
- British Red Cross
- the Civil Defence Association
- First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
- the Merchant Navy Association
- representatives of Police, Ambulance and Fire Brigade veterans
- representatives of Reserved Occupations
- representatives of evacuees
- Royal Hospital Chelsea
- the Women’s Land Army
A tri-service contingent of serving personnel will lead the veterans in the parade along Whitehall.
The parade route will be open for members of the public to line the streets and show their support to all those taking part.
Veterans wishing to take part should contact their association or organisation in the first instance to register their interest. Those veterans who do not belong to an association or organisation being represented can apply to take part via a public application. Details of how to apply will be issued on the website of the Royal British Legion.
Over the course of the afternoon there will be a flypast of current and historic aircraft from the Royal Air Force to conclude the celebrations. Aircraft including the famous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will soar over London, flying directly over Whitehall and St James’s Park.
Invitation lists for the events
Her Majesty’s Government will prepare invitation lists in consultation with various government departments and specialist organisations including veterans’ groups such as the Royal British Legion.
How armed forces outside London are planning to mark VE Day 70
It is expected that armed forces units and cadet organisations will be invited to participate in local commemorative events across the UK. They will respond to requests on a case-by-case basis.
The nationwide 2-minute silence on 8 May will be marked by firing a ceremonial round from saluting stations in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and by Royal Navy ships at sea.
How local communities been asked to take part
We have written to local authorities and communities encouraging them to participate in VE Day 70 and suggesting ways they can play a part. These include:
- participating in the national 2-minute silence at 3pm on Friday 8 May
- lighting beacons on the evening of Friday 8 May, to reflect those that will be lit across the country
- hosting celebrations on the evening of Saturday 9 May, to support the VE concert that will be live on the BBC
- holding or facilitating picnics and street parties on the afternoon of Sunday 10 May
- illuminating landmarks or buildings which are important to your areas to remember the buildings that were lit up on VE Day in 1945
We are also suggesting that local authorities and communities make links with:
- their local branch or area office of The Royal British Legion
- local schools (encouraging them to visit www.tes.co.uk/dfe for ideas and resources)
- local churches and cathedrals (who are being encouraged to get involved with bell ringing) and other faith institutions
- older people’s services to make sure veterans are the VIPs
Find out more about VE Day Beacons.