I AM hesitant in writing this because some who read it will remember what it was like, 75 years ago, Victory in Europe Day, 8th May 1945, and I do not.

It is right to begin by honouring them, for being a part of that generation who kept going, and kept on keeping going, until victory was won.

If you were there, your memories will truly be of more interest and importance than these few words! I cannot pretend really to know how it all felt, but as I look at the photos and read the accounts, this came to mind.

The pictures and descriptions of 8th May 1945 express great relief and joy.

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There was a desire to dance and sing, to cheer and applaud; the King was called for, and he appeared with his wife and daughters (including our present Queen) and Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

The Royal Family ended up appearing eight times as the day wore on. Churchill later appeared again elsewhere and joined in the singing. The two princesses slipped out to join in the celebrations. As their father wryly pointed out, there had not been many celebratory moments in their teenage life during the previous six years.

This joy was mixed with gratitude - St Paul’s Cathedral held 10 thanksgiving services that day, with thousands attending each one. Perhaps people recalled the King’s words of Christmas 1939: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” Or the long queues outside cathedrals during the Dunkirk crisis in May 1940, when he had called for a national day of prayer.

Oxford Mail:

There perhaps was poignancy and profound sadness. People wanted to remember, as well as give thanks.

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There had been so much loss of life, the victory had been dearly bought. As well as countless bereavements, there were the losses of nearly six years of life turned upside down, of broken careers, of destroyed homes, of separated families, of the passing of time.

And still much worry. Many young men were still far away, the war in Europe was over but the war in the Far East continued.

Everything was going in the right direction but there was no guarantee that the final leg of the journey would not be very costly.

Perhaps there were some unsettling echoes. Many who celebrated that day had celebrated the end of the First World War a quarter of a century before. What had gone so wrong after that ending, that another, even greater conflict, had then been unleashed? How can we build peace better, this time?

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The world was changing; it was clear that the USA and the Soviet Union were now the two most powerful countries, their wartime alliance may not last long and they were now face to face in shattered Europe. What might that end up meaning?

Old certainties were fading fast. We were not going back to how things were. Supplies would not suddenly reappear (rationing was to continue until 1954).

The result of the general election, held two months later, shows there were already questions about what sort of leadership the country now wanted, as it looked to the future.

Oxford Mail:

Were some people quietly slightly nervous? They had got used to life during wartime conditions and six years is a long time. How would it feel moving to a new chapter?

And there was surely much pride. Churchill had intentionally ensured from the beginning that people sensed their role as being a vital part of a desperately serious struggle.

In June 1940 he had said “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

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As they danced in the street, as they called for the King, as they packed into cathedrals, as bells were rung, as they grieved, as they took down the blackout blinds, as they wondered if bananas might appear again, as they pondered ongoing fears and hopes, perhaps they recognised that many had indeed been able to ‘brace ourselves to our duties’ and that their courage and commitment meant it had indeed been a very fine hour, perhaps the finest. We honour that generation today.