Stratford District Council Chairman Christopher Kettle offers a personal message ahead of the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
“On Friday we should be celebrating VE day across the district. It was not so long ago, a few months, that detailed plans were being made not only in Stratford but in towns, villages and hamlets and across the whole country to commemorate and celebrate the end of the Second World War. And yet only two years ago we celebrated the centenary of the First World War armistice and now we are commemorating another armistice 27 years after the previous one.
“What that first commemoration achieved was both a realisation and education of the appalling nature of that first war and the extraordinary bravery and actions carried out by soldiers, sailors and airman in that conflict and the devastating impact on those left behind at home. In this district we prepared a roll of honour of all those in the District who died in that conflict, 1,571 in total, about 1/6 of the male population between 20 and 40.
“One impact of the current problems has been that we have not seen or heard from the many veterans of what it was like to have survived the war, a very modern and highly mechanised war, very different from the trenches and sea and air battles of world war one. Many of us will have had parents or relatives who served in the Second World War whether in Europe, the Middle East or the Far East or again on land, at sea or in the air. What was different was that this time civilians were involved. Thousands died in the bombing of major cities and, unlike all previous wars, the Second World War was visible to those at home.
“I was recently speaking to a gentleman, a child at the time, who spent much of the war on my farm. He explained that on seeing from the farm the night sky being lit up over Coventry, from another bombing raid, and where his mother was working as an ambulance driver, he was told it was a special firework display to avoid him worrying about his mother. There will have been many other similar memories and from those beneath the bombs, many tragic stories. For the survivors, the end of the war was a cause for celebration.
“It is an enormous pity that we cannot commemorate the 75th anniversary as we had all planned, both celebrating and remembering the end of that war in Europe. At Stratford we are however again preparing a District Roll of Honour for those who fell in the Second World War. And yet it is extraordinary that the reason we cannot commemorate, is because we are now fighting a very different war, but one in which the aggressor is silent, invisible and indiscriminate but with whom there can be no dialogue or armistice. And so what we are seeing is a very different army fighting again to save our lives not only across this country but across the globe. From the front line doctors, nurses, carers, the support staff and those supporting them and those trying to ensure the vulnerable are not forgotten. And that includes every one of us either those still working in essential roles or isolating at home. We all have a part to play.
“But on Friday, let us, for a short time forget about our current battle and commemorated that broadcast 75 years ago when Sir Winston Churchill announced the end of the war in Europe. So after the two minutes silence at 11.00am, if you are having a VE day picnic in your garden, stay safe and distant, celebrate and remember both to raise your glass at 3pm and that the Queen will be addressing the nation at 9.00pm. Let us commemorate the extraordinary acts of those in the services and civilians, and of course those now fighting this new war today, but let us not forget the fallen and their families. God Save the Queen.”
National commemorations taking place on VE Day include:
* Two special programmes on BBC One
* A two-minute silence of remembrance at 11am
* The ‘Nations’ Toast to the Heroes of World War 2’ at 3pm – A chance to stand at home and raise a glass of refreshment of your choice to toast – “Those who gave so much, we thank you”
* A pre-recorded televised address from Her Majesty The Queen at 9pm
* There are also many ways that you can get involved safely and give thanks to the WW2 generation that sacrificed so much. Click here ve-vjday75.gov.uk for ideas on how to celebrate safely at home.