The 8th May 1945 was V.E. Day or Victory in Europe Day. As the U.K. is in the midst of remembering and celebrating perhaps the most momentous day in our history, I thought it would be interesting to post some old photos of that incredible day as well as showing how war had left London and all our other major cities.
Over 1.5 million incendiary and high explosive bombs were dropped on London alone just during The Blitz and Britain became the most militarised nation even above Germany and the Soviet Union. As the only country which voluntarily fought Germany before it was attacked, every one took on a role in ensuring the country would not be invaded as Europe was overrun.
The Soviet Union under Stalin had formed a pact with Nazi Germany and only joined Britain and the Commonwealth nations when it too was attacked whilst the United States would stay neutral until the events of Pearl Harbor. Even when powerful allies had joined the cause, great effort and suffering was endured to ensure that the wider war would be won.
You can view an interactive zoomable map of the above by visiting http://bombsight.org/#15/51.5050/-0.0900
The Blitz came from the German word for Lightening and perhaps except for the Allied attacks on Berlin, were the most sustained and ruinous aerial attacks on a city. Of course the key difference was that the Third Reich took the deliberate decision to start actively bombing and targeting civilians.
Between 7 September 1940 and 21 May 1941 there were major raids with more than 100 tonnes of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities. London, was attacked 71 times and bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights and sometimes more than one attack in a night. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 40,000 civilians were killed, almost half of them in London
Birmingham, Liverpool and Plymouth were also hit eight times, Bristol six, Glasgow five, Southampton four, Portsmouth three, and there was also at least one large raid on another eight cities including Coventry which was flattened.
Incredibly some of our most famous buildings survived even though everything around them was destroyed.
When you see the photos above you get an idea just how big a relief it would be to find out that war was over. Celebrations erupted across the nation and the world and the crowds in London rallied to listen the wartime leader, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill give one of his trademark speeches.
God bless you all. This is your victory! It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tried. Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the independent resolve of the British nation. God bless you all. . . . . .and later . . . .
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? Were we down-hearted? 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 straightforward 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 health 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 fulfil 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.