Everything you need to know about VE Day

Harry Lye 7 May 2020 (Last Updated May 7th, 2020 16:22)

On 8 May 1945, VE Day, meaning victory in Europe day, was declared following the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the allied powers. The war in the Pacific, however, raged on, and it wouldn’t be until later in August 1945 that WWII would officially be over.

Everything you need to know about VE Day
UK Prime Minister Winston Churchills on VE Day. Image: Imperial War Museum H 41849.

Tomorrow, 8 May 2020, marks 75 years since the end of World War II in Europe. But celebrations across the world have been cancelled due to restrictions imposed to halt the spread of Covid-19. Instead, several institutions have moved their celebrations online.

Here we take a look at the key events surrounding VE Day.

Germany’s unconditional surrender – 7 May 1945

Following Adolf Hitler’s suicide, his successor Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz began to negotiate the surrender of Germany to allied forces. However, German forces did not immediately put down their arms along all fronts.

On 4 May a delegation from the German government arrived at the headquarters of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, where he accepted the surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, Denmark and some parts of Germany.

Later on 7 May, the Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of all remaining German forces the following day.

On the signing of the surrender, Eisenhower sent a message that read: “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 0241, local time, May 7th, 1945.”

An announcement carried on the BBC relayed the news of the end of the war to the British public, along with those of other liberated countries. The following day was to be a national holiday.

VE Day declared – 8 May 1945

With the surrender signed, guns fell silent across Europe for the first time since the start of the war in 1939.

The US Armed Forces’ newspaper Stars and Stripes ran the headline ‘Germany Quits’, with the New York Times running ‘The war in Europe is ended!’.

Although many people had begun celebrating on the previous day, VE Day was made a national holiday. Supplies of previously rationed items were increased to ensure there was enough for the celebrations.

Due to time zones across the world, VE Day was held a day later in the Soviet Union and New Zealand.

Speaking on the day, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to the personnel who had fought in the war but warned that the fight was not yet finished either.

Churchill said: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued.

“We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance Britannia.”

His tone was echoed by US President Harry Truman who said: “This is a solemn but glorious hour; General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly all over Europe.”