VE Day 75th Anniversary reflections with Deputy Lieutenant John Barber, The Queen's representative in Newham.
Today I want to encourage you to join me as Newham’s very own ‘forces sweetheart’ Dame Vera Lynn once again leads the nation to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day with a rousing chorus of her most famous song We’ll Meet Again.
This is not quite the celebration we had planned – due to the Coronavirus crisis – so can’t meet and salute the WW2 heroes physically.
The nation comes together at 3pm to toast heroes past and present, and later, just after The Queen addresses the nation at 9pm, the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a radio address in 1945 to signal the end of the Second World War in Europe, we can all join together in song virtually wherever we are.
Dame Vera was born in Thackeray Road, East Ham, in 1917. She lived in Ladysmith Avenue from 1921 to 1938 and has a Close named after her in Forest Gate. She achieved national treasure status when British servicemen named her their favourite musical performer during the Second World War.
Dame Vera was the local girl who boosted the morale of the nation and those who served during the darkest days of the Second World War. She lifted the spirit of millions then and she can do so again.
As the coronavirus crisis keeps us in its grip – we are reminded these are the most challenging times since World War II. Now as then, it is important we come together, to salute people’s heroic service to the nation. It is something I reflect on in the latest of my Newham Reflections videos, this time with Deputy Lieutenant John Barber, The Queen’s representative in Newham.
He, like me, makes immediate parallels with what happened in the years between 1939 and 1945 to what is happening now. John remembered Newham-bred heroes of the past, people like Dame Vera, actress Dame Anna Neagle, and TV actor Reg Varney, and compares them to our heroes now who are raising spirits in our communities, like those people in our #HelpNewham hubs network. Some of you may remember Reg as a TV comedy star of On the Buses, but John recalls a story from him about stoic residents of East Ham who defied the bombs and carried on drinking in a local hostelry.
John’s overriding message is one of hope. The war brought people together and when it ended everyone was joyous. We are seeing the same camaraderie now as people did then. “We won before; we can win again.”
We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those who served in combat and on the home front during the Second World War from Britain and the Commonwealth. The war involved 100 million people from more than 30 countries, and was the deadliest so far in human history with fatalities estimated from 70 to 85 million, highlighting the human cost of conflict.
So please join me tonight, sing out for the heroes of World War Two, but also remember our current heroes from the front line. Remember this will pass and as Vera promised – “We’ll Meet Again.”