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VE Day Celebrations

On the 8 May 1945, the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were given permission by their father, King George VI, to leave Buckingham Palace and join the crowds of people on the streets of London. There they congaed and celebrated with the hoards who were momentarily forgetting the years of ‘make do and mend’ in the wake of the longed-for news that the war in Europe was over. It was, I believe, the only time in the Queen’s long life that she slipped incognito among her subjects and she has described it as, “one of the most memorable nights of my life.”

The 75th Anniversary of VE Day tomorrow should also be a celebration but it can be a poignant moment of reflection too. Fighting continued in other parts of the world for several months in 1945 so it was not a celebration for everyone. Many people had lost their lives and families were affected. Eastbourne was the most heavily attacked town in the south-east of England, suffering 98 raids between 1940 and 1944 which included 671 high explosive bombs and 3625 smaller explosions. 1,100 civilians were hit, 174 of them fatally; over 10,000 homes were damaged with 475 of these destroyed.

As a result, the children at St Andrew’s had to be evacuated, firstly to Thurlestone in Devon and then to Oakash in the village of Chaddleworth on the Berkshire Downs. And in a way, these children faced the same situation as the Androvians of today – they could not come to the school they knew. It was different because they were together as boarders but they were in unfamiliar surroundings at first and life was not normal. It stayed that way for five years.

But on the 7 May, the agreement to end the war in Europe was signed by the major leaders and the country went into celebration on the 8 May. The events of that day were recorded by one Androvian, in class 3B, who wrote in his diary:

“In the morning we put up lots and lots of flags… I went to the copse and I tried to climb a tree. I saw the flags put up, the flags were British, American, Russia, China, Belgium, France, and St Andrew’s.

After lunch we went to the library to hear the Prime Minister’s speech. When he said on the wireless that we … had won the war, I was very excited. After tea I was taught to play cricket and at 9.00pm the King gave a speech. I Like VE Day because of the flags and I had a holiday from lessons and we had fun and games and there was a lot of music.”

Although we cannot be together so easily at the moment, hopefully tomorrow can be fun and poignant and in the same way the country united in 1945 to help each other and give thanks for those who gave their lives in order to protect and safeguard the freedom of others, we can do that too in 2020. We too can reach out to others and we too can be thankful for all those who are working so hard to support their communities, protect lives and keep others safe.

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