Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Newspaper column 6 May 2020 - VE Day

We are now in the seventh week of lockdown. Looking back to last week I was able to make a couple of appearances in virtual Parliament on matters relating to Cornwall while my team and I continued to assist people and businesses across the area with issues they need help with. It was also good to see our Prime Minister Boris Johnson back at work following his own bout with COVID-19. April must have been a rollercoaster of a month for him and his fiancée Carrie Symonds, who I was delighted to see welcome their new son, Wilfred, into the world on Wednesday.

This week I wanted to step back from the ongoing COVID-19 updates to look back at remembering Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), which we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of on Friday 8th May. I do believe it is important we continue to mark these important events in our national history so that we do not forget and today’s generations are able to appreciate the price that was paid for our freedom today.

The COVID-19 crisis is the biggest our nation has seen since the Second World War. VE Day is when we celebrate the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces on 8 May 1945 at the end of hostilities in Europe.

Some 60 million people died in the Second World War, including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians. Many of the civilians died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass bombings, disease, and starvation. This included 17 million victims of Nazi genocide via the Holocaust and similar persecution.

Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in the UK and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout the UK to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds.

A momentous event to mark our triumph after a long and difficult conflict. This year the early May Bank Holiday was moved to coincide with the VE Day Anniversary. Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic all public events relating to the celebration have had to be cancelled. Nonetheless the day does bear marking and remembering and I am sure we will do all we can as individuals and households to mark the occasion and remembering the sacrifice so many made so we could live free today.

Of course, there are still members of that ‘Greatest Generation’ that lived or even fought in the Second World War, with us today. These people who, lived through the war, set us a great example as we ourselves live through the current crisis. Although I think we should be cautious when comparing our current challenge with those of World War II, it is good to know that then, as now, our nation is at its best when faced with adversity and will get through this if we all pull together and work for the common good.

As we look back in the coming days to remember the price people paid 75 years ago as they successfully stood against the tyranny of the Nazi’s and rebuilt our country in the years that followed, I am sure we would all agree that the challenges we face fall a long way short. I am sure we can find some inspiration from those times to remain determined to do whatever it takes to get through this crisis and defeat this virus.

But the 8th May 1945 was a day to celebrate. To rejoice in the hard-won victory and look ahead to better days. And so, as Winston Churchill said on that day, "we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toils and efforts that lie ahead”. The country knew the end of the war was not the end of the challenge. The focus shifted from war to recovery.

In that there is most certainly a parallel for us all. There are clear signs to be encouraged that we are winning the battle against coronavirus. In this we can rejoice. But we should all be aware that rebuilding our economy is also going to take a collective determined effort in the months and years ahead. So, on Friday let us all enjoy a day to remember, be thankful and celebrate. And then let us refocus our hearts and minds to all play our part for the challenges ahead.