VE Day jubilation is proof we will come out of this - SUNDAY EXPRESS COMMENT

There he signed the unconditional surrender of the German military and brought an end to the war in Europe at midnight - though the struggle against the Japanese continued. The day after - the first Victory in Europe (VE) Day - vast crowds gathered across Britain to celebrate, after almost six years of bloodshed, destruction and trauma. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was applauded in Whitehall and people gathered in huge numbers to cheer him and the Royal Family as they waved from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

There has perhaps never been such a sense of collective joy experienced across this nation, nor such a dark cloud lifted from the world with the defeat of the Nazi ideology.

On Friday we mark the 75th anniversary of that day, but not with the celebrations which had been hoped for and planned.

The last of the veterans will sadly not have their day in the sun to be cheered by the generations they helped save.

Instead, perhaps for the first time in those 75 years since the surrender of Germany, we are again fighting a campaign against a terrible enemy that not only poses a threat to this country but the whole world.

Coronavirus does not drop bombs but is a hidden killer that has already accounted for more than 27,000 lives in Britain alone.

So it is perhaps worth using the anniversary to remember what it was that took Britain from the brink of defeat and despair to victory and relief on that bright spring day in 1945.

The words of Churchill still live with us today after he somehow engineered the rescue of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940: "We will fight... we will never surrender."

Revellers in London celebrate VE Day in 1945

Revellers in London celebrate VE Day in 1945 (Image: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

It was that iron will which permeated the British psyche in the 1940s, prepared us to accept terrible sacrifice and strengthened us to endure long, dreadful days, whether on the battlefield or under the bombs raining down at home.

The Blitz spirit has kept its meaning in our national consciousness because that is what it meant to be British and that is why ultimately we were able to win.

In many ways what most of us are being asked to do today is much easier.

Instead of packing our knapsacks and picking up a gun to go to some foreign land, flying bombing raids over occupied Europe with no guarantee of returning home, or working in the munitions factories or on the land, we are being asked to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

That does not diminish the sacrifice which many will have to make for that, the loss of normal life and jobs, and those trapped in flats with no gardens or crowded accommodation; it is a much harder ask.

Meanwhile, our "soldiers" now fighting this war are the doctors, nurses, NHS staff and carers who are on the front line risking their lives to defeat this virus.

Behind the scenes, as was true with the Second World War, we have the research teams and scientists - some of whom have become the generals in this war - trying to find a new weapon, be it a vaccine or a cure, that will ensure victory.

It seems somehow appropriate that the man who has come to symbolise the public's own struggle to defeat the virus is one of the last remaining veterans of the war, Colonel Tom Moore, who has raised an astonishing £30million to help the NHS.

Somehow Colonel Tom has picked up the torch lit by the wartime generation and passed it on to this generation to find its backbone and grit to get the job done.

But what is often forgotten is that in 1945 victory had come at a terrible economic cost, one which would force Britain to give up its empire and end its reign as the predominant world power.

Yet it was a victory that was worth the blood, sweat and tears promised by Churchill when he took the helm in the dark days of 1940.

And VJ Day, marking victory over Japan, did not come until August 15 after America, with Britain's consent, had dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

At the end of it all the death toll meant that more than 450,000 British citizens, military and civilian, had lost their lives in the war. Worldwide it has been estimated that as many as 85 million people may have died. It is a terrible reminder that, all too often, with every great struggle comes a huge loss of life. And sadly it has already proven true for this one against coronavirus.

It took decades for Britain to really rebuild its economy, although in the aftermath of the war it was able to create the NHS - which is now our best hope in this fight. But the lesson is that we must prepare for a difficult recovery after the virus is finally beaten.

Already 25 percent of businesses have gone to the wall, 1.5 million people have signed on for benefits, companies such as British Airways are shedding thousands of jobs. This is despite Chancellor Rishi Sunak organising the most remarkable bailout package in British history, worth £250billion.

This means that in the coming years difficult decisions will have to be made and the politicians responsible must act in the national interest and try to find common ground and consensus.

There will be little patience for the party-political games and tricks that particularly marred the past three years in Parliament.

It may well be that the effects of this struggle will be with us for a long time. Who knows how long the elderly and vulnerable will need to be shielded? Who knows when we will be able to crowd into pubs, theatres, cinemas, cafés, sports grounds and restaurants again? This means that the steely resolve and determination which the wartime generation showed us, not just between 1939 and 1945 but in the years that followed, will be needed again.

Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Image: PA Video/PA Wire/PA Images)

Who better, though, to be a focal point for that sense of national purpose and a symbol of the British common sense which will be needed than Her Majesty the Queen, who on Friday will address the nation for the third time in a matter of weeks.

As Princess Elizabeth she stayed in the capital throughout the Blitz, she read stories on Children's Hour on the Home Service and volunteered in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

And, inspirationally, she was on the balcony with her father, King George VI, mother, Queen Elizabeth, and Churchill to celebrate with the crowds 75 years ago on Friday.

She is the last head of state who provides a seamless link to that seminal episode in British and world history and enjoys the worldwide respect and esteem in which that generation is now held.

But it is her words today that carry the most significance. In her recent coronavirus address to the nation the Queen quoted the song from a young woman from East Ham who lifted the morale of the nation and the troops: Dame Vera Lynn.

The song that the now 103-year-old singer made so famous is as true now as it was then, which is why we have reproduced it on the back page of our VE Day commemoration pullout.

We will meet again after this present crisis, just as they did 75 years ago.

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