Today marks 70 years since Nazi Germany announced its unconditional surrender and ended World War II in Europe. While there are various events all over the country to celebrate this anniversary, 70 years ago the streets of the UK and the United States served as stages for some of the most uplifting and inspiring scenes of euphoria ever witnessed.
Below are some of our favourite pictures, with quotes from Winston Churchill’s incredible VE Day address (8 May 1945) and British writer Molly Panter-Downes’ letter to The New Yorker Magazine (19 May 1945).
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“My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole.”
“The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it.”
“We will go hand and hand with them. Even if it is a hard struggle we will not be the ones who will fail.”
“The number of extraordinarily pretty young girls, who presumably are hidden on working days inside the factories’ and government offices, was astonishing…”
“By lunchtime, in the Circus, the buses had to slow to a crawl in order to get through the tightly packed, laughing people.”
“American sailors and laughing girls formed a conga line down the middle of Piccadilly and cockneys linked arms in the Lambeth Walk.”
“It had a flavour of its own, an extemporaneousness which gave it something of the quality of a vast, happy village fete as people wandered about, sat, sang, and slept against a slimmer background of trees, grass, flowers, and water.”
“It was without any doubt Churchill’s day. Thousands of King George’s subjects wedged themselves in front of the Palace throughout the day, chanting ceaselessly ‘We want the King’ and cheering themselves hoarse when he and the Queen and their daughters appeared, but when the crowd saw Churchill there was a deep, full-throated, almost reverent roar.”
“The young service men and women who swung arm in arm down the middle of every street, singing and swarming over the few cars rash enough to come out, were simply happy with an immense holiday happiness. They were the liberated people who, like their counterparts in every celebrating capital that night, were young enough to outlive the past and to look forward to an unspoilt future.”