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In the 100 days leading up to the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe day. We take a look at some of the great images from the IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM’S collection.

Winston Churchill visiting bomb-damaged areas of the East End of London, 8 September 1940.

By the end of the Second World War 3.8 million British men and 400,000 women were demobilised, returning to their homes and families, some for the first time in many years.

To this was added tens of thousands of evacuees, the majority of them children, who returned home often after years spent away from their homes. 

The Operations Room at RAF Fighter Command’s No. 10 Group Headquarters, Rudloe Manor (RAF Box), Wiltshire, showing WAAF plotters and duty officers at work, 1943.

Millions of personnel from Commonwealth forces also faced long journeys back to their homes across the world, whilst over 60 million refugees across the world were left displaced needing to rebuild their lives.

These reunions were often joyous, frequently strained and sometimes painful. Resettlement to civilian life was a major concern of post-war governments and a driver of social change in Britain and across the world.

The British Legion are making sure this anniversary is remembered with a VE 75 events programme in Central London over the period 8-9 May 2020. It is right that we take time to reflect on the sacrifices made, not just by those in the Armed Forces, but by civilians such as Land Girls and those in Reserved Occupations and make sure that the whole country has the chance to take part in commemorating this momentous anniversary and remembering those who gave so much for our freedom.

V E Day began with Mr Churchill’s broadcast officially announcing the end of war in Europe. Londoners took to the streets in celebrations which continued for nearly two days. Outside Buckingham Palace the crowds chanted ‘we want the King’ and were rewarded by the Royal Family appearing on the balcony. At nine o’clock in the evening the King broadcast to Britain and the Commonwealth.

What happened next,

VE Day did not signal an end to the Second World War. Allied servicemen who had fought their way through Europe prepared for their transfer to the Far East and the Pacific, where fighting would continue for three more months.

VE Day marked the start of the political, economic and physical reconstruction of the continent. In June 1945, 50 countries signed the United Nations Charter and pledged to maintain international peace and security. Millions of refugees and displaced persons, whose lives had been violently uprooted by the war, began the long and difficult process of recovery and repatriation. Leading Nazi officials faced trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a speech given on 5 March 1946, less than a year after the war’s end, Churchill delivered the words that would come to define much of the post war era

‘From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent’.

Winston Churchill

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