The following information and resources have been shared with senior school pupils ahead of VE Day commemorations on Friday 8 May. We hope that our wider community will also find them to be of interest.
Tomorrow’s bank holiday marks the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, the end to the second world war in Europe. After Hitler took his own life on 30 April 1945, his successor Grand Admiral Donitz negotiated with the Allies for an end to the fighting. On 4 May, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (Old Pauline, 1902-05) accepted the unconditional surrender of German forces in the Netherlands, northwest Germany and Denmark. On 7 May, in Reims, Supreme Allied Commander (US General) Eisenhower accepted the unconditional surrender of all German forces. A document of surrender was signed by German General Alfred Jodl and came into effect on 8 May – known in Britain thereafter as VE Day. Fierce fighting continued in the East, until Japan’s surrender in August shortly after the US deployment of atomic bombs against their major cities.
Very many Old Paulines fought and contributed in the Second World War, as they had in the first world war. Field Marshal Montgomery of course is foremost among them: on 15 May 1944, in the Board Room of St Paul’s School, he gave his final presentation of his grand plan for reinvading German-occupied Europe, Operation Overlord, to an audience including King George VI, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Supreme Allied Commander US General Eisenhower. Maps used in the planning still hang in our Monty Room. Old Paulines notably contributed to the war effort as soldiers and airmen, generals, prosecutors, code-breakers, war correspondents, anti-Nazi propagandists and prison-breaking impersonators. Two hundred and fifty-nine Old Paulines are among the host of people from all nations who gave their lives in the conflict.
VE Day marks the immense national and international achievement of the defeat of Hitler’s forces. Although the present circumstances mean that most commemorative public events will not go ahead, there will be substantial media coverage (the Queen speaks tomorrow night at 9pm) and of course we will all enjoy a day off. If you are interested in learning more about VE Day, the end of the war, how the nation celebrated and the enormous impact of the war (and its end) on the country, there are many brilliant online archives and resources you might like to dip into, some tasters of which include:
The Chaplain has created a short online Act of Remembrance, which pupils and members of staff will be able to access.