Party like it's 1945. Courtesy Trafford Local Studies
May 2005 marks 60 years since VE Day signalled the end of the Second World War in Europe and there are a wide range of events and exhibitions across the country commemorating this momentous occasion.
By April 1945, after the long battle to liberate Europe, German resistance was crumbling. The western allies and Russians raced towards Berlin, Hitler’s capital. Russian forces got there first on April 21 and Hitler killed himself a few days later on April 30. Germany’s unconditional surrender came on May 7 with the next day declared VE (Victory in Europe) Day.
Europe had been liberated and the Nazis crushed, although World War Two would not end until August 14 1945 when the Japanese finally surrendered.
Land Girls dig for victory. Courtesy Trafford Local Studies
The 24 Hour Museum has developed a World War Two section exploring the events leading up to VE Day and the war as a whole. It features war-related news stories, links to museum and gallery events and a range of in-depth wartime trails.
A series of national trails explore specific themes such as the D-Day landings, the Battle of Britain and the war from the land, and sea. Regional trails look at how the war affected different parts of the country and highlight the local museum and gallery collections where more can be learnt.
There are many projects and events being staged across the country to commemorate the end of the war. Their Past Your Future is an educational project led by the Imperial War Museum. It aims to engage people with what happened during the war and the wider impact of its events.
Watford Museum are growing a wartime garden as part of the VE Day celebrations. Courtesy Watford Museum
As well as involving commemorative visits to important sites and partnerships between young people and war veterans, it features a touring exhibition. This explores how the war changed the lives of ordinary people and how it changed our way of life, towns and landscape forever.
Central to the exhibition are personal stories of how people’s experiences during the conflict changed their lives and how they remember those who were lost. The Their Past Your Future website has a list of where the exhibition is touring in 2005.
We have picked out a few more VE Day highlights and a fuller list of ongoing events and exhibitions can be found on our 1945-2005 Second World War section.
Roy Hill, 81, featured in the Their Past Your Future exhibition in Nottingham. Roy flew Lancaster bombers during the war. With his crew he was shot down and spent time as a prisoner of war. © Chris Breese / 24 Hour Museum
At the Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, the Tree of Remembrance will be unveiled on May 8. A 10 metre high steel, copper and bronze sculpture, the tree features the names of all Manchester’s civilians killed during the war.
Trafford Local Studies have organised a number of events. A wartime shop will stock a limited supply of sweets and children will be able to use ration books to purchase them. They also have a series of wartime music events, a home front presentation and an open afternoon for people to share memories of their wartime experiences. Check their website to find out the exact times and dates of all these events.
Cannon Hall in Barnsley is staging VE Day activities on May 7 including a display of wartime objects, ration book cooking and actors preparing for the wedding of a land girl.
There are lots of VE Day events being staged at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library in Norwich. Courtesy Norwich Forum
The Norwich Forum is currently hosting the Their Past Your Future exhibition and is running a series of related events on May 7 and 8, including a 1940s fashion show at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library.
The Leighton Buzzard Railway in Bedfordshire will have a display of some of the narrow-gauge railway equipment used in both World Wars. In the second world war narrow-gauge railways were used on construction projects and two of the museum’s locomotives were sent to support the British forces in Germany at the end of the conflict.
Stevenage Museum is having a VE Day party on May 7 in the museum gardens where you can learn how to cook with wartime rations, find out how people kept stylish with a war on, meet the Home Guard and take part in a drill.
Former pilots Jack Forrest (left) and Hector McLean with Glasgow Transport Museum's restored Spitfire. Photo: Ian Watson
At Hammersmith Town Hall on May 7, local people who lived through the war are invited to a VE Day party with an afternoon tea dance and a chance to reminisce and recapture the spirit of 1945.
And finally, Chatham Historic Dockyard presents Wish Me Luck, on May 7 and 8, a live musical tribute telling the story of World War Two using the songs and music that kept people going throughout those dark days.