UK marks 75th anniversary of VE Day

Boris Johnson lights a candle at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey(Photo: UK Pool/PA)

The UK is today marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day as the country remains in lockdown. 

Commemorations are taking place across the UK on Friday as it marks 75 years since May 8, 1945, the day on which Nazi Germany officially surrendered to the allied forces, ending World War Two.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid a solemn candle-lit tribute to the fallen at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey on Thursday night.

During his visit, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle read a prayer and reflected on how the Abbey had marked the very first VE Day by holding services every hour, with 20,000 people passing through its doors on that day.

In a public message, the Prime Minister said that the coronavirus pandemic "demands the same spirit of national endeavour" that characterised Britain during the War.

"We can't hold the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past, but all of us who were born since 1945 are acutely conscious that we owe everything we most value to the generation who won the Second World War," he said.

"We survived and eventually triumphed thanks to the heroism of countless ordinary people, who may be elderly today, but who once carried the fate of freedom itself on their shoulders.

"Across the world, our soldiers, sailors and airmen fought the Nazis with courage, ingenuity and stubborn endurance.

"On the home front, women defended our cities against air raids, worked the factories, ran the hospitals and broke enemy codes. People of every age, race and background came together in one supreme effort."

At 11:00 BST on Friday, a two-minute silence will be led by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to honour the servicemen and women of the Second World War. 

Later in the day, the Queen will address the nation. 

In a video message, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of the "years of courage and of sacrifice" during World War Two. 

Paying tribute to the 1945 generation, he urged the nation to "remember reconciliation". 

"From 1945 until this day, we have improved our relationship with our former enemies and they are now friends," he said. 

He went on to commend areas of conflict in the world today that have heeded the call from the UN Secretary General for a global ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic 

"To establish forgiveness and reconciliation is a salute to those who by their hope-filled service made our today possible," he said.

He called on people to "hold onto hope" and continue to build a fairer, more Christ-like world and a "country built in justice, peace and generosity as we are united before the threat of the virus, and united by the courage of medical staff and carers as well as so many more essential workers".