Opinion: Should we have a VP Day once this pandemic is finally under control?

John Griff is a broadcaster in Northamptonshire

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 5:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 5:58 pm
Picture: John Griff

It was interesting to watch the build-up to last week’s VE Day events, 75 years on from the real thing.

Particularly so, when some drew parallels to the current situation facing our modern day society.

Did we get the tone right?

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Some still have first-hand memories of Winston Churchill’s address at 3pm on the 8th of May, 1945.

Some were at home, already anticipating word of the end of World War Two in Europe. Others – some of whom I spoke to last week – have very different memories.

And for some, World War Two must seem like ancient history, told through war movies and TV specials as well as in the school classroom.

What did they make of it all?

A couple of years ago, on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, a highly reverential tone was struck.

Millions had lost their lives fighting in the mud, with millions more having been affected at home.

World War One began the mechanisation of war. World War Two was a highly developed, technologically advanced version of what had gone before... it too cost millions of lives.

For some, May 8 was an opportunity to join in with massive outpourings of joy and relief through street parties, bunting and all that went with them.

Last Friday, we saw a vastly different interpretation of VE Day to the one that had been originally conceived before Covid-19 intervened.

It ended up being far more sombre than many – if not everyone – had anticipated.

With the limitations imposed, I thought that what took place was both right and proper.

I’m not so sure that it was right to connect and contrast the pandemic with World War Two, but perhaps that was always likely to happen.

In preparation for some of the coverage which took place on the radio, I spoke separately to two gentlemen who were both teenagers when VE Day finally arrived.

Now both in their 90s, they had very different stories to tell.

One recalled the street parties, the bunting and the food. He also spoke of the dancing, the relieved smiles and laughter.

The other recalled steering the destroyer on which he was serving into harbour in the Indian Ocean, being given a double tot of rum in recognition of the end of war in Europe, and then being ordered out of port again to go and sink a Japanese naval vessel the following day as his war continued.

Only when VJ Day arrived three months later did World War Two end for him.

As he told me, when his ship sailed back to his home port back home here in England, nobody was waiting on the dockside to welcome him and his shipmates.

We must not let them be forgotten a second time.

We all need times of relief from times of pressure or heartache. They need to be dealt with in an appropriate way too.

There will be time enough to celebrate an end to the Covid-19 pandemic and I hope that nobody will be forgotten when that time arrives.

VP day? Why not?

Our history has been blighted by not one but two world wars. There have already been significantly more coronaviruses than that and undoubtedly will be more to come.

Our frontline troops will continue to be precisely that, fighting a series of battles on a variety of fronts through the NHS, blue light services, care home staff and others besides.

It, too, will be a long time before anybody can declare an end to this particular kind of world war.