UK remembers end of World War II sixty years on

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Buckingham Palace featured prominently in the day's events.

A day of national commemoration has taken place across the United Kingdom, with the main events in London, to mark the culmination of a week commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is expected to be the last official national commemoration in the United Kingdom to mark the end of WWII.

After consulting veterans groups, the British Government chose to hold the national day of commemorations on 10 July, instead of separate days for VE Day (8 May) and VJ Day (15 August).

The day began with a service at Westminster Abbey at 11:00 BST, led by Queen Elizabeth II and attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and hundreds of World War II veterans. The terrorist attacks in London on 7 July were also mentioned during the service, drawing parallels between the resilience of Londoners during the Blitz in WWII. A lunch was later held by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for WWII veterans of the Armed Forces and Home Front.

The Queen later led the parade down The Mall in a carriage, escorted by the Household Cavalry. A "Reflections of World War II Commemoration Show" began at 15:00 on Horse Guards Parade, attended by the Royal Family, politicians, veterans and others. The show was designed to portray a variety of experiences of World War II, including speeches, such as Prime Minister Winston Churchill's "We shall fight on the beaches...", and popular songs of the time, all of which were performed by current entertainers, including actor Robert Hardy, who portrayed Winston Churchill. The Queen made an address during the show, expressing her admiration for veterans of WWII while also drawing on the recent attacks on London.

The guns of the light cruiser HMS Belfast, which saw service in WWII, signalled the beginning of a two-minute silence at 15:45 pm, which ended again with the firing of Belfast's guns. Buglers of the Indian Army performed the Last Post.

A "Parade of Standards", numbering over a hundred, began to march down The Mall to Buckingham Palace at 16:15, led by the Queen in an open-top car. Large crowds began to converge on the palace, with the Royal Family later appearing on the palace's balcony, evoking memories of the VE Day celebrations on 8 May 1945. A flypast of WWII-era aircraft took place at 17:00, including a Lancaster bomber, flanked by a Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, which released a million poppies.

In New Zealand, Prince William of Wales, who is visiting New Zealand for his first official royal duties abroad, laid a wreath at the Auckland Cenotaph to commemorate the end of World War II. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright also attended.