75 years on, Lochaber readies itself to join country in marking VE Day anniversary

Standard Bearer James Porter (left) and Fort William Branch Chairman Hugh Macinnes, mark VE Day at the Commando Memorial. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F19 Legion VE Day 01
Standard Bearer James Porter (left) and Fort William Branch Chairman Hugh Macinnes, mark VE Day at the Commando Memorial. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F19 Legion VE Day 01

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After six long years of war, Victory in Europe Day exactly 75 years ago tomorrow (Friday) saw street parties and parades the length and breadth of Britain.

Sadly, however, the current coronavirus pandemic has put paid to any plans for similar events to mark the historic anniversary.

But that does not mean there will be no celebrations here in Lochaber, or elsewhere around Scotland and the rest of the UK, with plans to host a huge number of virtual online activities.

The front page of the Oban Times that marked VE Day in 1945. NO F19 VE Day front page of OT
The front page of the Oban Times that marked VE Day in 1945.

Locally, the Fort William branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland plans to participate by encouraging Lochaber residents to host their own individual celebration parties and linking themselves together virtually or by live streaming.

‘This is an opportunity for you to pull out your old de-mob suit, or your 40s frock; decorate a room or something in the garden and knock up some cucumber sandwiches and sausage rolls – or something similar,’ explained Fort William branch secretary, Mrs Jeanette Lane.

If anyone wishes to be part of the virtual group, simply message Jeanette (via the branch’s Facebook page) and she will send you a link to join in, or alternatively just live stream your own party.

Legion branches in Fort William and elsewhere across the UK are planning virtual celebration events and want people to join in online. NO F19 VE Day poster
Legion branches in Fort William and elsewhere across the UK are planning virtual celebration events and want people to join in online.

The branch standard bearer, James Porter, has also taken part – along with other Legion standard bearers – in the making of a video that will be shown as part of the celebrations.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has meant that plans for the landmark anniversary in Scotland – which were to include a parade, public concert and reception – will now take place online, with a video message of thanks from the First Minister and a concert in addition to the service and silence.

Led by Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland in partnership with the Scottish Government, the commemorations will include children and families currently learning at home.

The Legion Scotland Service of Remembrance will be broadcast on Legion Scotland and Poppy Scotland’s social media channels from 10.40am until 11.15am. The online concert will then begin at 11.45am until 1pm.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s message will be posted on Twitter @scotgov while Poppyscotland’s online resources can be found at: www.poppyscotland.org.uk/VEDayParty

In addition to virtual events, Poppyscotland has also produced a range of online educational resources for activities for families can use to learn about VE Day and participate in marking the 75th anniversary at home.

The UK’s national events kick off at 2.55pm, live on television and radio. At 3pm there will be a re-broadcasting of the famous speech given by then prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill, announcing the end of the war in Europe.

Following the broadcast, Prime Minister Boris Johnson,  will make a speech during which people across the country will be asked to raise a glass, or cup, to toast the heroes of the Second World War, as well as paying tribute to those at home and  abroad who also gave so much in the conflict.

And in three months time, on August 15, it will be the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, marking the surrender of the military forces of Imperial Japan and so bringing the Second World War to a close.