VE Day marked the end of horror and ushered in stability

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Seventy years ago today was arguably the happiest day in modern British history.

It marked the end of a horrendous war, that had followed on the heels of another appalling war.

In their own differing ways, the First and Second World Wars were worse than each other for Britain.

The Great War led to the deaths of many more UK servicemen, but the 1939-45 war saw an intensification of air attacks on British cities, and tens of thousands of civilians dying in their homes from aerial bombardments, including around 1,000 people in Belfast.

The combination of those two global wars in quick succession was nothing less than a nightmare for Europe.

Of the 31 years between mid 1914 and mid 1945, Britain was at war for 10 of them.

Other countries suffered on an almost unimaginable scale – Poland and Lithuania lost around 15 per cent of their 1939 population.

While Northern Ireland did not experience losses on anything like that level, many thousands of volunteers from both sides of the religious divide died in defence of their country during the world wars.

In the early years of the Second World War, Britain was at risk of Nazi invasion.

By May 8 1945, the UK was drained after so much conflict.

Then, in a period of days, came the joyous news of Hitler’s death followed by German surrender.

The period that followed has been the most affluent and peaceful phase in British history, despite turbulence including our Troubles and despite the Cold War. A third world war did not in fact break out. Living standards rose relentlessly.

VE Day ushered in those decades of improvement.

In marking its 70th anniversary, we are celebrating a triumph over extreme adversity and remembering those who laid down their lives in the fight against tyranny so that we could live in peace and prosperity.