Shameful VE; No Celebrations ... No War Veterans ... and No Queen. How One of the Greatest Days in British History Has Been Consigned to the Dustbin by a Ruling Class More Interested in Pop Concerts and Political Correctness

Daily Mail (London), May 7, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Shameful VE; No Celebrations ... No War Veterans ... and No Queen. How One of the Greatest Days in British History Has Been Consigned to the Dustbin by a Ruling Class More Interested in Pop Concerts and Political Correctness


Byline: ROBERT HARDMAN

ARGUABLY, it was the greatest day of the 20th Century, the day when the entire continent was finally liberated. And if one scene epitomises the mood of Victory in Europe (VE) Day, it is that of the Royal Family and Winston Churchill on the Buckingham Palace balcony waving at the millions who had packed London to celebrate the country's salvation.

Millions more gathered in the same spot in 1995 to repeat the scene during those spectacular and profoundly moving 50th anniversary commemorations. But don't bother turning up tomorrow for the 60th. There won't be anyone on the Palace balcony and there won't be any old heroes marching through the streets either.

The Labour Government responsible for planning this anniversary decided that VE Day was simply not worth a big fuss.

So they have organised a short wreath-laying event tomorrow morning. Barely a dozen veterans are involved. They haven't even invited the most famous old soldiers in the land, the Chelsea Pensioners. And, astonishingly, they haven't invited the Queen.

Instead, the Prince of Wales, a 'senior government representative' and a handful of delegates from the main Services organisations will be there for what the Ministry of Defence is calling a 'simple and dignified' ceremony.

Later in the day, the BBC has also organised a VE Day pop concert in Trafalgar Square, but it is aimed at the younger generation, not those who came of age listening to Glenn Miller and Vera Lynn.

While American, Canadian and French veterans are cheered through the streets in VE Day parades at home and abroad, our gallant old chaps and ladies have nowhere to go. So much for the accusation that the British are a nation obsessed with their wartime past. If tomorrow is anything to go by, we've utterly lost interest.

Why else has the last surviving member of that iconic scene on the Palace balcony been left out? It seems incredible that our Queen, the only head of state in the world today who actually took an active part in VE Day, has not received an invitation from her own Government.

For years, she kept this special date in her diary free, but the Government and its planners have decided not to transform the event into a state occasion - which it would become if the Sovereign was present.

This is not a calculated snub or insult. It is simply another reminder that today's political elite believes that history is a commodity which can be managed just like anything else.

The simple reason that the Queen and all her old soldiers will not be having a VE Day gathering is that ministers decided to merge all this inconvenient war stuff into one event later in the summer - without even consulting the veterans themselves.

They know that if they have a big national VE Day event, then they must also have a big national VJ Day event in August to mark the anniversary of the end of the war against Japan. But this would be time-consuming and expensive. It would also clash with what a Ministry of Defence spokesman calls 'block leave' over the summer holiday.

In other words, a national commemoration of all those poor souls who fought the nastiest war of the lot - long after the European conflict was over - cannot happen because many public servants will be on holiday. So the utilitarian solution has been to lump VE and VJ Days together into one big veterans' occasion with the Queen on July 10, a date with no particular meaning other than that it is midway between the two big anniversaries.

If that is deemed acceptable, then why not merge Easter and Christmas into a convenient, multipurpose 'Jesus-type happening' some time in September? Some old soldiers, especially Far East veterans who were still fighting after VJ Day, are so appalled that they have decided to boycott the July proceedings altogether. And who can blame them? Others are resigned to the fact that the efforts of the wartime generation are starting to fade from the national memory.

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Shameful VE; No Celebrations ... No War Veterans ... and No Queen. How One of the Greatest Days in British History Has Been Consigned to the Dustbin by a Ruling Class More Interested in Pop Concerts and Political Correctness
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