The Speakers of both Houses of Parliament have spoken of their pride in “the heroes who ensured democracy would continue in the UK”, as they marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the quest for freedom that was fought for so bitterly during the Second World War has a special resonance this year, with the country under lockdown.
“Today is about remembering all those who played a part in securing Victory in Europe – they were the heroes,” he said.
“They ensured that democracy would continue in this country, despite enduring unbelievable suffering. Many paid the ultimate price to secure this goal.
“While we cannot celebrate VE Day as we would have liked, we should never forget that fight for freedom and the spirit that was so evident during the Second World War. We must never lose hope that the freedom that they guaranteed for us, will be ours once again in the future.”
Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, said: “Even in these uncertain times it is important that we mark the 75th anniversary of the end of Nazism and hostilities in Europe.
“Untold millions of service men and women, as well as civilians, died in the Second World War. We should never forget them. Their personal sacrifice secured a better future for us all.”
The Speakers’ tributes followed a special wreath laying service in Westminster Hall on 8 May, that was led by Speaker’s Chaplain Revd Tricia Hillas, to coincide with the two minutes’ silence at 11am. A trumpeter from the Band of the Scots Guard sounded the Last Post.
Sir Lindsay read extracts from a speech given by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons on 8 May, 1945, in which he announced the surrender of Germany, which brought the Second World War to an end in Europe.
“We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead,” he said.
Lord West of Spithead represented the Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, and laid a wreath on his behalf. Lord Fowler continues to work from home in line with the Government’s social distancing guidelines.
The ceremony has a particular relevance to Parliament as both Houses were hit by bombs a total of 14 times during the Second World War. On the worst night of the Blitz – 11 May 1941 - three people were killed and the Commons Chamber and voting lobbies were completely destroyed.
During the heaviest air raids, the Commons was forced to meet in the relative security of Church House near Westminster Abbey. However, from June 1941 and for the next nine years, sittings of the House were transferred to the House of Lords Chamber, with the Lords sitting in the Robing Room, which was converted for the purpose.
Within days of the end of the war on 8 May, 1945, the rubble began to be cleared. A new Chamber was built, and gifts of money and materials were offered by all the Commonwealth countries.
Enamel memorial shields to the 23 MPs who lost their lives were installed on the new oak paneling behind the Speaker’s Chair. The entrance arch to the old Commons – shattered by blast and fire – was kept in the same place at the say-so of the Prime Minister as a reminder of the ordeal that Westminster had suffered. It was later to be known as the Churchill Arch.
Photo: Jessica Taylor/ UK Parliament