Tea and singing: Britain honours 75th anniversary of VE-Day

Britons stood in silence and Queen Elizabeth addressed the nation on Friday's 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, though the coronavirus dampened commemorations for the end of the Second World War on the continent.

Queen praises willingness to 'support one another' during coronavirus lockdown 

Queen remembers Victory in Europe Day

2 years ago
Duration 4:07
The Queen delivers an address to mark the end of the Second World War in Europe 75 years ago.

As Europe marked the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany to Allied forces in low-key fashion Friday, Queen Elizabeth brought the U.K.'s commemorations to an end with a televised broadcast to the nation at the exact time her father, King George VI, addressed the country in 1945.

The Queen, 94, remembered the sacrifices and the "joyous celebrations" on the streets that followed the end of fighting in Europe, and paid tribute to today's generation combating the coronavirus pandemic, which has meant weeks of lockdown restrictions across the continent.

"The wartime generation knew that the best way to honour those who didn't come back from the war, was to ensure that it didn't happen again," she said from Windsor Castle's white drawing room.

"The greatest tribute to their sacrifice is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side by side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all."

She said while many were limited to marking the anniversary from their homes, the streets of the country are still "filled with the love and the care that we have for each other."

Senior officers and soldiers of the Household Division stand in front of Guards Memorial in St James's Park during a two minute silence to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day in London on Friday. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

"And when I look at our country today and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognize and admire. I send my warmest good wishes to all."

The Queen was surrounded by personal mementos from the war years during her pre-recorded address. On the desk in front of her was her Auxiliary Territorial Service khaki-coloured peaked cap — part of her uniform when she undertook National Service in February 1945 and became a driver.

It was this cap that the teenage princess pulled down to shield her face as she and her younger sister, Margaret, and friends joined thousands of revelers unnoticed outside Buckingham Palace on VE-Day.

Since becoming Queen 68 years ago, Elizabeth has rarely made broadcasts to the nation except her annual Christmas Day message, but her VE-Day speech was the third such address since the coronavirus outbreak.

Songs in empty, iconic venue

Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins performed wartime classics by Dame Vera Lynn, including We'll Meet Again, recorded on Thursday for broadcast Friday on YouTube, in an empty Royal Albert Hall. It was the first concert behind closed doors in the London venue's 150-year history.

After the monarch's address, people were encouraged to go out onto their doorsteps to sing We'll Meet Again — which has added resonance as families and friends are separated by coronavirus lockdowns.

WATCH | Ceremonies to mark the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day:

Sombre ceremonies mark 75th anniversary of Allied Forces' declaration of victory in Second World War

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Duration 2:15
VE-Day celebrations were scaled back in Europe and North America because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with millions around the nation, Prince Charles held a two-minute silence outside his family's Balmoral estate, while military jets flew over the United Kingdom's four capitals, and 1940s-style tea parties plus singalongs were planned in homes.

The original plans for extensive events to herald VE-Day, when allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, were scaled back after the government banned social gatherings from March to curb the coronavirus.

The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team flies over the London Eye in London on Friday. (Marc Ward/PA via AP)

A veterans' procession and other events involving crowds were scrapped, but flags and banners still fluttered, and people stuck at home due to the lockdown enjoyed a day of special television and radio programs. On the white cliffs of Dover, a lone piper played bagpipes as wartime Spitfire planes flew by.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson invoked the "heroism of countless ordinary people" in his tribute to the millions of Britons who fought and lived through the war.

"Today we must celebrate their achievement, and we remember their sacrifice," Johnson said in an address published on Twitter. "We are a free people because of everything our veterans did — we offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered."

WATCHSpirited WW II vet recounts the end of the war:

Spirited WW II vet recounts the end of the war

2 years ago
Duration 3:59
Tommy Parkinson, a 97-year-old British army veteran, talks about his wartime experiences, including the end of World War II.

There were commemorations too across the water in France, where President Emmanuel Macron held the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin invoked the wartime allies' co-operation in telegrams to U.S. President Donald Trump, Britain's Johnson and others suggesting they should rekindle such togetherness for today's problems.

In Germany, where Nazism, the Holocaust and the devastation of war still shape identity and politics, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier laid wreaths at Berlin's Memorial to the Victims of War and Dictatorship.

That replaced a previously planned ceremony with foreign diplomats and young people, plus a range of events including an art installation documenting the last days of the war and tracing the path to democracy, which will now go online.

With files from CBC News