Scotsman 200: Relief as peace comes to Europe

Crowds gather to rejoice at the end of the war on VE Day. Picture: Keystone/Getty Images

Crowds gather to rejoice at the end of the war on VE Day. Picture: Keystone/Getty Images

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To mark the 200th anniversary of The Scotsman, we are dipping into our archives to bring you a selection of some of the biggest stories of the last two centuries. This month we have recalled the two world wars, reproducing The Scotsman’s original coverage of many of the wartime events which directly touched Scotland. Today we conclude with Victory in Europe. After Hitler’s suicide on 30 April, 1945, it would not be long before Germany surrendered. Tuesday 8 May, 1945 was to be the official day of celebration but the war-weary British, exhausted after years of austerity and rationing, could not wait to start rejoicing. The relief at hearing that the war was finally over was such that celebrations, for the most part, prevailed, but there were many who still mourned the loss of husbands, wives, sweethearts, parents, children and friends. Up and down the country, people turned on the wireless to hear the news that the war was over. Bunting and banners were hung, shops displayed rosettes and there was dancing in the streets.

Wednesday, May 9, 1945

Peace in Europe

One minute after midnight hostilities in Europe officially ended. Any Germany troops who continued to resist thereafter would, Mr Churchill intimated in his broadcast to the nation announcing the termination of the war, be treated as brigands and be hunted down by the forces of the United Nations. Germany’s defeat is total. There can be no doubt about that this time. Count von Krosigk, the German Foreign Minister, has himself referred to the “collapse of all physical and material forces.” Once more Britain has saved herself by her exertions, and Europe by her example. While giving thanks to God for a great deliverance, we should, in the words of His Majesty the King in his broadcast to his peoples last night, remember first those who will never come back, and then the living who have brought victory. To the dead we owe it to strive for the better world and lasting peace for which they died. With the living we must go forward to that restoration throughout the world of freedom and respect for law and human personality without which this tremendous struggle will have been in vain. It was, as His Majesty said, the knowledge that in defending ourselves we were defending the world’s liberties, as well as the realisation that our freedom, independence, and national existence were at stake, that upheld us, and it is in the conviction that a stricken world looks to us to lead it back to peace and sanity that we must now shoulder other, though less heavy, burdens.

That the task before us will be easy, no one imagines. Mr Churchill yesterday declared that it would require all our strength and resources, and President Truman put the matter in a nutshell when he said that the watchword for the coming months was “work, work, work.” Both statesmen were thinking chiefly of the war against Japan, which in the hour of victory in Europe we must not forget will call for great exertions by this country, as well as by the United States, before it is brought to a successful conclusion. Japan still holds large portions of Eastern Asia, and there can be no world-wide peace and security until she, too, surrenders unconditionally and pays the just penalty for the injuries and detestable cruelties of which she is guilty. How long she will continue to resist now that, as Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek said yesterday, the whole stupendous weight of humanity is about to come down on her, remains to be seen. Her Foreign Minister’s references to the desertion of Japan by Italy and Germany betray an uneasy state of mind. Nevertheless, we must reckon on her fighting to the bitter end.

Field-Marshal Smuts, speaking at San Francisco yesterday, appealed to the Allied nations assembled there not to destroy the present victory by lapsing into isolationism or selfish living. Here in Britain, rejoicing, as we do, in the liberation of the last remaining countries held captive by Nazi Germany, and not least in the deliverance of our own fair Channel Islands, we pause for relaxation after our long period of toil but to renew our strength for the immense task of restoring Europe as well as of defeating Japan. At San Francisco yesterday Mr Mackenzie King, the Canadian Prime Minister, spoke of the suffering to be relieved and the devastation to be repaired in the liberated countries. With defeated Germany as well to be saved from chaos, our burden is not such as to admit of the slightest slackening. We must strive on if the return of peace to Europe is to be anything but a name.

HOW EDINBURGH SPENT VE DAY, Merry-making in the Streets

Edinburgh’s official recognition of the ending of the war in Europe took the form of a short meeting of the Town Council in the City Chambers, at which Lord Provost J.S. Falconer paid a tribute to the endurance of the British people and to the part played by Scottish men and women in the war.

The meeting was followed by a brief ceremony at the Mercat Cross, at which the Dean of the Thistle read the 76th Psalm, which formed part of a service held in the same place in 1588, as a thanksgiving for the defeat of the Armada.

Unofficially, the end of the European War was celebrated in a very different way. Wet weather had not appreciably affected the spirits of the thousands of Service men and women, factory workers, shop girls and others who paraded the streets. In the afternoon crowds began to gather outside the American Red Cross Service Club and the Register House, and additional police had to be called to regulate the crowd outside the Club and to prevent accidents in the street. Thousands of young people had gathered outside, and, from the balcony and windows, chewing gum and chocolate were showered upon them. Hats were tossed into the street and a marine on the balcony, constituting himself conductor, led community singing. “Roll Out the Barrel,” “The Yanks are Coming,” “Tipperary,” and “Land of Hope and Glory” were among the choices. A Red Flag waved from the balcony was cheered. In American fashion, torn-up paper fluttered from the windows down to the street.

WELLINGTON’S STATUE

The focal point at the Register House was Wellington’s statue, which was climbed by several soldiers and sailors. For a time a British soldier stood perilously balanced on the mane of the horse and from this height tried to catch caps which were thrown to him. He succeeded in trying on several. The climbers drew a large crowd, which gathered on the steps of the Register House and on the pavement below.

Flags were flown from a large number of buildings, public and private. The Union Jack predominated, but from a number of windows hung the Scottish Standard, the Stars and Stripes, the Red Flag of the Russians with its golden sickle, the French, Belgian, and other national flags. Strings of pennants floated on the air, and window sills and balconies were decked with bunting. It is hoped that these decorations will be kept in place for the visit of the King and Queen next week.

CROWDED GLASGOW STREETS

Despite the liveliness of the evening hours, Glasgow commenced its VE celebrations quietly. Commercial and business establishments were closed, most shops and … firms continued “business as usual.” Among industrial concerns, some managements recognised the day as a holiday, but many workers had not heard the B.B.C. late announcements, and, with their morning papers arriving after they had left for work, they turned up, complete with dinner “pieces,” to find closed gates. Saturday’s scenes of bread queues were repeated. There was uncertainty with regard to the closing of bakers’ butchers’, and other food shops with the result that housewives were determined to lay in whatever foodstuffs they could procure. Many bakers were sold out by noon.

There was similar confusion in relation to restaurants and tearooms. Many remained open, and while the lunch hour was … busier than usual, the crowds in the … of the city had increased to such an extent by the late afternoon that the demand for teas was similar to that of International Day at Hampden.

Victory Night in flag-draped Glasgow should long be remembered by the many who visited the heart of the city late in the evening for the spontaneous display of gaiety by the vast crowds in the street. For a brief spell the populace were out to cheer and make merry by way of expressing thanks for a great military victory and the relief of a heavy burden of anxiety.

GEORGE SQUARE A FOCAL POINT

George Square was the focal point of the evening’s demonstration of jubilation, and from eight o’clock onwards the spacious area became a seething mass of humanity. There was a constant hum of noise and singing, and the corps of mounted policemen had an exacting job in keeping the thoroughfares free from tram traffic. The mild, bright weather was ideal for the occasion.

Throughout the evening, bonfires were lit in all districts – in streets and in open spaces.

Many Church services were held in the city. At the service in the Cathedral … a glowing tribute to the valour of British youth was paid by the Rev. Dr. A. Neville Davidson, in his address.

EVENING ILLUMINATIONS

The carnival spirit was heightened in the evening when the illuminations were switched on at 10.35 at George Square. Over 1000 green, red, yellow, white and blue fairy lights weaved a colourful pattern among the trees and on some of the monuments, while the façade of the City Chambers had an imposing appearance under the brilliant glare of six batteries of flood-lamps arranged on either side of the Cenotaph. Simultaneously, the University buildings on Gilmorehill were floodlit. The street standard lights, which for economy reasons had not operated since the beginning of this month, were turned on at 10.30.

The full text of this edited extract can be found at The Scotsman Digital Archive

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