Portsmouth residents called to celebrate VE Day at home to honour nation's Second World War heroes
FAMILIES locked down at home are today being called to show their patriotic pride like never before and mark the heroism and determination of Britain’s wartime generation.
In a special appeal, The News is asking readers to unite and decorate their homes in the red, white and blue of the Union Flag in honour of the 75th anniversary of VE Day next week.
The spectacle, on Friday, May 8, will commemorate the surrender of Nazi Germany in Europe during the Second World War.
But the coronavirus crisis scuppered plans to make this year’s anniversary the biggest to date, with marches and street parties either cancelled or postponed.
Now, people are being urged to celebrate the occasion by having parties in their homes and decorating their properties with homemade bunting.
Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said: ‘Portsmouth is famous for its indomitable spirit and I know we will once again rise to the challenge.
‘Living through this crisis will be the biggest challenge many of us will ever face. But it is nothing compared to the courage, determination and resolve needed by those who lived through the war, when Portsmouth was bombed so ruthlessly.
‘We didn’t break then and I know we won’t break now - let’s unite and show the world why the British spirit truly is unbeatable.’
The effort has received the backing from the area’s politicians, with Caroline Dinenage,Gosport MP, saying: ‘As our country faces arguably the greatest threat since the Second World War, it’s fitting that we come together to celebrate our proud history and all those whose sacrifice delivered our freedoms.’
The appeal comes as chiefs from armed forces charity the Royal British Legion today revealed a new programme to help families mark the spectacle from their homes.
Activities include a VE Day 75 livestream, national moments of remembrance and thanksgiving, and activity packs for individuals and families.
While at 11am people are being urged to join a national two-minute silence.
Bob Gamble, assistant director of commemorative events at the legion, said there were ‘many parallels’ between the struggle the nation faces now and those during the war.
‘As we face some of the most challenging times since the Second World War, now more than ever it is important to unite in recognition of people’s service to the nation, just as communities did 75 years ago,’ he said.
Communities are already doing their bit, with neighbourhoods already planning at-home street parties.
Nurse Lisa Alderton, who works at Chichester’s St Richard’s Hospital treating Covid-19 patients, is helping organise a ‘stay-at-home’ party street party in Woodfield Avenue, Farlington.
The 36-year-old mum of two said: ‘I just wanted to bring the community together and to boost the morale of people stuck indoors.’
Ashley Billinghurst is helping stage a similar celebration in Elmhurst Road and Belvoir Close, in Fareham, with more than 150 families expected to join the fun from the safety of their homes.
The 32-year-old, who works at Cams Hill School, said: ‘We have got a great community here but at the moment, because people can’t see each other, community spirit has become even more important.’
Elsewhere, good Samaritans are rallying to help brighten the lives of older residents in care homes during VE Day.
Volunteers from Acts of Kindness Solent have united with the Co-op in a bid to provide cream tea gift parcels and decorations for more than a dozen care homes across Gosport and Fareham.
Sue Stokes, of Swanwick, is supporting the drive and appealing for others to donate by visiting the ‘We will meet again virtual VE Day cream tea celebration 2020’ event page on Facebook.
She added: ‘These people are heroes. They were the superheroes from our past and should never be forgotten.’
Among the other tributes includes a national virtual parade, which features a number of standard-bearers from the Portsmouth area.
A nationwide toast will also be taking place at 3pm, with Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, urging residents to say: ‘To those who gave so much, we thank you’.
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP and Labour’s shadow armed forces minister, added VE Day was critically important.
‘Not only does it mark the end of the most tyrannical regime the world has ever seen, it is also a reminder that many of the hard fought for freedoms secured by the brave troops 75 years ago are the ones we find ourselves without today due to Covid-19,’ he said.
‘As we face a national emergency, we must look back and draw inspiration from those who stood up to even greater hardship before us.
Havant MP Alan Mak is offering about 50 free Union Flags to constituents if they contact him by Tuesday via alanmak.org/flag.