All the ways to mark VE Day in Norfolk and Waveney this year
- Credit: Archant
While the traditional array of parades, parties and services will not be going ahead this year amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, communities are still being encouraged to get involved with VE day celebrations.
VE Day, May 8, celebrates the moment Nazi forces laid down their weapons towards the end of the Second World War.
The day itself in 1945 saw prime minister Winston Churchill make a radio announcement at 3pm to tell the nation that the war in Europe had come to an end.
Here’s what you can do to mark the occasion while staying safe in lockdown.
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Harleston is among the towns leading the charge with Friday’s celebrations, having seen its scheduled extravaganza of festivities cancelled.
Organisations including Redenhall with Harleston Town Council, Harleston’s Future and Harleston’s Kindness Help Hub are urging everyone to participate in the VE Day ‘Stay at Home Party’ alongside their neighbours.
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The town’s Royal British Legion branch is ensuring all military veterans are aware of the festivities, while the town crier will be making his voice heard from isolation.
Picnics are being offered to veterans and the vulnerable, with fruit donated by Budgens and other items by The Swan Hotel.
The aforementioned groups are also encouraging families to join in with a singalong rendition of Dame Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ at 3pm, before a toast to the end of the war at 7pm.
Meanwhile, Revd Matthew Jackson - rector at St Mary’s Attleborough - is marking VE Day by walking a marathon in the rectory garden to raise money for Christian Aid and Help for Heroes.
His £1,000 target has already been reached, but the task will not be complete until Revd Jackson has trekked 270 laps of the garden.
Over in south west Norfolk, haulage company Chris Riches Transport will continue spreading cheer in Thetford by driving their decorated, musical lorries around the town from 1pm to 6pm.
And across the border, in Brandon, the Royal British Legion is encouraging people to join in with the stay at home street party and decorate their homes red, white and blue.
Graham Minshull, chairman of South Norfolk Council, added: “We are encouraging everyone to stay safe and commemorate VE Day from their own home using the fantastic resources available from the VE Day website.
“We are also asking everyone to participate in the ‘Nation’s Toast’ at 3pm to say thank you to all those who gave so much during the Second World War. It doesn’t matter if it’s a glass of wine or a cup of tea - it all counts.”
While all traditional VE Day events have been postponed, it is hoped they may instead take place in August around VJ Day.
Mundesley Parish Council is hosting three days of online celebrations from Friday to Sunday.
This will include the ‘virtual’ unveiling of the village’s new Second World War memorial through a live feed on the council’s Facebook page on Sunday.
The council has put together a list of ways people can contribute, with photos to be shared via social media. These include: ‘Decorate your house and send in a picture’, ‘Show us how to bake a cake from ration ingredients’, and ‘dance a conga with your family or on your own’.
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Cromer Town Council had grand plans to mark the 75th anniversary, including a ‘weeping window’ ceramic poppy display at the parish church and a Spitfire flypast. These events have now been postponed to May next year and there will instead be a low-key, socially distanced laying of a wreath at the war memorial next to the church.
Broadland District Council is urging people to get creative by designing their own VE Day bunting and putting messages on them of what they are thankful for. Visit broadland.gov.uk and search for ‘VE Day Bunting’ to download a template.
Over in Burnham Market, No. Twenty9 restaurant is offering hampers for ‘stay at home street parties’ or ‘take away tea parties’, with items including bread, cheese, scotch eggs and victoria sponge cakes for £15 per person. Call 01328 738498 for more.
Solo buglers and trumpeters have been encouraged to play the Last Post at 2.55pm on Friday, from the safety of their homes.
There will also be a national ‘toast to the heroes of the Second World War’ at 3pm, where people are encouraged to raise a glass and say “To those who gave so much, we thank you”. Other ideas include ‘turn your dog into a soldier or a land girl’, and ‘take the salute during a model aircraft fly-past’.
West Norfolk Council and Stories of Lynn are working with local organisations to offer a number of activities to get people involved.
This includes online 1940s dance classes for adults and children, an ARP Warden plane spotting quiz, making table decorations from recycled materials, making paper hats, bunting and flags and baking a 1940’s recipe.
True’s Yard have produced a gallery of archive images from the time, and people can tune into Zoom for a talk about Norfolk airfields.
A video of food historian Kathy Hipperson cooking the winning 1940’s recipe will be made available for people to cook along with.
King’s Lynn Festival have provided a film clip of Dame Myra Hess.
A two hour disco hosted by Festival Too chairman Mark Standford will take place at 7.30pm.
Geoff Hipperson, mayor of west Norfolk, will be making virtual visits to people’s homes throughout the day, with a prize on offer for the best decorated house or garden.
The winner will be invited for a special tea in the town hall when restrictions are lifted.
The mayor is also asking people to invite him to their virtual party, which he can join via Facetime of Whatsapp video.
To invite him, go to west-norfolk.gov.uk, search ‘invite the mayor’ and complete the online form.
Downham Market Town council is backing the social distancing stay at home street party celebrations.
A statement on their website, said: “Sadly the town’s plans for celebrating VE Day 75 have had to be postponed but there is a way to still celebrate at home whilst observing all the government advice about staying safe.
“Let’s mark the anniversary, recognise the spirit of people like Captain Tom Moore, and show our gratitude to all those servicemen and women who served to protect our country.”
Links to videos, galleries, talks, the disco and activities are available on storiesoflynn.co.uk/VEDay75 and the Stories of Lynn social media channels @storiesoflynn on Twitter and Facebook.
At 11am the Royal British Legion is leading a national moment of remembrance with a two minute silence to honour the service and sacrifice of the second world war generation.
Then at 3pm, Great Yarmouth mayor Michael Jeal rallying residents to join him in the Nation’s Toast by raising a glass at their front doors and saying “To those who gave so much, we thank you.”
In Ormesby St Margaret the village green was set to host a big event with stalls and afternoon tea which has now been put off to a time when people are allowed to gather again.
Meanwhile Gorleston’s Bruno Peek, the royal pageantmaster, has expressed his disappointment at having to make “the best of a bad job.”
However, a fleet of five planes sponsored by Mr Peek will take to the skies above Cambridge on Friday to write a poignant tribute ‘To those that gave so much we thank you.”
Mr Peek said: “It will look amazing and will be a real, unique tribute to the millions at home and abroad that gave so much to ensure we all share and enjoy the freedom we have today.”
Scratby Bakery has sold out of its special VE Day boxes, providing a traditional picnic-style afternoon tea.
And Margo’s Lounge in Bells Road, Gorleston, is selling range of time-warp favourites from its community window on Thursday and Friday.
In Yarmouth heritage guides will be delivering a virtual second world war walk via its Facebook page.
And Jack Clarke, who sings big band jazz numbers, will perform a VE day concert for the elderly at The Claremont in Caister, with social distancing meaning he will sing outside to the residents inside.
Lowestoft Town Council had planned a large community event in Sparrows Nest, which would have featured the full Norwich Pipe Band, military band, swing band and a Spitfire flypast as people joined together to commemorate 75 years since the guns fell silent at the end of the war in Europe.
On the Lowestoft Town Council Facebook page and on YouTube at 10.55am you can watch the Mayor of Lowestoft, Alice Taylor, lead the commemorations before two minutes’ silence is observed with the Last Post being played by bugler Gemma Eglington.
Members and supporters of the RAF Association, Beccles and Southwold area will also be toasting those who gave their lives in the Second World War at 3pm on Friday.
In Pebble Close, Lowestoft a VE street party is being held on Friday, May 8 from 11am to 2pm. Neighbours will be uniting for a picnic lunch street party complete with bingo, wartime music and plenty of decorations.
A spokesman for the organisers said: “We are a small cul-de-sac with a mixture of residents who are elderly, young families, key workers and some who are socially distancing for 12 weeks.”
Residents at Harleston House, a specialist dementia care home in Lowestoft, will be opening their windows at 8pm on Friday to join Dame Vera Lynn in singing ‘We’ll Meet Again.’
The home also plans to hold an indoor street party so all residents can help celebrate the 75th VE Day anniversary.
An extensive range of events had also been planned in Bungay – including a planned fly-past of a Second World War Hurricane – but these have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At 3pm on Friday people in Bungay are instead being urged to join in with the nation’s toast. There will then be a live Facebook event with the Town Reeve and Town Mayor also making a toast, accompanied by the official VE 75 years music.
The Earsham Street cafe has also published a recipe for Wartime Shortbread.
If you are marking this special occasion, or you’re planning to hold a street party or celebration in Waveney, send us your photos and details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Churches are leading the way for VE day celebrations across Norwich with a host of activities - including creation of a 40m-long bunting.
While the end of the Second World War is normally celebrated by a raft of public events and street parties, people, churches and businesses have come up with innovative ideas to mark the 75th anniversary during lockdown.
Bunting stretching 40m will decorate the front of St Thomas Church on Earlham Road, featuring messages of remembrance and hope from the community.
Nik Vitkovitch, a member of the church, said: “Of course the sacrifices many are making now by staying in while our country fights coronavirus doesn’t compare to the ultimate sacrifice made by many in the war. VE day reminds of how our country came together then, just as we must continue to come together now. And we choose to come together in hope.”
Norwich Cathedral has planned a poignant digital service, which will published on their YouTube channel on Sunday.
It will include a reading from General the Lord Dannatt, a former head of the British Army, who will be joined by youngsters to lead the act of rededication.
Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, said: “Many people, especially those who lived through the Second World War and those who fought for their country, will be very disappointed that the original plans made to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VE Day have had to be cancelled.
“However, this does not mean that we can’t remember the incredible sacrifices made by that generation of amazing people, which have given freedom to those of us born in subsequent years.”
In Costessey, town councillor and carer Gary Blundell has rallied round the community to celebrate VE day with scarecrows in front gardens or windows.
The 44-year-old came up with the idea, which he posted on a local Facebook group, after he saw people in other parts of England had displayed scarecrows to support NHS workers.
Mr Blundell said: “I’ve already had a few pictures sent to me of scarecrows. At the moment, you’ve got to think outside the box but the main idea is to bring people together.”
One woman bakery Hannah Davidson-Mercer, who runs The Courtyard Cakery, has worked on VE day orders for stay-at-home picnics including sweet boxes.
She has also designed a UK and American themed VE day cake for one customer, which features both flags and rosettes.
She said: “It is a milestone and although people are stuck inside, they still want to find ways to celebrate.”