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Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor
The Queen will lead the nation in remembering victory over Nazi Germany today when she lights the first of more than 200 beacons around the UK to mark the anniversary of VE Day.
Seventy years after the country broke out in jubilant celebration at the end of the Second World War, Britons will again take to the streets to commemorate their finest hour.
Three days of festivities are being held to mark the anniversary, seven decades after the announcement that Germany had offered the unconditional surrender to the Allies that brought about the end of the war in Europe.
People up and down the land are being encouraged to get involved in the celebrations by dressing up in clothing evoking the era, holding street parties and even enjoying a celebratory “kiss for VE Day”.
And on each night of the festivities, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square will be lit with V-shaped lights, mirroring the floodlights that bathed the buildings following victory 70 years ago.
The commemorations start today with a service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall to mark the anniversary of VE Day and pay tribute to the millions who lost their lives in the six-year conflict.
More than 100 veterans will watch as the Duke of York, representing the Queen, joins politicians and military leaders to lay wreaths.
At 3pm – the moment Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast the news of the German surrender to the nation – artillery guns will ring out at the Tower of London and Wellington Barracks Parade Square, starting a national two-minute silence.
An excerpt from Churchill’s famous speech will also be read by his great-grandson, Randolph Churchill.
The service, which will include readings, hymns and a blessing, will be led by the Bishop to the Armed Forces the Right Reverend Nigel Stock, with music from the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields.
This evening, a chain of up to 250 beacons will be lit across the UK as “flames of peace”, the chain of light stretching from the Tower of London to Blackpool Tower and the community of Unst, the most northerly populated island in the British Isles, as well as to Britain’s Overseas Territories.
Seventy years after she sneaked out of Buckingham Palace to dance through London’s Ritz Hotel with people celebrating the end of the war, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, will light the first beacon at the top of the Long Walk at Windsor Castle at 9.30pm, before others are lit across the land minutes later.
The celebrations will continue over the weekend, starting with a “thunderclap” of noise at 11am tomorrow, when church and cathedral bells throughout the country ring out in celebration.
The coastguard and the Port of London Authority are also being asked to make their own noise to replicate the thunderous sounds of celebration 70 years ago.
In the evening, DJ Chris Evans will host a Royal British Legion concert at Horse Guards Parade in London.
Broadcast on BBC 1 and Radio 2, the 1940s-themed “Party to Remember” will see performances from stars including Alfie Boe, Pixie Lott, Staus Quo, Katherine Jenkins and Dad’s Army star Ian Lavender.
On Sunday, around 1,000 veterans and their families will join members of the Royal Family, politicians, members of the Armed Forces and representatives of the Allied nations and Commonwealth countries that fought alongside Britain for a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.
A parade of bands, veterans and current servicemen and women will then make their way from the abbey along Whitehall – past the balcony where Churchill made a historic speech before vast crowds – before a reception for veterans in St James’s Park hosted by the Legion, where there will also be vehicles from the 1940s.
The public can watch the ceremony at the abbey from Horse Guard Parade, where they will also be able to see the veterans parade and the changing of The Queen’s Life Guard by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.
In the afternoon, there will be a fly-past over central London by the Red Arrows, following a fly-by of aircraft that helped Britain and her Allies win the war – the Lancaster bomber and Spitfire and Hurricane fighters.
Trafalgar Square will also be decked out with bunting and the ensigns of each of the Armed Forces on Sunday, and the Band of the Grenadier Guards will perform music from the era opposite Nelson’s Column.
Throughout the weekend, the square will host an exhibition of historic photos taken on VE Day, including pictures of ecstatic crowds at Piccadilly Circus and servicemen and their girlfriends in Trafalgar Square’s fountains.
The images will also be displayed at City Hall until June 5.
Announcing the celebrations earlier this year, First Secretary of State William Hague said they would pay “fitting tribute” to those who did so much to defend the country and ensure victory in Europe.
Published: Friday 8th May 2015 by The News Editor