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Boris Johnson pays tribute to ‘greatest generation’ as Britain marks VE day amid coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the "greatest generation" in his message

3 min read

Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the “greatest generation” as Britain prepares to mark 75 years since VE day amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter to veterans of the Second World War, the Prime Minister said the world today would be “be unrecognisable and safe only for oppressors” without the efforts over those who prevailed over Nazi Germany.

And he told those whose “loved ones may be unable to visit in person“ during the current pandemic that they would “always be remembered”.

VE day - or ‘Victory in Europe Day’ - marks the day when fighting against Hitler’s Germany ended in Europe.

Mr Johnson said: “Those of us born after 1945 are acutely conscious of the debt we owe. Without your trial and sacrifice, many of us would not be here at all; if we were, we would surely not be free. To us, you are quite simply the greatest generation of Britons who ever lived.

“Our celebration of the anniversary of victory might give the impression that Hitler’s downfall was somehow inevitable. You know better.

"You will remember moments of crisis, even desperation, as our country endured setback, defeat and grievous loss. What made the difference was your valour, fortitude and quiet yet invincible courage.”

And he added: “On this anniversary we are engaged in a new struggle against the coronavirus which demands the same spirit of national endeavour that you exemplified 75 years ago. 

“We cannot pay our tribute with the parades and street celebrations we enjoyed in the past; your loved ones may be unable to visit in person. But please allow us, your proud compatriots, to be the first to offer our gratitude, our heartfelt thanks and our solemn pledge: you will always be remembered.”

"Today we commemorate those who stood together for a better future" - Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

In his own video message to VE day veterans, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praised those who had fought for “our shared values; values of freedom, of democracy, of peace and of tolerance” - as well as those who “rebuild and renewed our country after the war” by building the NHS and the welfare state.

While all public gatherings to mark VE Day have been cancelled because of social distancing measures, a series of events is still planned to mark the end of fighting, including an address by the Queen, socially-distanced wreath laying and a string of indoor tea parties in British households.

Sir Keir said: “In normal times we would be paying tribute to their achievements in street parties, in gatherings and events at the Cenotaph. This year we can't do that. This year we can't be together.

“But tonight we'll hear from the Queen at the exact same time, as in 1945, her father King George spoke to the nation from a bomb-scarred Buckingham Palace.

“He talked about what kept our country going during that crisis; the recognition that our cause wasn't the cause of one nation alone and that we succeeded because we stood together.”

The Labour leader added: “Today we commemorate those who stood together for a better future. We remember their service, and also their sacrifice.”

Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey meanwhile said of the country’s veterans: “We cannot thank them enough for what they are doing at home and around the world today, defending freedom.”

He added: "We must never grow complacent or be fooled into thinking that war is impossible.

"This anniversary we must honour the sacrifices made and recommit to ensuring that international cooperation and hard-won peace across Europe is protected so that we may never suffer the death and destruction of World War II again."

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