VE Day: Teaching Kids its Meaning on the 75th Anniversary on May 8th

We’re commemorating the 75th Anniversary of VE day on May 8th 2020, though not in the way planned – but it’s still a great time to teach the kids some history

VE DAY falls on Friday, May 8th this year, and as it’s the 75th anniversary of the event, the Bank Holiday has been moved. But planned celebrations, which were to include street parties, parades and concerts have all had to be cancelled during the coronavirus lockdown – so how can we mark the event and teach our kids what it’s all about?

Many children seem to have a very sketchy knowledge of the events of the Second World War, so here are some of the main points they may need explaining.

A Little History

Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day as it’s known, is a day celebrating the formal acceptance of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces on Tuesday, May 8, 1945.

  • VE stands for Victory in Europe. It marks the day in 1945 when Germany surrendered to the Allied forces in Europe, which included Great Britain, France, and America.
  • The Second World War started in 1939 when Germany, smarting under the terms of settlement of the First World War, and led by Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland. Swift ‘blitzkreig’ (lightning war) attacks on other countries led to the Allied countries declaring war on Germany.
  • In 1940 the German airforce, the Luftwaffe, attacked Britain with bombing raids know as the ‘Blitz’ in which 60,000 people died. Children were evacuated from large towns to the countryside, and years of rationing and deprivation started. After the Battle of Britain began long years of building up resources to retake Europe.
  • After years of fighting through Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Germany had invaded France, Poland and other countries, but the Allies fought back after the D-Day landings in Normandy and eventually retook Europe.
  • Nazi leader Adolf Hitler killed himself on April 30th, and by May 8th, British Prime minister Winston Churchill was able to announce that the war in Europe was over, though some of Germany’s Axis allies fought on. The war officially ended all over the world on September 2nd, 1945.
  • It’s thought that between 75 and 80 million people died during the Second World War. They are now remembered on November 11th, Remembrance Day.
  • The young Queen Elizabeth II was praised for her leadership through the war and will broadcast a speech on Friday 8th May at 9pm, the exact time her father, King George VI, made his radio address to the nation in 1945 to announce Victory in Europe after what he called “nearly six years of suffering and peril”.

Commemorations at Home

Normally, VE Day commemorations might include street parties with food, decorations and music, and while that’s out of the question this year, organisations like the British Legion are doing what they can to help families to mark the event and to understand why it is still commemorated.

The Legion has partnered with the National Literacy Trust to create a series of free, downloadable lesson plans and assemblies aimed at Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 that can be used to explain to children of different ages and backgrounds why, how and who we Remember.

There are also British Legion resources for parents and carers, specially designed for home learning. They are aimed at 7-14 year olds and include family-friendly activities and support for you when talking to your child/children about VE Day and Remembrance.

See also: 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore raises millions for the NHS

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