VE Day: Service Museums to Host Virtual Festival

Britain’s national military service museums are to bring the country together to mark VE Day 75 in a virtual celebration.

Together, they promise a treat for home audiences. During 7-9 May, the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the National Army Museum, and the RAF Museum host a free, online festival, and invite the public to “stand with your services”. Along the way, they’ll debunk some of the myths that  emerged as Britain vied for victory.

The commemorative collaboration is the first time the three museums have united together to mark the anniverary. As a result, the festival replaces each museum’s pre-lockdown ambitions. It is a classic case of ‘keep calm and carry on’, with an interesting itinerary to boot.

Celebrating victory in Europe at RAF Andover. (RAF Museum)

The virtual programme kicks off on Thursday 7 May the date of Germany’s unconditional surrender with Vying for Victory: Britain’s Navy, Army and Air Force in Myth and Memory, chaired by historian and broadcaster, James Holland in what promises to be a fascinating debate. Each museum will fight its corner, discussing the Royal Navy, Army and RAF’s roles in the war’s closing stages.

This free event will be broadcast on YouTube at 5pm on Thursday 7 May, followed by a live Q&A session on CrowdCast at 7pm.

Joint Operations, Joint Commemorations

The Second World War was the first major conflict which saw the implementation of truly joint operations and command. The three very different services had different capabilities, roles, traditions, cultures and experiences. Accordingly, to commemorate this leading historians, Matthew Sheldon (NMRN), Dr Peter Johnson (NAM) and Dr Harry Raffal (RAFM), explore how services cemented their contributions in myth, tradition and popular culture and question the accuracy of that representation via the highs and lows of this unique working relationship.

The 8 May, 1954 North Italy edition of Union Jack, the British Forces daily newspaper.
(National Army Museum)

Additionally, you’re invited to decorate your home and garden for a VE party on Friday 8 May. Then explore the Home Front through a thrifty Make Do and Mend session, or learn how to dig for victory. Throughout, poignant stories from the archives will reveal some of the experiences of women in war, such as that of Dorrie Thomas, a telegraphist who sent news of peace in Europe to British warships at sea.

Then, at 2pm, James Holland speaks to the NAM’s Dr Peter Johnston in a webinar discussing ‘Why the Allies Won’. After that, they’ll join the nation as it tunes into the BBC to hear Churchill’s famous VE Day broadcast at 3pm.

Busy Festival

Finally, the headline event on Saturday 9 May brings history to the living room, as Dr Peter Johnston hosts a webinar with historian Dr Jonathan Fennell on ‘Fighting the People’s War’. Reenactors will also share stories from wartime personnel. After that, a walk-through of HMS Alliance will provide an insight into the extraordinary self-isolation experience of submariners as the rest of Europe celebrated.

All in all, Virtual VE Day 75 promises to be a busy festival. A full programme can be found at and each event will be broadcast via the NMRN, NAM and RAFM YouTube channels, the museums’ Facebook pages, or CrowdCast. Use the hashtag #StandWithYourServices to share your pictures on social media.

Men of 4 Troop, ‘B’ Squadron, 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars by a Comet tank on 9 May, 1945. (Captain Edward Deeming/National Army Museum)

All events are free to join. Register to attend the live Q&A for Vying for Victory at Places are limited.

Instagram/Twitter: @natmuseumrn | @NAM_London | @rafmuseum

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Hashtag: #StandWithYourServices #VEDay75 #StayHomeSaveLives

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