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University of Oxford

Victory – May 1945

There was enormous euphoria in Britain when peace in Europe was announced on 8 May 1945. Huge crowds assembled in Whitehall in central London where Churchill addressed them from the balcony of the Ministry of Health.

When Churchill declared ‘It is your victory’, the crowd shouted back ‘No, it is yours.’ In victory, as in all the years of the war, Churchill spoke with his customary oratorical skills, capturing the spirit of the moment, recognising the momentous significance of Germany’s defeat, the dedicated commitment of a whole nation in achieving that defeat, and the people’s right to celebrate after years of sacrifice. The cheers, public praise and mass thronging around him as he passed through Whitehall suggests that gratitude for all Churchill had done in the war would be rewarded at the next general election.

Group activity: Victory, May 1945

You can access many of the speeches made by Churchill, King George VI and President Truman as well as BBC reporters Sir Richard Dimbleby and John Snagge via the links below. Listen to the audio clips, watch a slide show, and read the texts of some of the speeches in order to gain a sense of the atmosphere of VE day in London, 8 May 1945:

  1. The end of the war in Europe’, Winston Churchill, broadcast and House of Commons (on the Churchill Centre website).
  2. This is your victory’, Winston Churchill, Ministry of Health (on the Churchill Centre website).
  3. To V-E day crowds’, Winston Churchill (on the Churchill Centre website).
  4. Audio slideshow: VE day’, BBC News website.
  5. Andrew Green, ‘Reconstructing VE day’, BBC News website.
  6. Coming home’, various archive recordings on BBC History website.

Imagine you are a British voter in 1945. Based just on what you have learnt about Churchill, would you have voted for him in a general election to be Prime Minister in the post-war era? Pay close attention to the tone of his speeches, for example, and consider what may or may not have attracted you as a voter in 1945. In the Churchill after victory poll, vote yes or no for Churchill, and in the 1945–1955 forum, give two or three supporting reasons for your vote.

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