The Queen has said the message of VE Day is “never give up, never despair” in a poignant national address 75 years on from the end of the war in Europe.
In a pre-recorded message, the monarch remembered the sacrifices of the Second World War generation.
She said their lasting legacy “is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side by side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all”.
The televised broadcast from Windsor Castle’s white drawing room capped a day of bank holiday sunshine, virtual celebrations, socially distant street gatherings, and stunning RAF flypasts as the Red Arrows flew over London and RAF Typhoons were seen above Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Afterwards, people were invited to open their doors and windows and take part in singalong of Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime anthem We’ll Meet Again during the BBC’s VE Day 75 show.
Despite swathes of events and swarming parades being cancelled because of the coronavirus lockdown, the UK found ways to come together to pay tribute to those who served in the era-defining global conflict.
The day began with a poignant two-minute silence led by the Prince of Wales at Balmoral and featured touching stories from the war as well as special performances.
As the day progressed, messages including We Will Meet Again and Thank You were etched in the sky in Somerset, in a UK first example of “skytyping” after the Government approved a temporary change to the law banning sky writing.
Meanwhile, veterans including 96-year-old Len Gibbon and other onlookers cheered as a lone Spitfire soared over the Care for Veterans care home in Worthing, West Sussex.
The wartime fighter plane then looped over Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead and 103-year-old Dame Vera’s home in Ditchling, East Sussex.
Elsewhere, NHS fundraising champion Captain Tom Moore’s local pub led a nationwide toast in honour of those who served in the Second World War.
Publican Karl Clark stood next to a flag bearing the words “lest we forget” and paid tribute to the fallen at 3pm – when Sir Winston Churchill announced the surrender of Nazi Germany three-quarters of a century ago.
He said: “From The Bell in Marston Moretaine, we would like to thank those who gave so much.”
In an interview broadcast on the Royal British Legion’s (RBL) live stream, wartime evacuee Dorothy Pettican Runnicles bonded with the Princess Royal over the difficulties of technology.
Ms Pettican Runnicles said she volunteered for service aged 17 and a half because “it was the thing to do”.
She told Anne about her time with the Fleet Air Arm in the West Country, saying: “It challenged me, it stretched me, I learnt about death.”
Dame Joan Collins described on the live stream programme how her London home was destroyed in an air raid when she was a child.
Tenor Alfie Boe entertained those watching by singing.
Dame Joan said: “We got bombed out and I remember going to our home in Maida Vale and seeing that the whole flat was gone.
“‘Oh, where’s my toys?’ I said to my mother. ‘Well, we’ll have to buy you some more,’ said my father toughly.”
In a special message broadcast on the RBL live stream on Friday morning, Dame Vera gave her thanks to the wartime generation.
The message, read by actress Lesley Sharp, said: “As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, what a perfect opportunity for me to say thank you to everyone who did their bit to help us fight for freedom.”
At a care home in Bedale, North Yorkshire, a couple who have been married for 79 years recalled VE Day in 1945.
Les Kelly, 100, and his wife Doris, 99, met in school and have never been apart other than when he served in Europe in the Second World War.
Mr Kelly said: “When I left for war, I felt the same as any lad really, I had my own feelings but I had a job to do.
“I was based in Belsen, the town in Germany, and finding out the war had ended was one of the nicest days I’ve known.”