The Handbook
The Handbook

75 years ago the world was at burning. Hundreds of thousands of men and women gave their lives between 1939 and 1945 so that tyranny would not rule across Europe. And as we hit three-quarters of a century since the end of the Second World War, it’s fair to say that their efforts have more than paid off. Britain and Europe have prospered and democracy is, for now, the gold standard of global governance.

In peace time it falls to the Imperial War Museum to remind us of the horrors of war, as well as honouring those who fought, survived and died in them, not to mention those who were left at home and the machine that supported the war efforts. In this endeavour, the museum will be honouring VE Day this year by bringing the voices of WWII to London’s public spaces.

VE Day crowds in Trafalgar Square

‘Voices of War’ aims to recreate the day that victory was declared in Britain’s war against Germany in 1945. At 11 o’clock on VE Day Winston Churchill addressed the nation to announce that war was over. What happened then was an unprompted and unprecedented display of public emotion and delight as Londoners took to the streets to celebrate the end of six hard years. And that’s what ‘Voices of War’ will seek to relive, bringing the voices of those who were there to the public places and buildings that 75 years ago were the centre of VE Day.

According to the museum’s Director General Diane Lees, ‘We want to recreate that moment, using our fascinating sound archive, to share the stories and memories of those who lived through the conflicting jubilation, hope, sadness and fear that was felt during the summer of 1945’. Practically this will happen at historic landmarks, schools and universities, stations and even supermarkets.

VE Day revellers in the Trafalgar Square fountains

The experience will run three times, on Friday 8th May (which, one for the diaries, is a special bank holiday to celebrate VE Day (note in return you’ll lose your normal bank holiday Monday)) as well as on Thursday 6th August, the day the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima and finally on Saturday 15th August, the anniversary of VJ Day, the day victory was declared by the allies over Japan.

The museum’s still looking for public spaces to join the programme, and offer registration here.