Harborough people urged to observe a poignant two-minute silence on VE Day this Friday (May 8)

Backed by Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, they have made the emotive call as the nation prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe in the Second World War

By Red Williams
Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 4:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 4:31 pm
The nation is preparing to commemorate the 75thanniversary of Victory in Europe in the Second World War after Nazi Germany surrendered.
The nation is preparing to commemorate the 75thanniversary of Victory in Europe in the Second World War after Nazi Germany surrendered.

Royal British Legion chiefs are urging people across Harborough to observe a poignant two-minute silence at 11am on VE75 Day on Friday May 8.

Backed by Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, they have made the emotive call as the nation prepares to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe in the Second World War after Nazi Germany surrendered.

The United Kingdom lost a staggering 382,600 military dead – as well as 370,000 injured - and a further 67,100 civilians killed by enemy bombing during the devastating six-year conflict.

Now Stewart Harrison, 72, chairman of the Market Harborough branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL), has told the Harborough Mail: “I am totally behind the call to stage a two-minute silence right across Harborough district.

“It was such a momentous time for everybody after the biggest war of all time - involving the lives of millions of men, women and children.

“Many poor people had a terrible time – and this horrific war changed their lives for ever.”

The former army and RAF veteran added: “It's only right we should have a two-minute silence at 11am on VE75 Day on Friday.

“We should remember the 50 million-plus people across the globe who did not return.

“We should also bow our heads to salute the families who lost their loved ones – their husbands, boyfriends, sweethearts, dads, sons and brothers who never came home.

“And we should remember, too, the vast number of people who continued working on the Home Front brilliantly supporting those fighting at the Front.”

Stewart, who lives in Harborough but is currently locked down in Australia, also hailed British servicemen who continued to fight the Japanese until they surrendered in August 1945.

“We should also remember our heroic soldiers, sailors and airmen who carried on fighting on the Japanese front as everyone at home was celebrating victory in Europe,” said the proud ex-serviceman, talking to the Mail from Perth, 10,000 miles away.

“They were not called the Forgotten Army for nothing.

“So we should pay our due respects to those brave men when we mark 75 years since VJ Day – Victory over Japan – in August.”

Stewart’s emotion-charged plea to people was reinforced by the Rev John Morley, 76, president of Harborough RBL.

John told the Mail: “It’s very sad that we cannot hail VE75 Day in a fitting fashion as we were going to do because of the coronavirus lockdown.

“The current crisis makes that impossible – and rightly so.

“It’s a shame but we should all stage two minutes of silence throughout Harborough at 11am on Friday.”

The retired RAF Wing Commander added: “We should all observe this short but powerful period of reflection to pay our respects to all those who fell in the Second World War.

“The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

“But then World War Two came along – and it was even bigger and more terrible.

“I was two when the war ended and grew up in Kenilworth not far from Coventry where the city suffered horrific bombing devastation.

“Thousands of civilians, as well as servicemen, were killed fighting Germany in the last war and we have to pay the best tribute we can to all our casualties.”

John said VE Day on May 8 should now be commemorated every year.

“I’d turn it into an annual bank holiday, as we are doing this year, and mark it annually.

“Remembrance Sunday in November is particularly identified with the Great War,” said the veteran priest.

“So we should remember our people who were killed and injured in the Second World War on VE Day.”

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said: “It’s an excellent idea to stage a two-minute silence at 11am on Friday.

“I feel so sorry for everyone who put so much time and effort in to setting up special events for VE75 Day.

“First and foremost Harborough council but other places such as the Railway pub in Kibworth were planning something big.

“But we should all unite across Harborough to be silent and salute those who gave their lives so that we can live in freedom today.”

Harborough had been gearing up in style to celebrate the landmark event to showcase three quarters of a century since Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared Victory in Europe on May 8, 1945.

Working with Harborough District Council, the Harborough at War team was set to stage a celebratory VE75 event in Market Harborough town centre.

The Square was going to be packed with a fantastic range of food and drink stalls, a stage and 1940s wartime entertainment with a street party feel until the country was hit by a terrifying new enemy – the coronavirus.