[This post is a slightly edited version of one first published on the Christian Values in Education (CViE) blog.]
As tomorrow we commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day, the ending of hostilities in Europe during WWII on May 8th 1945, it is interesting to read and/or hear recordings of the speeches made at the time and to see how national leaders acknowledged the goodness of almighty God in giving victory to the allies. It’ll be interesting to see how much this aspect features in the 75th-anniversary celebrations.
We also include below an editorial from the June 1945 Gospel Standard written by JH Gosden which makes sober reading in the light of the intervening 75 years.
King George VI
King George VI in his broadcast to the British Empire acknowledges the Hand of Almighty God “for a great deliverance”. King George VI, in the purposes of the Lord, was raised up to be King, albeit a role that he had not expected, following the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1937. King George VI, amongst many other honourable things, is remembered for calling the country to prayer the time of Dunkirk and the nation witnessed a remarkable answer to these prayers which is remembered as The Miracle of Dunkirk. Between 27th May and 4th June 1940, nearly 700 ships brought over 338,000 people back to Britain, including more than 100,000 soldiers of the French Army. Later in 1940, there was the Battle of Britain and the bringing the threatened invasion of England to nothing.
It is interesting to hear how King George was in general able to overcome the severe stammer with which he suffered. Sadly, King George died at the early age of 56 years on February 6, 1952.
Winston Churchill announced the ending of war in Europe and the speech (as we understand it) was repeated to the House of Commons. After the speech to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister stated
“I recollect well at the end of the last war, more than a quarter of a century ago, that the House, when it heard the long list of the surrender terms, the armistice terms, which had been imposed upon the Germans, did not feel inclined for debate or business, but desired to offer thanks to Almighty God, to the Great Power which seems to shape and design the fortunes of nations and the destiny of man; and I therefore beg, Sir, with your permission to move: That this House do now attend at the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster, to give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination”.
The above newsreel video is a black-and-white film highlighting the events and activities that took place on V E Day in London. The beginning of the video is a recording of Prime Minister Churchill’s announcement of the end of hostilities and then footage of Members of Parliament walking to the church of St. Margaret, Westminster. There is also at the end of the video at 7:55 footage of the King actually giving his speech to the Empire at 9 o’clock in the evening.
At this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, what a mercy it would be, if the Lord was to work in the hearts of this nation and bring us to call upon him for deliverance and that there were services of thanksgiving for answers to our prayers.
President Harry Truman
Also, it must be remembered that the war in the Far East was still underway and the Allied forces were fighting against the Japanese. In the United States of America, the President for the majority of WWII, Franklin D Roosevelt (who was noted for his Christian faith) had passed away on April 12 1945. Harry S Truman then became President.
In the above video when President Truman announces the surrender of Germany he gives thanks to the “Providence that has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity and into light”.
Then in the proclamation made to citizens of the USA, he again acknowledged the hand of God in granting the cessation of hostilities in Europe and called for a day of prayer on Sunday, 13 May 1945.
JH Gosden – Gospel Standard Editorial
JH Gosden who was the Editor of the Gospel Standard in 1945 and had seen the horrors of the battlefield in WW1 wrote a very poignant editorial in June 1945 pointing out “The term war henceforth bears a new significance: no longer army against army, but mighty forces of destruction rained on populations. Territorial boundaries cease to exist: even the elementary warning of sound being eliminated by the velocity of gigantic missiles. The entire world is rendered insecure by man’s inventions: the terrible fruit of human “progress ” without God.
For our own land, while we are deeply grateful for its preservation and deliverance, we cannot but fear that God’s hand will yet go out against us in judgment on account of our sin and impenitence. We look in vain for national reformation and turning to God. Rather, we see increasing evidence of turning from Him in defiance. Sabbath desecration seems now almost universal. After all God’s great goodness, it will be most solemn should He say of us: “When they shall say, Peace and safety. then sudden destruction shall come upon them . . . and they shall not escape” (I Thes.v.3)”.
Sadly, as we look back on the 75 years since 1945 we see that the UK has turned its back on the Word of God more and more, with the widespread promotion of worldviews and ideologies directly contrary to Biblical teaching. The laws of our land today are a testament to the falling away that has occurred since that time. Legislation, that is contrary to God’s law, concerning Sunday trading, abortion, divorce, same-sex marriage shows just how far we have fallen away since WW2. Even more sad is the general acceptance of these things by those who would call themselves Christians. What would JH Gosden write today?
Below are the full transcripts of speeches, editorials etc that are quoted above:
King George VI, VE (Victory in Europe) Day Broadcast , 8 May 1945
Today we give thanks to Almighty God for a great deliverance. Speaking from our Empire’s oldest capital city, war-battered but never for one moment daunted or dismayed – speaking from London, I ask you to join with me in that act of thanksgiving.
Germany, the enemy who drove all Europe into war, has been finally overcome. In the Far East we have yet to deal with the Japanese, a determined and cruel foe. To this we shall turn with the utmost resolve and with all our resources. But at this hour, when the dreadful shadow of war has passed from our hearths and homes in these islands, we may at last make one pause for thanksgiving and then turn our thoughts to the tasks all over the world which peace in Europe brings with it.
Let us remember those who will not come back, their constancy and courage in battle, their sacrifice and endurance in the face of a merciless enemy: let us remember the men in all the Services and the women in all the Services who have laid down their lives. We have come to the end of our tribulation, and they are not with us at the moment of our rejoicing.
Then let us salute in proud gratitude the great host of the living who have brought us to victory. I cannot praise them to the measure of each one’s service, for in a total war the efforts of all rise to the same noble height and all are devoted to the common purpose. Armed or unarmed, men and women, you have fought, striven, and endured to your utmost. No one knows that better than I do; and as your King I thank with a full heart those who bore arms so valiantly on land and sea, or in the air; and all civilians who, shouldering their many burdens, have carried them unflinchingly without complaint.
With those memories in our minds, let us think what it was that has upheld us through nearly six years of suffering and peril. The knowledge that everything was at stake: our freedom, our independence, our very existence as a people; but the knowledge also that in defending ourselves we were defending the liberties of the whole world; that our cause was the cause not of this nation only, not of this Empire and Commonwealth only, but of every land where freedom is cherished and law and liberty go hand in hand. In the darkest hours we knew that the enslaved and isolated peoples of Europe looked to us; their hopes were our hopes; their confidence confirmed our faith. We knew that, if we failed, the last remaining barrier against a world-wide tyranny would have fallen in ruins. But we did not fail. We kept our faith with ourselves and with one another; we kept faith and unity with our great allies. That faith and unity have carried us to victory through dangers which at times seemed overwhelming.
So let us resolve to bring to the tasks which lie ahead the same high confidence in our mission. Much hard work awaits us, both in the restoration of our own country after the ravages of war and in helping to restore peace and sanity to a shattered world.
This comes upon us at a time when we have all given of our best. For five long years and more, heart and brain, nerve and muscle have been directed upon the overthrow of Nazi tyranny. Now we turn, fortified by success, to deal with our last remaining foe. The Queen and I know the ordeals which you have endured throughout the Commonwealth and Empire. We are proud to have shared some of these ordeals with you, and we know also that together we shall all face the future with stern resolve and prove that our reserves of will-power and vitality are inexhaustible.
There is great comfort in the thought that the years of darkness and danger in which the children of our country have grown up are over and, please God, for ever. We shall have failed, and the blood of our dearest will have flowed in vain, if the victory which they died to win does not lead to a lasting peace, founded on justice and established in good will. To that, then, let us turn our thoughts on this day of just triumph and proud sorrow; and then take up our work again, resolved as a people to do nothing unworthy of those who died for us and to make the world such a world as they would have desired, for their children and for ours.
This is the task to which now honour binds us. In the hour of danger we humbly committed our cause into the Hand of God, and He has been our Strength and Shield. Let us thank him for His mercies, and in this hour of Victory commit ourselves and our new task to the guidance of that same strong Hand.”
Winston Churchill: VE Day – End of the War in Europe – 8 May 1945
Broadcast, London, and House of Commons
German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on May 7. Hostilities in Europe ended officially at one minute past midnight, May 9 1945 (British Double Summer Time).
Yesterday morning at 2:41 a.m. at General Eisenhowers Headquarters, General Jodl, the representative of the German High Command, and of Grand Admiral Doenitz, the designated head of the German State, signed the act of unconditional surrender of all German Land, sea, and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command.
General Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General Francois Sevez signed the document on behalf of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General Susloparov signed on behalf of the Russian High Command.
To-day this agreement will be ratified and confirmed at Berlin, where Air Chief Marshal Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and General de Lattre de Tassigny will sign on behalf of General Eisenhower. General Zhukov will sign on behalf of the Soviet High Command. The German representatives will be Field-Marshal Keitel, Chief of the High Command, and the Commanders-in-Chief of the German Army, Navy, and Air Forces.
Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight to-night (Tuesday, May 8), but in the interests of saving lives the “Cease fire” began yesterday to be sounded all along the front, and our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed to-day.
The Germans are still in places resisting the Russian troops, but should they continue to do so after midnight they will, of course, deprive themselves of the protection of the laws of war, and will be attacked from all quarters by the Allied troops. It is not surprising that on such long fronts and in the existing disorder of the enemy the orders of the German High Command should not in every case be obeyed immediately. This does not, in our opinion, with the best military advice at our disposal, constitute any reason for withholding from the nation the facts communicated to us by General Eisenhower of the unconditional surrender already signed at Rheims, nor should it prevent us from celebrating to-day and to-morrow (Wednesday) as Victory in Europe days.
To-day, perhaps, we shall think mostly of ourselves. To-morrow we shall pay a particular tribute to our Russian comrades, whose prowess in the field has been one of the grand contributions to the general victory.
The German war is therefore at an end. After years of intense preparation, Germany hurled herself on Poland at the beginning of September, 1939; and, in pursuance of our guarantee to Poland and in agreement with the French Republic, Great Britain, the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations, declared war upon this foul aggression. After gallant France had been struck down we, from this Island and from our united Empire, maintained the struggle single-handed for a whole year until we were joined by the military might of Soviet Russia, and later by the overwhelming power and resources of the United States of America.
Finally almost the whole world was combined against the evil-doers, who are now prostrate before us. Our gratitude to our splendid Allies goes forth from all our hearts in this Island and throughout the British Empire.
We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued. The injury she has inflicted on Great Britain, the United States, and other countries, and her detestable cruelties, call for justice and retribution. We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance, Britannia! Long live the cause of freedom! God save the King!
[Editor’s Note: After making his broadcast announcement of Germany’s unconditional surrender, Churchill read the same statement to the House of Commons shortly afterwards and added]
That is the message which I have been instructed to deliver to the British Nation and Commonwealth. I have only two or three sentences to add. They will convey to the House my deep gratitude to this House of Commons, which has proved itself the strongest foundation for waging war that has ever been seen in the whole of our long history. We have all of us made our mistakes, but the strength of the Parliamentary institution has been shown to enable it at the same moment to preserve all the title-deeds of democracy while waging war in the most stern and protracted form. I wish to give my hearty thanks to men of all Parties, to everyone in every part of the House where they sit, for the way in which the liveliness of Parliamentary institutions has been maintained under the fire of the enemy, and for the way in which we have been able to persevere-and we could have persevered much longer if need had been-till all the objectives which we set before us for the procuring of the unlimited and unconditional surrender of the enemy had been achieved. I recollect well at the end of the last war, more than a quarter of a century ago, that the House, when it heard the long list of the surrender terms, the armistice terms, which had been imposed upon the Germans, did not feel inclined for debate or business, but desired to offer thanks to Almighty God, to the Great Power which seems to shape and design the fortunes of nations and the destiny of man; and I therefore beg, Sir, with your permission to move:
That this House do now attend at the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster, to give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination.
This is the identical Motion which was moved in former times.
Harry S. Truman – A Proclamation
33rd President of the United States: 1945 ‐ 1953
Proclamation 2651—Victory in Europe: Day of Prayer
May 08, 1945
By the President of the United States of America
The Allied armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God’s help, have wrung from Germany a final and unconditional surrender. The western world has been freed of the evil forces which for five years and longer have imprisoned the bodies and broken the lives of millions upon millions of free-born men. They have violated their churches, destroyed their homes, corrupted their children, and murdered their loved ones. Our Armies of Liberation have restored freedom to these suffering peoples, whose spirit and will the oppressors could never enslave.
Much remains to be done. The victory won in the West must now be won in the East. The whole world must be cleansed of the evil from which half the world has been freed. United, the peace-loving nations have demonstrated in the West that their arms are stronger by far than the might of dictators or the tyranny of military cliques that once called us soft and weak. The power of our people to defend themselves against all enemies will be proved in the Pacific war as it has been proved in Europe.
For the triumph of spirit and of arms which we have won, and for its promise to peoples everywhere who join us in the love of freedom, it is fitting that we, as a nation, give thanks to Almighty God, who has strengthened us and given us the victory.
Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby appoint Sunday, May 13, 1945, to be a day of prayer.
I call upon the people of the United States, whatever their faith, to unite in offering joyful thanks to God for the victory we have won and to pray that He will support us to the end of our present struggle and guide us into the way of peace.
I also call upon my countrymen to dedicate this day of prayer to the memory of those who have given their lives to make possible our victory.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington this eighth day of May in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and forty-five and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixty-ninth.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
By the President:
Joseph C. Grew,
Acting Secretary of State.
JH Gosden – Gospel Standard Editorial – June 1945
THE profound relief which has come to all by the ceasing of bloodshed in Europe, will have found expression in God-fearing hearts by humble thanksgiving to Him to whom we owe every mercy. The joyful anticipation of family reunions will be mingled with poignant grief of sore family bereavements. The shameful (or shameless) revelry and dissipation of the multitude, manifests the degradation of those whose pleasure is to live without God. Those who have agonised in sympathy for suffering humanity, will be unspeakably grateful that one horror is past. But much perplexity and sorrow remains.
The term war henceforth bears a new significance: no longer army against army, but mighty forces of destruction rained on populations. Territorial boundaries cease to exist: even the elementary warning of sound being eliminated by the velocity of gigantic missiles. The entire world is rendered insecure by man’s inventions: the terrible fruit of human “progress ” without God.
Notwithstanding the “liquidation” (a horribly glib term to express the hurrying into eternity of a human soul!) of men considered to be the embodiment of evil, the fundamental causes of war—selfishness, pride, greed, and hate—remain innate in fallen man. Nothing but the kingly power of Christ can subdue these.
There devolves upon those to whom is entrusted the settlement of peace terms, an exceedingly delicate and almost superhuman task. In our prayers to Almighty God it behoves us to earnestly plead that they may be directed by principles of strict equity, and that their deliberations way be divinely overruled for the establishment of a just and lasting peace.
We have hitherto not sufficiently regarded Paul’s divinely-inspired direction to pray for kings and all in authority, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty (I Tim. ii. 2).
It is not a little significant (is it symptomatic of a deep-seated evil?) that the country whose cruel invasion by Germany occasioned the war, should be an outstanding cause of disagreement with one ally—Russia–who also simultaneously invaded Poland. Responsible highly-placed diplomats have gravely declared that if San Francisco fails, all hope for the world has gone. Men are becoming alarmed, and yet turn to human resources. But those who dream of universal peace based upon the great “powers armed with an ever-threatening sword ready for blood on the first provocation, need to assure themselves that those powers are free from pride and greed, and from disloyalty. To reckon without God and His judgements, is to ensure disappointment. To act contrary to Him is to court disaster.
For our own land, while we are deeply grateful for its preservation and deliverance, we cannot but fear that God’s hand will yet go out against us in judgment on account of our sin and impenitence. We look in vain for national reformation and turning to God. Rather, we see increasing evidence of turning from Him in defiance. Sabbath desecration seems now almost universal. After all God’s great goodness, it will be most solemn should He say of us: “When they shall say, Peace and safety. then sudden destruction shall come upon them . . . and they shall not escape” (I Thes.v.3).
Therefore. leaving all general, national and political concerns (but not ceasing to pray for our land), it behoves us individually to solemnly assess our own condition and prospects, not for time merely, but for eternity. From the very jaws of death some have been rescued. Many have lived these 5½ years under constant mortal danger. What effect has the ordeal produced on our souls? Have we really prayed with David: ” Let my soul live, and it shall praise Thee: and let Thy judgments help me”? Do our souls live before God? Is Christ and His cross our one hope? Have we an assured interest in His sin-atoning death? Has His goodness led us to repentance? Serious personalities these!
When and how the Armageddon gathering will develop, we cannot say: but come it will. War has not altogether ceased since 1914, and the conflict still rages in the Far East. Millions have been hurled into eternity, and who can say how many more may be? When the earth discloses her blood and fails to cover her slain, because of God’s punishing iniquity. the Lord’s own people shall be safely lodged in their chambers (Isa. xxvi. 20, 21).
The all-important consideration is to attend to Christ’s own word: “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. xvi.13). One great hope and desire animates these: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Be this our personal attitude through rich grace!
JH Gosden Editor Gospel Standard