Commemorating VE Day in lockdown, somehow the quiet made it louder

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With coronavirus lockdown subduing VE Day, contrasts with 75 years ago were many and varied

Somehow the quiet made it louder. By rights, marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day in the midst of a pandemic that has confined us to our homes – forcing us to keep our distance from one another, denying us the right to gather in crowds – should have muffled this commemoration. A celebration in private would surely feel like no celebration at all. Katherine Jenkins singing to an empty Albert Hall, streets with no street parties and the pubs all shut: how could that add up to anything other than a damp squib?

And yet Friday’s marking of the end of the second world war struck a deeper chord than it might, had it been just another sunny bank holiday. Yes, the usual rituals had to be suspended. There could be no wreath-laying at local memorials: instead, Prince Charles and Camilla laid two small wreaths on their own, in a crowd-less corner of Balmoral, watched by a lone piper. There could be no veterans’ parades, no reunions for those who had served, no grateful handshakes from the politicians: 102-year-old former staff sergeant Ernie Horsfall had to make do with a Zoom call from Boris Johnson. And there were limited opportunities for silliness: the Winston Churchill impersonators were all dressed up with nowhere to go, forced to perform their cigar-and-V-sign shtick online.

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