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Guildford Heritage Mounts Spectacular Online Tribute to Mark VE Day Memories

Published on: 8 May, 2020
Updated on: 8 May, 2020

Aerial photo of a tribute in Stoke Park – image courtesy of Daniel Hannington

Memories and legacies of the Second World War was planned as the inaugural exhibition in the renovated Guildford museum, due to reopen on May 4. But, like so many of the town’s attractions, it remains closed due to the pandemic restrictions.

See also: What Really Happened In Guildford When The War In Europe Ended 75 Years Ago

But to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE Day) excerpts from the exhibition have been curated into a stunning online display on www.guildford.gov.uk.

Cllr James Steel

GBC’s James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough), lead for Environment, said: “The way the Heritage Team has been able to mark the day by showcasing some of the collections for our residents to enjoy is admirable. The memorabilia and stories are fascinating and gives a hint of what life was like 75 years ago.

“While we are living through historic times now, it is vital to remember and reflect on sacrifices made for our freedom then. I look forward to when this is over and the museum can safely reopen. Thank you all for celebrating virtually by staying home to stay safe and save lives by protecting the NHS.”

The museum team will also link to today’s essential council workers by highlighting key First World War women workers through a series of wonderful images. The first focuses on nurses. As today, with the creation of Nightingale Hospitals in buildings such as conference centres, then all sorts of buildings were turned into hospitals for the appalling number of casualties from the trenches. The newly built Guildford County School for Girls in Farnham Road was turned into an annexe of the Royal Surrey hospital opposite. This week-long look at key workers is compelling.

The Heritage Team has designed a fun family activity to create VE Day bunting to hang in windows as decorations for virtual parties and are encouraging people to get crafty together with an instructional video, also on the website. Guildford museum curators are asking residents to donate their bunting to a special display to be created inside the museum later this year. People wishing to donate their bunting should email heritageservices@guildford.gov.uk.

Finally, the team has contributed elements of the Commemoration and Celebration display along with the bunting activity to a paper newsletter produced by the Wellbeing Team. This newsletter goes into the government food parcels being sent to people who are shielding and gives them advice as well light relief and pieces of interest.

Guildford War Memorial in the Castle Grounds

And to mark the occasion, Union Flags will fly over Guildford Castle, the Guildhall and Council offices at Millmead. The Castle and Guildhall will be lit up in red, white and blue from May 8 till 10, and the Castle Grounds will display a stunning VE-themed bed of flowers, which will be at its most beautiful on May 8. The Last Post and Reveille will be played by a lone bugler, to be later posted on Facebook, as part of the nationwide two-minute silence at 11am, and the Mayoral Toast to the Nation will be at 3pm. Residents are all encouraged to raise a glass with the words: “To those who gave so much, we thank you.”

Other events around the borough include a Service of Remembrance from Guildford Cathedral on Sunday, May 10 from 9.45-10.30am, which will be broadcast live via the Cathedral’s YouTube channel.

Guildford Cathedral

The Cathedral is also among 19 in the UK participating in The Big Picnic for Hope, at midday on Friday, May 8, which encourages people to recreate 1945’s VE Day street parties in the form of family picnics at home to honour heroes past and present, including NHS staff, carers and key workers as well as those who did so much to secure Victory in Europe. The event also aims to raise £5,000 for the nationwide network of food banks managed by The Trussell Trust, supported by the social media hashtag #feed5000.

The Royal British Legion is at the heart of a number of activities throughout the day, starting with the two-minute silence at 11am, an 80-minute live-streamed broadcast featuring special messages and reminiscences from veterans at 11.15am, an evening of memories and music on BBC One at 8pm and a UK-wide singalong of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” at 9pm. Their website also allows people to leave online messages to remember the day and honour those who lost their lives.

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