VE Day, 8 May 1945: The pictures may fade but the nation remembers, 60 years on

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The Independent Online

They danced in the street at three o'clock in the afternoon 60 years ago today. Soldiers and sailors, Wrafs and Wrens like these, Land Girls and housewives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, all over the country. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, had told them what they knew but did not dare believe: the war was over. In Europe, anyway. There was more fighting to be done in the East. There was cause to grieve. But for now, said Churchill, "we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing."

They danced in the street at three o'clock in the afternoon 60 years ago today. Soldiers and sailors, Wrafs and Wrens like these, Land Girls and housewives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, all over the country. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, had told them what they knew but did not dare believe: the war was over. In Europe, anyway. There was more fighting to be done in the East. There was cause to grieve. But for now, said Churchill, "we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing."

Six decades later, the end of the conflict that cost millions of lives will be marked today as it was then, across Europe, with great occasions led by heads of state. There will also be, now as then, street parties and even a drink or two.

The wartime generation may be slipping away, but the passion for commemoration shows no sign of diminishing: the free tickets went quickly for tonight's event in Trafalgar Square, when Will Young, Sir Cliff Richard and Dame Vera Lynn will entertain veterans and their families. The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and chiefs of staff from the armed forces will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

But 5,000 neo-Nazis are likely to protest in Berlin tomorrow ahead of the opening of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

President Vladimir Putin and 53 other world leaders will watch a parade in Red Square - the Deputy Prime Minister attending for Tony Blair. But as the women in the pictures knew, the war was not won by heads of state. And the party to celebrate its end, then and now, belonged to the people.

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