Caroline Osborne tells us about the once in a lifetime experience.
“We were lucky enough to be offered some seats for the VE Day 70 Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on 10 May. We hadn’t appreciated exactly how lucky we were until we were seated among the veterans, their carer’s and some prominent members of the UK. The morning got off to a nerve-racking start when we arrived in London because the tube had been cancelled. We got on the replacement bus and only just managed to arrive in time. It was very moving to be seated amongst the veterans and hear their stories, even more so when the ones who could manage to do so lifted themselves out of their wheelchairs to stand for the Last Post and pay their respects to their fallen comrades.
We watched the Queen, the Royal Family and the Prime Minister lead the procession out of the Abbey, but seeing the Queen, although fantastic in itself, wasn’t the highlight of the day for me, that came later.
Once outside the Abbey, we got swept along by the ushers, to where we didn’t know. However, it was worth the mystery, as we arrived at Horse Guards Parade to watch the veterans’ parade draw to a climatic close. A contingent of tri-service current serving personnel formed up in parade, to welcome the Queen. She in turn stood on her podium to mark the arrival of the veterans’ parade. It was truly heart-warming to watch the Queen individually greet every single veteran as they passed by. The Scottish Pipers played throughout the parade. The veterans were the true stars of the day and performed to the crowd. We watched one pushing another in his wheelchair, possibly two comrades from the war. The man in the wheelchair won over the crowds by waving wildly at them and spinning his stick around his head. The day was a humbling experience and made us realise how everyone pulled together, how great the nation was during the war, how much they really gave and the high cost they paid.
The atmosphere amongst the crowds was electric, there was an air of true camaraderie and strangers chatted to strangers on the streets, in true Dunkirk spirit. The city was so friendly. It gave us a tiny glimpse of what it must have been like on VE Day 70 years ago. For the veterans the celebrations continued with afternoon tea in St James’s Park where we watched an elderly couple jiving to a jazz song.
We continued through the park and took in some sightseeing and lunch at Trafalgar Square under Nelson’s Column where we sat next to a homeless man also eating his lunch and appreciating the band of the Grenadier Guards.
We finished off the day with some more sightseeing, visiting some of London’s famous landmarks. We stopped on the way back at Baker Street to try and find Sherlock Homes and had some well-earned afternoon tea, cake and ice-cream.”