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Community / Low-profile wreath laying marks 75th anniversary of VE day

Lord Lieutenant Bobby Hunter and SIC convener Malcom Bell laying wreaths at the Lerwick war memorial on Friday morning. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

LORD Lieutenant for Shetland Bobby Hunter and council convener Malcolm Bell observed two minutes silence this morning (Friday) at the Lerwick war memorial to mark the 75thanniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Observing social distancing rules the two men laid a wreath to commemorate the many islanders who lost their lives fighting Nazi Germany.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis almost all events to celebrate victory in Europe have been cancelled or postponed.

Germany’s unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945 finally brought the war in Europe to an end, although hostilities continued in the Far East for a further three months.

The end of hostilities in Europe was marked with street parties and celebrations by millions of people. In Shetland, bonfires were lit, and flags and bunting soon decorated homes and streets around the islands, including on the Lerwick waterfront and in businesses across the town.

Union flags were widely flown, as well as Norwegian and US flags. Tunes were played on the Town Hall bells, bands paraded on the streets, and thanksgiving services took place in churches across the isles.

Norwegian motor-torpedo boats (MTBs) that had been stationed in Lerwick crossed the North Sea to return home, joining the Norwegian Independence Day celebrations on 17 May, following five years of German occupation.

Crowds gather at Gilbertson Park, in Lerwick to celebrate the end of the Second World War on May 1945. Photos: A. Isbister/Shetland Museum and Archives

In the weeks and months that followed reunion events took place in Shetland to mark the end of the war and to welcome servicemen back to the islands.

As prisoner of war camps were liberated across Europe, men from Shetland who had been imprisoned also returned home to their families.

Malcolm Bell described the 75th anniversary of VE day as an important moment to reflect on the impact of the Second World War in Shetland and further afield.

“Almost six years of war took its toll on our community, and hundreds of men, the majority of whom served at sea, never returned,” he said.

“We must be thankful for all those who contributed to the war effort, but also remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice to give us the peace that we have enjoyed since 1945.”

Bobby Hunter added: “There was great joy across the islands when victory in Europe was declared and at the prospect of wartime restrictions being lifted.

“The VE75 commemorations give us an opportunity to remember the hardship endured by so many.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who were lost and all those at home and overseas who helped to bring about the end of the War in Europe.”

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