UK – End of the Second World War
Royal Mail today reveals images of a set of 12 new Special Stamps to be issued to mark the end of the Second World War. Eight stamps depict scenes of celebration by service personnel and civilians when news of the conflict’s end was announced. Also featured are images of personnel returning from overseas, as well as the return of children evacuated from major cities.
The eight images were originally photographed in black and white, but have been brought to life in colour for the first time by colourist, Royston Leonard.
The eight stamps depict:
- A serviceman returning home to Oreston, South Devon, from his airbase in Lincolnshire
- Jubilant nurses celebrating VE Day in Liverpool
- Ecstatic crowds celebrating VE Day in London’s Piccadilly
- Evacuees returning home to London after a wartime stay in Leicester
- Troops marching along Oxford St, London, during a parade for the ‘Victory over Japan’ exhibition in August 1945
- Soldiers and sailors leaving a demobilisation centre carrying their civilian clothes in boxes
- Allied prisoners of war at Aomori Camp near Yokohama, Japan, cheering their rescuers
- A Wren (member of the Women’s Royal Naval service) proposing a toast during the VE Day celebrations in Glasgow
Four additional stamps presented in a Miniature Sheet show images of official monuments and cemeteries built to remember and honour the fallen as well as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
The stamps in the Miniature Sheet feature:
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Second World War Nazi genocide of six million Jews (which became known as the Holocaust), Yad Vashem – from the Hebrew for ‘A Memorial and a name’ was established in 1953. The Hall of Names memorial holds the names of millions of Holocaust victims, with some 600 portraits displayed on the exhibit’s cone-shaped ceiling.
Located near Egham, Surrey, and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Runneymede Memorial – sometimes known as the Air Forces Memorial – was unveiled by the Queen in 1953. It commemorates over 20,000 airmen and women who were lost during operations from bases in the UK and Europe during the Second World War and who have no known grave.
Plymouth Naval Memorial
Originally unveiled in 1924 to commemorate more than 7,000 sailors who died in the First World War and have no known grave, the memorial was extended in the early 1950s to include nearly 16,000 sailors who perished during the Second World War. It is one of three national navel memorials built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Rangoon Memorial, Myanmar
Situated within the Taukkyan War Cemetery, the Rangoon Memorial commemorates almost 27,000 dead of the British and Commonwealth Land Forces who fell during the Second World War campaigns against the Japanese in Burma (Myanmar) with no known grave. Established by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1958, it forms the centrepiece of the cemetery which contains the graves of nearly 6000 Commonwealth soldiers.
The End of the War
The Second World War in Europe officially came to an end in the early morning of 7 May 1945, when Germany signed a document of unconditional surrender. Public celebrations to mark the end of the war began spontaneously in many places as soon as people heard the news.
At 3pm on the following day, VE Day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast from 10 Downing Street in the same room from which Neville Chamberlain had announced the declaration of war in 1939. He told the BBC audience that hostilities would end officially at one minute after midnight that evening.
Churchill went to the House of Commons and then Buckingham Palace in the evening where he appeared on the balcony, along with the Royal Family. Churchill returned to Whitehall to appear on the balcony of the Ministry of Health. Great crowds followed his travels around London. Then at 9pm, the King gave his address to the nation to give thanks that the war was over.
But while war in Europe was over, Japan had yet to be defeated. It was not until 14 August 1945 that Japan also accepted unconditional surrender. A two-day national holiday began with VJ Day on 15 August.
For this stamp issue, Royal Mail worked closely with: Imperial War Museums (IWM); the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; the National Maritime Museum; and the Association of Wrens. The following experts were also consulted: Professor Richard Overy of Exeter University; and military historian, Iain Ballantyne.
Philip Parker, Royal Mail said: “Our new stamps capture how the end of the War was greeted and the resulting return of service personnel after nearly six long years of conflict. We also pay tribute to those who never returned, and the victims of the Holocaust.”