By Seb Pollington
THIS year’s celebration marking the end of the Second World War, starting today and lasting most of the weekend in London and several European capitals, is the 70th anniversary.
It’s probably too the last major occasion for many British and Cypriot veterans who are now in their 90s.
Coinciding with the UK General Election, communities will be holding a weekend of parties, regardless of the result. The overriding tone is one of thanksgiving.
Events in UK start with a commemoration at London’s Cenotaph and include a service at Westminster Abbey. They will culminate in a parade of current service personnel and veterans, supported by bands, from the Abbey along Whitehall, past the balcony of Her Majesty’s Treasury where Winston Churchill made his historic appearance before crowds on VE Day.
Britain’s Royal British Legion is even running a ‘Kiss, Snap and Share’ Campaign as part of its VE Day celebrations: Kiss a friend, loved one or even a stranger, take a photo and share it on social media to remember VE Day. All you have to do is tag #KissforVEDay – and invite others to join.
For Cyprus it is also important and Europe is indebted. Whatever their misgivings about British rule, Cypriots were staunch supporters of the Allied cause. This was especially true after the invasion of Greece in 1940 and 6,000 Cypriot volunteers fought under British command during the Greek campaign alone. Before the war ended in 1945, more than 30,000 had served in the British forces.
Today the largest veterans’ organisation, with more than 750 members, is Cyprus Veterans’ Association WWII. It unites both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and it devotes itself to the needs of this heroic community – to whom we all owe so much. Like many veterans all over Europe, they will proudly parade themselves in Nicosia today.
And, unified, we will salute them all.
Colonel Seb Pollington is Defence Advisor at the British High Commission