75th Anniversary Victory in Europe Day
On Monday 7 May 1945, General Alfred Jodl, Adolf Hitler’s military advisor, controller of German High Command and Chief of the Operations Staff, signed the surrender of all German forces in in Allied General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters, Rheims, France. A radio broadcast instructed the nation to stand by for an important announcement at 1600hrs. No announcement came. At 1500hrs on Tuesday 8 May, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s announced the surrender of Nazi Germany. The day is marked in many western countries every year to remember the sacrifice made to bring peace to Europe. Several states such as the Russian Federation mark the day on 9 May.
Following the invasion of Nazi Germany and the fall of Berlin, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, committed suicide on 30 April. His successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was first signed at 02:41 on 7 May in Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force at Reims, and a slightly modified document, considered the definitive German Instrument of Surrender, was signed on 8 May in Karlshorst, Berlin at 21:20 local time. German Instrument of Surrender, Article 2 stated: “The German High Command will at once issue orders to all German military, naval and air authorities and to all forces under German control to cease active operations at 23.01 hours Central European time on 8 May 1945.” Hostilities would end at 0001hrs on 9th May 1945.
The day marked the end the Second World War in Europe; the most devastating global conflict in the human history with an estimate of between 70 – 85 million deaths. In Europe the war had lasted almost six year. As word spread of the unconditional surrender the following day, 8 May, was officially known Victory in Europe Day. Villages, towns, and cites, erupted in celebrations throughout Western Europe. In the United States flags remained at half-mast in respect of 30 days morning for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had died on 12 April. The war was not over and fighting continued in the Pacific theatre until 15 August 1945.
In neutral Éire (official name for southern Ireland at the time) censorship was very strict. However, the Irish times broke the story. On the outbreak of war an Emergency had been declared in Ireland. Even with the wars end the Emergency continued for another year.
How many Irish served in the Second World War is not clear. Historian Richard Doherty, Irish Men and Women in the Second World War, puts the figure of Irish personnel in the British forces as 78,826 from Éire and 52,174 from Northern Ireland. He calculated that 4,468 service personnel from the island of Ireland were killed in the war. How many Irish served in the other forces such as the United States is unclear, but due to the high emigration at the time, the figure is no doubt in its thousands.
In 2009 a roll of honour listing 7,507 Irish men and women who died while serving in the British, Commonwealth and Dominion Forces 1939 – 1945 was presented to Trinity College library. It comprised 3,617 names from the Republic of Ireland and 3,890 from Northern Ireland.
Thankfully there are still several veterans on the island of Ireland who served in the Second World War with us. We have been honoured to have met many of them. While they cannot travel to the curtailed commemorations due to Covid-19 please remember them today and thank them for their sacrifice and service.