Remembering Victory in Europe Day
On 8 May 2022 we commemorate the 77th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day, marking the end of the war against Germany.
Following the signing of an unconditional surrender by the German High Command on 7 May 1945, which came into effect the following day, the Allies proclaimed 8 May 1945 as VE Day.
The surrender called an end to almost six years of fighting between the Allies and Nazi Germany. The end of the war in Europe liberated Australians being held as prisoners of war in German-occupied countries, as well as hundreds of thousands of men and women in internee, forced labour and concentration camps across Europe.
Some 10,000 Australians lost their lives, at least another 10,000 were wounded and an additional 8,000 became prisoners of war while serving in Europe or the Mediterranean. They fought and died in the skies over Britain, north west Europe, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, on land in North Africa, Greece, Crete, the Middle East and at sea.
Five Australians received the highest recognition for their sacrifice in the war against Germany and were awarded the Victoria Cross.
The last Australian known to have been killed in the war in Europe was Private Lawrence Philip Saywell of Double Bay in New South Wales. He served with the 17th Brigade Company, Australian Army Service Corps, after enlisting at the age of 20 in 1939.
Private Saywell was captured by the Germans on Crete in 1941, but would later successfully escape from a Bohemian prisoner of war camp in January 1945. He then joined a Czech resistance group and bravely fought the Germans for four months alongside the partisans.
Sadly, on the day victory was declared and the war ended, Private Saywell was shot and badly wounded by a retreating German soldier near the village of Miretin. Private Saywell later died of his wounds on 8 May 1945 and is buried in the Prague War Cemetery.
When victory was declared, it meant those still serving in the European, Mediterranean and Atlantic theatres could return home.
In Australia most people read the news of Germany’s surrender in their local newspaper and thanksgiving services were held at churches nationally to celebrate the end of the war in Europe. In Melbourne more than 100,000 people attended a service at the Shrine of Remembrance.
It would be another three months before the war in the Pacific would end however, with Victory in the Pacific on 15 August 1945.
Australians from each of the three services and the merchant marine served in the war against Germany and its European allies. On the anniversary of VE Day, we remember and reflect on all Australians’ war efforts and sacrifice across the European theatre of war during the Second World War.
To learn more about Victory in Europe Day, visit DVA’s Anzac Portal.
(Images:Crews of RAAF No 463 and No 467 Lancaster Squadrons celebrate VE Day at RAF Station Waddington, Lincolnshire; Private Lawrence Philip Saywell)