Yesterday was the 75th anniversary since the Second World War in Europe ended. It was initially planned as a grand occasion, with the day being labelled a bank holiday and with thousands of street parties across the country. However, COVID-19 – as it has done with so many events – ended such plans. Yes, the bank holiday still happened and yes VE Day was commemorated, but it was all – sadly – a limp occasion.
However, actually having the fear of COVID-19 looming over us has provided the population the opportunity to reflect on the scale of the impact of the Second World War. Here we are, in week 6 (or is that 7… is anyone counting anymore) of lock-down, and we have been provided a small glimpse of what it was like for the people of 75 years ago.
The fight against coronavirus has been called a war; it is not a description I feel is adequate, however, there is no doubt that many people have felt a “blitz spirit” in 2020. Like the people of 1945, it appears that the people of 2020 are also “living through history”, in a momentous time that will – no doubt – be talked about and analysed and discussed in the years ahead.
Unfortunately, “living through history” is generally an unwelcome experience. Of course, we are all living through history at all moments in terms of our lives and moving through the days of the calendar, but the truly significant historical events are the ones society refers to when “living through history.” But this generally means war, famine, genocide, and hardship.
Thankfully, although more than 30,000 people have lost their lives to coronavirus (at the time of writing), the past few weeks have been relatively calm in comparison to those that lived through the Second World War in Britain. We haven’t suffered bombs falling on us or the threat of Nazi invasion (and subsequent death). But there have been some features of that so-called “blitz spirit”: more people are willing to nod and say “hello” whilst out walking, and lots of people in communities all across the country have helped those in need.
I hope that COVID-19 is not commemorated 75 years from now. Such a commemoration will be based on a much higher death rate and greater misery; hopefully this will not be the case. But whilst I remain in lock-down I will keep a special thought for those who lived through such horrors and hardships 75 years ago. Even if we remove ourselves from the misplaced patriotic jingoism, we can agree that they were a truly special generation.