To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined veterans at Mais House in East Sussex by video call from Anmer Hall for a celebration of the day.
Mais House is a Royal British Legion care home situated in Bexhill-on-Sea. It offers expert care and support for the Armed Forces community and their families, including residential, nursing and respite care.
The call and party took place on Wednesday 6th May, but footage wasn’t released by Kensington Palace until Friday – the 75th anniversary of VE Day. William and Catherine conducted the call from their Anmer Hall home, where the Cambridge family are waiting out the pandemic.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined veterans for a very special #VEDay75 party at @PoppyLegion Mais House Care Home, on the day we pay tribute to the service of the entire #WW2 generation. pic.twitter.com/GXW7UMv6MY
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 8, 2020
During the call, William and Kate spoke with 101-year-old Charles Ward, who is the oldest resident at Mais House. The Yorkshire veteran told the royal couple how he coded and uncoded messages during the Second World War. His most famous message was from then Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Mr Ward explained to the Royals that: “The message came from Churchill, I had to decipher it, re-encipher it and send it to his son in Yugoslavia to say, ‘Happy Birthday’.
“And then there was another one from the son to Churchill himself to say congratulations on your speech in Parliament.” He said the couple had a good giggle at that story.
While speaking to Ward, the Duchess spoke about her paternal grandmother Valerie Glassborow’s code-breaking role at Bletchley Park, something Catherine is very proud of and has spoken about numerous times in the past.
Speaking of her grandmother, Catherine said: “It’s so sad that she’s not here today, as I would love to speak to her more about it.”
The pair also spoke about their children with the veterans, showing them that their hard work and sacrifices would not be forgotten by the future generations.
Kate revealed that Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s school, Thomas’s Battersea, has set students the task of learning the words to Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime anthem, “We’ll Meet Again” – which was invoked by The Queen during her address to the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Duchess told the veterans: “The school has set all the children a challenge and they’re currently trying to learn the lyrics to the song We’ll Meet Again… so it’s been really lovely having that playing every day.”
She also added that six-year-old George was starting to learn about the Second World War during history lessons and that he would have loved to have joined the call and ask some questions. Catherine hinted at a future visit to the home from the young Prince to learn more.
Praising the veterans, William told them: “Because we can’t be together, everyone’s still thinking of you all today, and are very proud of everything you’ve all achieved.”
Mais House went into lockdown before the UK government issued the social distancing rules and put the country itself in lockdown. It has, thankfully, remained free of the virus and will hopefully continue that way. When asked by William and Kate what they would do when the outbreak was over, the group of veterans told them they would celebrate ‘VC Day’ – Victory over the Coronavirus.
The family of the veteran, who served as a driver with the Royal Corps of Signals during the war, were bombed out of their Limehouse home in the East End of London, but when they sought refugee in Bournemouth they found themselves targeted again by the Luftwaffe.
Another veteran, James Pyett, 95, said in the call of his own WWII experience: “I was blown up and put in hospital and my father said ‘right if we’re going to be bombed here, we’re going back to London’.”
The family were given a home in Clapham, south London, but within hours of moving in their new property was destroyed. “My mum was down the air raid shelter but we were up in the house when the house got bombed, the roof fell in and we were covered in dust and dirt,” he said.
“We went into the air raid shelter and my mother looked at my father and she said ‘I knew we bloody well should have stayed in Bournemouth’,” he laughed.
The Cambridges were not the only ones commemorating the special anniversary. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall led a moment of remembrance from Balmoral in Scotland and The Queen addressed the nation from Windsor Castle at the same time that her father had 75 years before.
VE Day – Victory in Europe Day – celebrates the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces on Tuesday 8th May 1945, marking the end of World War II in Europe.
And while we commemorate the 75th anniversary of this historic day, we look forward to celebrating VC day together!