Sixth Form student Phil shares his reflections on the important sacrifices our military made to preserve freedom and why we remember VE Day.
The 8th May has been a day of commemoration ever since the first Victory in Europe day 75 years ago. In 1945 crowds celebrated the defeat of the Nazis, a regime that swept up most of mainland Europe, after nearly six long years of war. As we remember this monumental landmark, we must not forget the military sacrifice that brought this victory. “We don’t know them all, but we owe them all.”
Britain and its Commonwealth was crucial to the victory of the Allied forces for, without Britain, the war for Europe would have been over far sooner. To maintain the fight against Nazism, huge sacrifices were made. For example, at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, 3,500 British soldiers were killed to ensure the evacuation of more than 330,000 troops. The safe retrieval of these troops would enable the UK to keep on fighting. Later that year the success of the RAF in The Battle of Britain would prevent a Nazi invasion, with 1,542 airmen killed. In 1944 British and Commonwealth forces would be crucial in the Normandy landings and the liberation of France.
While it is important to remember British sacrifices, it is equally important to remember the losses our allies endured. This includes the death of 18,000 French troops at Dunkirk who died not defending their country but to ensure the war continued. Following the entry of the United States into the war in 1941, a great many Americans would die for the liberation of the European mainland with Americans accounting for 70% of Allied casualties on the Western front from 1944-1945.
Perhaps the greatest sacrifice was from the Soviet Union, whose strategy of waves upon waves of troops charging the Nazis would see a total estimated military death toll of 8.7 million men, roughly three time more than the casualties suffered on the Western front. In the Battle of Berlin, the Soviet Union would see around 80,000 die trying to take the city and end the war in Europe.
In conclusion, the casualties inflicted on the Allies were great, with millions of soldiers dead by the end of war. But it is important to remember that these deaths are not just numbers but real people, people who had families, mothers, fathers, maybe wives and even children. Private Robert Jones died at 16 years old having parachuted into Normandy during D-Day. A boy with his whole life ahead of him died to preserve the freedom we now live under.
“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few,” Winston Churchill.