Today, as we mark 75 years since the end of the Second World War in Europe, we remember. As we think of that moment when the bloodshed stopped, we remember the sacrifice and the service that made it possible. We remember the suffering and the tragedy, and we remember especially those who gave everything to protect our nation, defeat fascism and achieve a better, peaceful world.
We remember too those closest to us who played their part, like my father’s father, Arthur William Turner, a Gunner in the Royal Navy. Volunteering for service aged 19 in 1940, Grandad Joe (Arthur) first crewed a minesweeper before training as a Gunner, protecting vital supply convoys from attack. His ship was once torpedoed 40 miles off the coast of North Africa – he spent 8 hours in the water before rescue. But Arthur came home at the end of the war and could share his medals with his family. Many were not as fortunate.
His wife, Stella, had spent those years he was away at sea living through the Blitz and caring for the young children, whilst also stepping up to do a “man’s job” as a bus conductor, walking to and from shifts at Liverpool Street bus station on Hessle Road along streets under blackout. Hull was the worst-bombed British city outside London – it endured 86 air raids, and 95 percent of housing was damaged to some degree. Stella The strength and fortitude of people like her, carrying on through the worst and keeping the country going, should be held in the same high regard as those who served in uniform. Whilst I think of Arthur and Stella, I know that their stories are just two examples of the service and sacrifice made by the entire war generation in Hull. We owe them all a huge debt.
Today is a far cry from the VE Day many of us had planned to celebrate. There can be no street parties or family get-togethers. But remembering that spirit, and honouring those men and women who served our country then, has never been more important, as we honour those who serve it now. VE Day 1945 marked the moment that, out of the ashes, we began to renew and rebuild our country. Alongside remembering those that we lost, we must share the desire of that generation to build a better future.