St Paul's Cathedral in London (right), US soldiers embrace a British woman (left)
St Paul's Cathedral in London (right), US soldiers embrace a British woman (left) Copyright AP Photo

In pictures: How the world celebrated VE day in 1945

By Jonny Walfisz
Share this article
Share this articleClose Button

77 years on from the end of the Second World War, we take a look back at how people celebrated across Europe and the world.


Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) is celebrated every year on 8 May. It's the annual recognition of the end of the Second World War, one of the darkest periods Europe has ever seen. 

VE Day is on the 8th to coincide with the anniversary of Germany signing an act of military surrender. Adolf Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, and a week later on 7 May, Karl Dönitz signed an unconditional surrender to come into effect on the 8th. 

However, because USSR leader Josef Stalin wasn't present and wanted his own ceremony, a second unconditional surrender was signed on May 8. Because of this, Russia celebrates VE Day on 9 May. 

Now, 77 years ago, we look back on some of the revellers that celebrated the end of Europe's darkest chapter. 

AP/1945 AP
Thousands of people celebrating the announcement of Germany's unconditional surrender to the Allies in World War II at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.AP/1945 AP

Paris was unsurprisingly full of celebrating people. Having endured the fascist Vichy government allied with the Nazis, French people burst onto the streets to celebrate. Above are thousands of people at the Arc de Triomphe and below we see people congregating at the Champs-Elysees.  

Henry L. Griffin/1945 AP
Crowds gather round the Rond-Point on the Champs-Elysees, ParisHenry L. Griffin/1945 AP

Finally past the bombardment of the Blitz, London's St Paul's Cathedral creates an astonishing "V" sign in light, signalling the end of the war. 

St. Paul's Cathedral, one of the buildings that survived the wartime blitzes, is shown at night in floodlighting for the first time in nearly six years as a symbol of victory.ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP1945

Many children like these would have only known a country at war by the time VE Day finally arrived. 

AP/1945 AP
Piccadilly Circus in London is flooded with crowds on VE Day.AP/1945 AP

Above revellers gather around Piccadilly Circus in London and below there is a celebratory meeting between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and King George VI at Buckingham Palace. 

Britain's King George VI talks with Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the grounds of Buckingham Palace during VE Day celebrations.ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP1945
© IWM (HU 41808)/ IWM (HU 41808)
A truck of revellers passing through the Strand, London, 8 May 1945.© IWM (HU 41808)/ IWM (HU 41808)

Taken a few weeks later, a massive transit of soldiers make the return journey to the US after fighting in Europe. Many of them would have never left the US before. 

American soldiers, part of the 14,000 contingent returning from Europe, packed every inch of the Queen Mary’s decks as she steamed up New York Bay on June 20, 1945.ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP1945
People crowd Times Square at 42nd Street in New York City on May 8, 1945MATTY ZIMMERMAN/1945 AP

For the first time in years, unabashed joy was seen on every face in photos. Before shipping off home, a group of young US soldiers embrace a British woman in the streets.  

An American soldier, right, hugs an Englishwoman as other U.S. soldiers celebrate the surrender of Germany.AP/AP

Celebrations continued around Europe. People crowded to the centre of cities such as Copenhagen. 

Eddie Worth/AP
Through streets lined deep with jubilant Danish crowds, British troops enter the city of Copenhagen during VE Day celebrations on May 11, 1945.Eddie Worth/AP

Here's a view to some more of the celebrations as they happened on this day in 1945. 

Two men climb a lamppost during nighttime VE Day celebrations in the West End of London, England.ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP1945
The roof of a taxi was the stage for this group of revellers in Piccadilly Circus, London.ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP1945
AP/1945 AP
People crowd into the street outside the U.S. and British Embassies, Lisbon, Portugal, on VE Day.AP/1945 AP
The Dutch town of Enschede, Netherlands, during VE Day celebrationsASSOCIATED PRESS/AP
Danish actor Ib Schoenberg, rides on a jeep with a Danish patriot through the liberated town of Copenhagen.ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP

All of these archive images bring a past that may sometimes seem of a different world back to life. Suddenly, we can people like us reflected in these images of jubilation.

Share this article

You might also like