VE DAY: How the Royals united the country in Britain's 'time of trial'

ON SEPTEMBER 3, 1939 families across the nation and the Empire gathered round their wireless sets to listen to King George VI after war with Germany was declared. King George had come to the throne after the scandal of Mrs Simpson and the abdication of Edward, Prince of Wales, and this would be the most important speech of his reign. From childhood to the age of 30, George suffered with a bad stammer in his speech which only deepened his shyness, but having now been forced to take the throne the King, together with his wife the late Queen Mother, won an enduring place in the nation’s heart as a result of his selfless actions during the war.

His radio broadcast managed to be a personal one, as if he was speaking to everyone individually. It inspired the nation for what he knew lay ahead. MORE NEWS:

The then-Princess Elizabeth inspects group of Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) volunteers. The princess was also a member of the ATS and trained as a motor mechanic.

“In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself. “For the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war. Over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies.

But that has been in vain. “We have been forced into a conflict. For we are called, with our Allies, to meet the challenge of a principle which, if it were to prevail, would be fatal to any civilised order in the world.

“It is the principle which permits a State, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges which sanctions the use of force, or threat of force, against the Sovereignty and independence of other States. “Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right; and if this principle were established throughout the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth of Nations would be in danger. VE DAY: How the Royals united the country in Britain's 'time of trial'

The Royal Family pictured with R.A.F. officers beside an aircraft. Picture: IWM “But far more than this – the people of the world would be kept in bondage of fear, and all hopes of settled peace and of the security of justice and liberty among nations would be ended.

This is the ultimate issue which confronts us. “For the sake of all that we ourselves hold dear, and of the world’s order and peace, it is unthinkable that we should refuse to meet the challenge. “It is to this high purpose that I now call my people at home and my people across the seas, who will make our cause their own.

“I ask them to stand calm, firm and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield.

But we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God. “If one and all keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then, with God’s help, we shall prevail. May He bless and keep us all.”

No sooner had hostilities been declared than the nation’s shopkeepers found themselves under siege from customers, all anxious to do their bit for the war effort. Among the items on the shopping lists, people were keen to buy torches, batteries, blackout material and haversacks. As soon as scarce supplies arrived on the shelves they disappeared as word got around to the shoppers, and even when fresh consignments had been located there was then the problem of having goods transported to Southampton.

Despite the rush to the stores, counter assistants praised the “patience, forbearance and good humour” customers showed. The biggest demand was for blackout paper or material to meet new government regulations demanding that all windows should be blanked out during darkness in case a chink of light was seen by enemy aircraft. The Royal Family remained a presence within the hearts of the British people throughout the war, staying put in Buckingham Palace against all advice once the terrible bombing began, despite the palace suffering from nine direct hits.

This led to one of the Queen Mother’s most famous phrases: “I am glad we have been bombed. Now we can look the East End in the eye.” Constantly finding ways of showing that they stood side-by-side with the people of Britain, the King and Queen would often tour many of the areas that had suffered from heavy bombing.

Princess Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service at just 18 years old, donning a pair of coveralls and training in London as a mechanic and military truck driver.

She remains the only female member of the Royal Family to have entered the armed forces and is the only living head of state who served in the Second World War.

You may also like...