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House of Lords

Friday, 5th May 1995.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Exeter.

Fiftieth Anniversary of the End of World War II: Address to Her Majesty

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now proceed to Westminster Hall for the purpose of presenting to Her Majesty the humble Address ordered on Tuesday, 25th April last; and that thereafter the House do adjourn and do meet again in this Chamber on Tuesday next at half-past two o'clock.

If your Lordships will forgive a rather more pedestrian note, in moving the Motion, perhaps I may remind your Lordships that the doors of Westminster Hall will be closed at 11.30 a.m. and I would urge your Lordships to take your seats in good time.

Moved, That the House do now proceed to Westminster Hall for the purpose of presenting to Her Majesty the humble Address ordered on Tuesday, 25th April last; and that thereafter the House do adjourn and do meet again in this Chamber on Tuesday next at half-past two o'clock.—(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Whereupon the House proceeded to Westminster Hall accordingly, where the Lord Chancellor presented to Her Majesty the humble Address ordered on 25th April last.

The Address from the House of Lords was as follows:

    "Most Gracious Sovereign,

    "We, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, welcome this occasion to commemorate and celebrate with Your Majesty and Members of the House of Commons the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War and our historic victory in conjunction with our allies over the Axis powers. We recall with gratitude the years of heroic effort and united steadfastness by the Armed Forces of the Crown, by the Merchant Navy and by unarmed civilians, by the inhabitants of these islands, by the Commonwealth and Empire and by our allies. We recall those who fought with courage and endurance for the causes of justice and freedom. We remember with sorrow and admiration those who gave their lives. We remember those who suffered. We give thanks also for the inspiring example given by His late Majesty King George VI and Her Majesty the Queen Mother in time of war.

    "Since 1945 we have been blessed with a great measure of peace and spared the horrors of world war. We have seen the collapse of totalitarian regimes which for decades posed a threat to our continuing freedom and the peace of the world. For this we give heartfelt thanks to Almighty God. We pay tribute to

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    the part which Your Majesty has played, throughout Your reign, in upholding and adorning our cherished tradition of Parliamentary government under the Crown. We pray that our successors may continue to enjoy the blessings of peace in freedom and just government, and we unite in saying 'God bless Your Majesty'."

The Lord Chancellor then spoke as follows:

"May it please Your Majesty,

    "We, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, gathered together with the Commons in this ancient and historic hall, share with Your Majesty as the three parts of Parliament in thankful commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the ending of the Second World War. Westminster Hall, hallowed in our history, provides a fitting setting for us to come together in Parliament assembled, and also with veterans from the War, and representatives of all those others whose efforts helped us to victory.

    "We come together to give thanks for the sacrifices of the last World War and to celebrate the heroism and valour of those who served in the Armed Forces of the Crown. We honour the memory of those who gave their lives, whether from our own isles or from overseas, in a common cause.

    "Unlike many previous hostilities, the Second World War was not fought by the Armed Forces of the Crown and our heroic Merchant Marine alone. It was a conflict into which civilians were drawn inexorably, thus bringing the conflict to our homes and to those who strove to protect them, in particular those who worked in factories or laboured after Dunkirk to keep our country's fighting forces with our guard up and courage unabated.

    "In the great conflict that followed, which finally led to the unconditional surrender of our enemies, we were uplifted by the example of Your Majesty's royal father, King George VI, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who shared with your people the dangers through which we lived. The simplicity of their lives during the war years, their encouragement to the forces and to those who were working in the factories and on the land in the war effort, their visits in the Blitz to comfort the bereaved, the wounded and those who had lost their homes provided inspiration to us all. Your Majesty's own example to the young people of the nation, in particular through uniformed service in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, was warmly appreciated and has not been forgotten.

    "During the conflict many Members of the House of Lords took their part, both in uniform and at home, and laid down their lives, as is recorded in the Book of Remembrance which is shortly to be borne into this Hall.

    "Meanwhile, here in Westminster, the Palace was attacked by bombing, but, despite the destruction of one Chamber of our Parliament, we maintained the liveliness of our Parliamentary institutions—in both Houses—under the fire of the enemy.

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    "We celebrate the part played by the people and Armed Forces of the Commonwealth and Empire throughout the world, who joined together voluntarily as free people to wage war on the aggressors. We remember with gratitude our Allies, who as comrades in a joint venture fought together for the cause of freedom.

    "In 1945, celebrating our final victory, it was rightly said by Sir Winston Churchill that:

    'It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best. Everyone has tried. Neither the long years, nor the dangers, nor the fierce attacks of the enemy, have in any way weakened the independent resolve of the British nation'.

    "We prayed then that, under God's guidance, all nations should work together to ensure that the peace, for which so many lives had been laid down, should not be broken by evil men and that the nations of the world should enjoy security, happiness and above all continuing peace. This hope expressed in 1945 at first seemed doomed to failure in the grim realities of the cold war, and there were many who thought that, although we had won the War, we had lost the peace. More recently, however, the West in alliance has gradually prevailed over a hostile ideology. But conflicts and oppressive regimes still darken the lives of so many people. We continue to owe it to those who sacrificed so much for us to do all in our power to bring the fruits of victory, peace and freedom to every man, woman and child the world over.

    "Your Majesty, it is our hope and solemn resolve that we should not forget the sacrifices of those who have fallen and that we should not cease to fight to preserve our freedom and Parliamentary rule, giving thanks to Almighty God, praying that we and those who may come after us may continue to live in peace and concord with each other and with those throughout the world."

Then Madam Speaker, on behalf of the Commons (also assembled in the Hall), presented to Her Majesty an Address from that House.

Her Majesty's Reply

Her Majesty's gracious Speech in reply to the Addresses, delivered to the Members of both Houses, was as follows:

"My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

    "I thank you for the loyal Addresses which, on your behalf, the Lord Chancellor and Madam Speaker have presented to me.

    "I am delighted to join with both Houses of Parliament in giving heartfelt thanks as we approach the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Together we thank God for the victorious end to that titanic struggle of fifty years ago.

    "The years of the Second World War formed my youth. I remember my Father and Mother telling us at home of the courage and unity of purpose they encountered on all sides during their wartime travels,

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    and of the overwhelming sense that we were all united in a common resolve. These memories have remained with me all my life.

    "In making these national acts of thanksgiving this weekend, and again in August when we commemorate the end of the war in the Far East, we must remember especially those who did not come back. It is to their courage and heroic sacrifice that we owe our celebrations today. Let us therefore offer a prayer, for them and for the countless victims of Nazi persecution, in those ancient words used by Benjamin Britten in his War Requiem:

    'Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord,

And let light perpetual shine upon them.' praying also for their wives, husbands and families whose vigils ended in heartbreaking loss and loneliness.

    "We salute with pride the valour of our armed forces who brought us to victory; we remember the dark days of the Battle of Britain, when the pilots of the Royal Air Force fought in our skies to protect us from invasion: we remember when we stood alone in Europe—saved from starvation by the valour of the Royal Navy and of the Merchant Service in the Battle of the Atlantic. And we remember the better and brighter days later in the war when our Armies, reinvigorated and rearmed after the retreat from Dunkirk, were able to go on the offensive, first in North Africa, later in the Far East and finally in the triumphant invasion of Europe.

    "As Head of the Commonwealth, I want to pay special tribute to the countries of the Commonwealth who, from the onset of war, were by our side. No law passed here at Westminster, no command from London, compelled the Dominions to help us from across the oceans—but help us they did. Their staunch and unfailing support with troops, arms and material was vital in the conflicts in Europe and in the Far East. Later, we were joined by the colossal power of the United States of America, and Russia. And so the mighty alliance was formed which brought us inexorably to that day we are commemorating here.

    "But, as we know, it was not only the armed services who risked their lives; the civilian population as well, in these islands and abroad, played their essential part, and to them, too, we pay tribute. Indeed, we salute all those, especially those in the occupied countries, who, from the very beginning, refused to accept defeat.

    "Lord Chancellor and Madam Speaker, I was moved by your references to my parents. Despite all their other preoccupations, they took the closest interest when I joined the ATS towards the end of the War. There, I learned a little about driving and the workings of the combustion engine, and much about the strength and happiness of comradeship. I have never forgotten either lesson—even the former still stands me in good stead from time to time!

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    "At the end of the war, my Father said:

    'Let us think what it was that has upheld us through nearly six years of suffering and peril. The knowledge that everything was at stake: our freedom, our independence, our very existence as a people; the knowledge also that in defending ourselves we were defending the liberties of the whole world'.

    "We knew then that we would have failed, that the labour and the wounds would have been vain, had our victory, won at the cost of so many precious lives, not led to lasting peace.

    "But we did not fail. Although we have seen armed conflict, we have been blessed by fifty years without the scourge of a world war. We have also witnessed in this last half century a long period of unarmed conflict between the democratic countries of the West and those ruled by totalitarian regimes. It gave rise to the continuing alliance of the Western powers, united in NATO, to preserve together those principles of

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    freedom and democracy which had sustained us during the war. In these last years that cold war has ended, and that, too, is surely cause for thanksgiving.

    "Today, the development of the European Union has rendered the possibility of a major war in Europe even more remote. But, in spite of these mercies, there are in our world troubles and challenges enough to daunt the bravest spirit.

    "We must not falter, hard though the going may sometimes be. Let us pledge that the sacrifices made in the war which ended fifty years ago should, under the providence of Almighty God, achieve all that they deserved—a lasting peace, founded on justice, freedom and Parliamentary government. In this ancient Hall, scene of so many great events in our history, I join with you in Parliament assembled in saying, in the words of the Psalm:

    'The Lord will give strength unto his people; The Lord will give his people the blessing of peace'.

        House adjourned at twenty minutes before one o'clock.

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