We’ll Meet Again. Public urged to sing iconic anthem – which has taken on new meaning in the lockdown – for VE Day heroes

Photograph by Stuart Boulton

A Second World War veteran is joining Redcar’s Royal British Legion (RBL) to urge people to take part in a mass online sing-a-long to honour the heroes who ensured our freedom in 1945.

It’s hoped residents of Redcar and Cleveland will sing Vera Lynn’s war anthem We’ll Meet Again which has taken a new meaning during the lockdown and members of the public are invited to video their singing and post their efforts online.

A major parade and party in Redcar had previously been planned for Friday 8 May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day but had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Chairman of Redcar RBL, Eric Howden BEM, who served in the Royal Army Ordinance Corp for nine years, has got the ball rolling by singing the song himself and young singers involved with the Tees Valley Music Service, sisters Niamh and Ailish Colling, aged 17 and 15, from Marske, have also taken part (video links above).

He said: “We can’t let the lockdown prevent us remembering all those who served in the war – especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“And we must remain true to their spirit by keeping our own morale up at this time.

“What could be better than a sing song and We’ll Meet Again is perfect given so many of us are desperate to see loved ones right now.

“However, it doesn’t have to be We’ll Meet Again or even a song. Sing anything or read a poem or create a painting or anything – please just participate in whatever way you can.

“It’s just about remembering a special generation who ensured our freedom and, in the end, freedom right across western Europe. Sing for them. And remember, we will all meet again soon when this crisis is over.”

Second World War veteran, Joyce Dowding echoed Mr Howden’s call. The 97-year-old of Redcar, who served from the age of 18 in the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute (NAAFI) which catered for servicemen in combat zones was serving in Ypres, Belgium when the war ended.

To help encourage people to take part, she has recited a poem, Remember Them by D Ross Campbell, which was due to be recited as part of the original commemoration plans (video link above).

She said: “We must never forget all those who served and I would support people doing anything to remember them. Sing a song, read a poem, make something, or just sit in silence for a minute.

“We can’t let this lockdown defeat us. We have to do something to remember all those who served so we may live in freedom.”

Councillor Billy Wells, mayor of Redcar and Cleveland, said: “This is a lovely way to commemorate VE Day. It is also a good way to reflect on what that generation did for us and remember that, although we are in a crisis now, things have been worse before and we have persevered. I would urge everyone to take part.”

Councillor Karen King, deputy leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “This is a worrying time, but I have been massively impressed by the community spirit and bravery I have witnessed from so many people.

“This chance to commemorate VE Day is an opportunity for us come together across Redcar and Cleveland – and the whole of the North East and North Yorkshire –for something very important. Please do whatever you can to remember all those who served.”

People can video and post their songs or poems online on Redcar Royal British Legion’s Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/RedcarRBL/

Residents can also participate in VE Day by logging on to Kirkleatham Museum’s Facebook site where a series of ‘how to’ videos are being posted, from DIY bunting to ‘make do and mend’ crafts.

Find the museum’s dedicated website here: www.redcarcleveland.co.uk/enjoy/kirkleatham-museum/

The public is also being urged to take part by creating special art for display in their windows. More details to be released in the coming days.