The Meaning of Victory
This anniversary comes at another moment of national crisis - which has both curtailed today's celebrations, and stopped the concerts, parades, street parties and other gatherings, and also given it much more emotional heft. On all sides, we have been bombarded by comparisons between the war and this pandemic. The Queen made that quiet point when she ended her broadcast with the words of Vera Lynn's totemic wartime song: 'We'll meet again'.
The level of casualties is akin to a war. In the US, more have died from COVID than perished in Vietnam. New York has suffered a heavier loss of life - much heavier - from the virus than on 9/11. Here in London, we're told that the past four weeks have witnessed a heavier death toll than during the worst four weeks of the wartime Blitz.
But let's not kid ourselves. This virus is desperate, cruel and will blight us all for some time to come - but it's nothing like war. Wartime casualties were disproportionately the young - COVID hits disproportionately at the old. Does that make a difference? Yes! All lives matter - but there is a more intense tragedy about young lives unlived than long lives brought to a premature end.
And the scale is something different. 450,000 British lives were lost - military and civilian - in the Second World War; twice that number in the First World War. Even when the excess deaths arising from this pandemic can be reliably measured, the figure won't - I trust - be on that scale.
More than anything else - unlike my father and grandfather, I have never worn a military uniform, nor have I ever been asked or expected to do so. The Lockdown of the last few weeks is puny beside the social and economic dislocation that accompanied mass mobilisation, and the trauma nothing like as immense as taking civilians and training them to do battle and to kill.
Of all wars, the one which ended 75 years ago was brutal, global - but with a profound moral justification. There was something uniquely evil about Nazi Germany, its concept of racial superiority and the way in which that was realised in the shaming tragedy of the concentration camps and gas chambers.
I'll have all this in mind during the two minutes silence coming up - and I'll bow my head to the generations which went through so much more than we have.
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