Friday 8 May will mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, when Sir Winston Churchill delivered his historic speech to crowds gathered in London, broadcasting the news that the Second World War was finally over.
This was a war that took place on our own soil. People in our cities, towns and villages lost their lives, whilst others suffered lifelong injuries and families were left torn apart by six years of chaos and tragedy.
SSAFA is the UK's oldest national military charity and has been supporting our Forces and their families since 1885. In the early 1940's SSAFA was rapidly expanding to meet the needs of our servicemen and women and their families, so much so that General Montgomery declared: "In the knowledge that his family at home are being well cared for by SSAFA, the soldier fighting overseas may wholeheartedly devote himself to his duty."
Seventy years on and we are watching the nostalgic memories of VE Day play out across Britain. As a nation we have a strong tradition of commending our Forces and so we should, we have much to be proud of.
Over the last seven decades SSAFA has supported hundreds of thousands of World War Two veterans and their families and we will continue to provide them with practical, emotional and financial support for as long as they need. Most requests for assistance today differ greatly from those we received in the 1940s, with the elderly veterans we are supporting suffering in the main from isolation, loneliness and mobility problems. Sadly however, some issues have not changed with time and many are still struggling to cope with debt and homelessness.
Naturally, once a war is over the men and women of our Armed Forces fade out of the public consciousness as the nation looks to the future. However, this is often the very point in time that the full impact of conflict on those who fought and their families is beginning to manifest. SSAFA has witnessed this time and again, after every major conflict and as the dust begins to settle post-Afghanistan, we are yet again preparing ourselves for what is to come.
SSAFA recently conducted a poll to gauge the level of awareness of VE Day and World War Two amongst the younger generation. The results were disappointing. Over half of the 18-25 year olds we spoke to did not know what VE Day was and over a third were unable to identify Winston Churchill as Prime Minister during World War Two, with seven percent believing it was President Kennedy. Nearly three quarters of those polled drastically underestimated the death toll, unaware of the 60 million lives that were lost.
And so as we look towards a weekend awash with red, white and blue, bunting and renditions of "We'll Meet Again", let us not forget the courage and sacrifice of so many that afforded us this opportunity to celebrate. When those who gave so much need a little support, it is our duty to make sure they are treated with the recognition and respect their courage deserves.