Wales

Beacons lit across Wales to commemorate 70th anniversary of VE Day

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Media captionA beacon is lit at Cardiff Castle to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day

Victory beacons have been lit across Wales as part of Victory in Europe Day commemorations.

Beacons were lit on Friday evening at the castles in Cardiff, Kidwelly, Beaumaris, Burry Port, Swansea, Welshpool, Brecon, Blaenau Gwent and Craig-y-Dorth in Monmouth.

In Pembroke Dock, residents used a special burner so their flame would burn in the shape of a 'V' for victory.

It followed a two minute silence and services across the country.

Seventy years ago it was the day guns went silent in Europe and church bells rang back at home for the first time in six years.

Now, bells have chimed again as people across Wales mark the anniversary of VE Day this weekend.

On Friday, a two minute silence at 15:00 BST was followed by a gun salute and service at Cardiff Castle.

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Media captionA two minute silence was held at Cardiff Castle while First Minister Carwyn Jones joined a commemoration at the Cenotaph in London

It marked the moment when Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced the unconditional surrender signing.

In Wrexham's Queens Square, it was observed with the sounding of an air raid siren at the start and end.

At the same time, veterans in Llanelli marched through the town and laid a wreath at the cenotaph.

Meanwhile, children in Llandovery experienced a taste of the forties with a wartime-themed street party, while vintage car enthusiasts in Llandysul held a vehicle parade.

There will be more official and community-organised events over the weekend, including street parties on Sunday.

Kevin Forbes, of the Royal British Legion in north Wales, which is organising a "poppy picnic" in Wrexham on Saturday, said the sense of community around the celebrations is a fitting tribute to the spirit of 1945.

Image copyright Grangetown History Society

"The first VE Day was very much something owned by the people themselves rather than the authorities, something that was celebrated street by street," he said.

"We wanted to recreate that sense of togetherness which got us through the war and to show that it can still exist today.

"But as well as celebrating that Blitz spirit, we want to commemorate the sacrifice of the men and women who made it possible, both in Europe and the Far East.

"We're fortunate to have around a dozen veterans coming along, and for most it's an extra-special occasion, as they missed out on the parties the first time around."

'A fitting tribute'

Saturday's celebrations will have the theme of noise and light.

During the war, church bells were only to have been rung in case of German invasion.

At 11:00 BST, bells will ring at Llandaff Cathedral, St John's Church and St David's Cathedral, all in Cardiff, as well as Brecon Cathedral to signify the moment when the ban was lifted.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption American soldiers joining in the VE Day party in 1945

Similarly, VE Day saw the end of the blackout and lights on the street for the first time in six years.

The moment will be remembered with the illumination of buildings around Wales including Conwy, Denbigh and Cardiff castles.

Sunday is a day of local celebrations, with more than 100 street parties and community events expected to take place across Wales.

Among the largest planned parties are a military re-enactment at Cardiff Castle, a wartime exhibition in Barry, a parade in Swansea, and a 1940s-themed party at Blaenavon Ironworks to recreate the celebrations of 70 years ago.

Official commemorations will be headed by a service of thanksgiving at Llandaff Cathedral.

First Minister Carwyn Jones will represent Wales at the main UK Service at Westminster Abbey.

He said: "It's important that while we remember those who gave their lives in World War II, we also give heartfelt thanks for their sacrifice to secure our way of life.

"The events, commemorations and celebrations that will be taking place across Wales throughout the VE Day celebrations are a fitting tribute to those who gave so much for our freedom."

Image copyright Grangetown Local History Society
Image caption Residents on Warwick Street in Grangetown, Cardiff, celebrated VE Day 70 years ago

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