chapter  12
25 Pages

Fragile Bearings 1945–

When the Home Office came to reflect on the ‘Armistice Day,which would fall on 11 November 1945, it was in a difficulty. Was the ‘Second World War,simply to be bolted onto well-established ceremonies and new names carved, eventually, on old memorials, or was the conflict that had just ended something other than a continuation, at an interval, of the war of 1914-18? It was not easy to decide then and it has not proved easy for historians ever since.1 It did seem self-evident, however, that the outcome had been a British victory. Fifty years later, when the mood of 1945 was again recalled in public ceremonies in London and elsewhere in Britain, past and present were again fused momentarily. The queen who had stood beside the king on the balcony of Buckingham Palace was still alive. The princess who had mingled with the crowd was now queen. Dame Vera Lynn sang songs which she had sung in 1945. Veterans paraded. Fireworks were let off. There was an atmosphere of celebration, even among the young who had no memory of the Second World War. A present was temporarily suspended in favour of a past which seemed to be uncomplicatedly a source of British satisfaction and pride.