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VE Day 75th Anniversary Statements by Chief Minister and His Excellency the Governor

May 08, 2020



Good afternoon and welcome to, a slightly unusual information briefing from No6 Convent Place.


This afternoon I welcome His Excellency the Governor, Nick Pyle, to the seat of Government in Gibraltar.


We will commemorate Victory in Europe Day together.


Before we do, I will provide you with updated information in relation to COVID-19.


As at this morning at 9am, the total number of swabs taken for Coronavirus in our community has been 3,637.


We have received 3,232 results.


146 positive swabs have been reported.


2,971 negative swabs have been reported.


142 patients are recovered.


As at today, 4 cases remain active.


That is just one more than yesterday.


I am pleased to report to you also, that today, in a long-planned operation, twenty-four British nationals have been repatriated from Morocco back to their homes in Gibraltar after being brought across the Strait in the RGP launch Sir Adrian Johns and the Port Authority launch, the Admiral Rooke.


They have come ashore literally moments before we started this broadcast.


The 24 individuals had been unable to leave Morocco after its borders were suddenly closed on 12 March. 


Today, the 24 were allowed to travel because each had a welfare issue of one sort or another. 


I want to thank the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Gibraltar Port Authority, and especially the crews of both these vessels, for their role in this repatriation, as well as our Civil Contingencies officers and colleagues in the Foreign Office who have been working closely with us in Gibraltar, London and Rabat.


I extend my gratitude also to the Moroccan authorities for their understanding and assistance.


I also must mention Ali Douissi of the Moroccan Community Association who has doggedly pursued this matter.

Today, 8th May 2020, the world is fighting a new common enemy, COVID-19.

Today, on a warm Bank Holiday in Gibraltar, we are confronting the difficulties of lockdown.

But I ask you to consider what life was like on the Rock 75 years ago, today.

The 8th May 1945 was Victory in Europe Day.

VE Day meant an end to nearly six years of a War that had cost the lives of millions.

A War that had destroyed homes, families, and cities.

A War that had brought huge suffering and privations to the populations of entire countries.

For our people, it had been five years of evacuation.

It had made our non-enlisted people displaced.

Almost refugees.

In London.

In Northern Ireland.

In Jamaica and in Madeira.

A diaspora that might never have returned home.

Across Europe, people rejoiced in the news that Hitler was dead.

Germany had surrendered.

The Continent was relieved that the intense strain of total war was finally over.

In towns and cities across the world, people celebrated in victory with street parties, dancing and singing.

We would have done so in Gibraltar today again if it were not for COVID-19.

Because Gibraltar contributed hugely to Britain’s war effort.

75 years ago, Gibraltar had been the only free part of the whole Continent of Europe.

The rest of Europe had been under AXIS dictatorship.

The Rock can be immensely proud of the way in which it influenced the final outcome of the War.

Gibraltar served a vital role in both the Atlantic Theatre and the Mediterranean Theatre.

From here, Britain could control virtually all naval traffic into and out of the Mediterranean Sea from and to the Atlantic Ocean.

In addition, Gibraltar provided a strongly defended, deep-water harbour.

Naval Force H was based in Gibraltar, maintaining naval superiority in the Mediterranean and providing escorts for convoys to and from the besieged island of Malta.

Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, was coordinated from the Rock.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who went on to become a two-term President of the United States of America, commanded the Operation from Gibraltar and lived in the Convent.

His headquarters were in the heart of the Rock.

The able-bodied men of Gibraltar formed the Gibraltar Defence Force, the precursor to our proud Gibraltar Regiment.

My father – like your fathers and grandfathers – was one of those men.

They did Gibraltar more than proud.

As did those of our fellow Gibraltarians who served beyond Gibraltar in the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom.

They were all part of the Allied war effort.

The War in Asia continued even after this day.

And the evacuees did not come back for some years after this date.

But VE Day marked the end of Nazi Germany.

And today, there are very few left who can remember Victory in Europe Day and so it is up to us to reflect on their sacrifices.

As a result of COVID-19, we have recently experienced six weeks’ lockdown and separation from our friends and families.

The Evacuation Generation endured more than six YEARS of separation.

Their separation was across huge distances and little or no means of communication existed at the time.

Additionally, they endured the threat of enemy action.

And they endured strict rationing of food and clothes.

Many of those who are totally confined today due to the virus are our precious over 70-years-olds.

They are obviously the ones who most closely remember these events.

We would not have the Gibraltar we have today if it were not for them.

I thank every surviving evacuee and serviceman on behalf of all of us.

We can only imagine the huge sense of relief and the outpouring of joy felt by each of them and by those of our countrymen in uniform when the Axis finally surrendered in May 1945.

Many of us have seen the photographs of wild celebrations in the streets of London.

Gibraltarians on the Rock and those evacuated around the world rightly celebrated too.

Today, we commemorate the sacrifices made by those wartime Gibraltarians.

All of them.

Soldiers, sailors, airmen.



They all played their part in the Allied victory that was celebrated on VE Day 1945.

Today we celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, and we remember and we salute everyone who was part of Gibraltar’s Evacuation Generation.

On the North Face of the Rock of Gibraltar last night, and tonight, we project a commemoration of this great victory.

And now, 75 years on, we are in a battle of our own.

So, in light of the current battle that we are engaged in with the Coronavirus, I will end my address to you today exactly as Prime Minister Churchill did 75 years ago.

I remind you, like he did, that we may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing as we have won the first round against the Coronavirus.

That is your victory.

It has been your sacrifice in lockdown that has delivered to us this success.

It will be your continued adherence to public health advice that will deliver to us continued and final victory against this virus.

We will not maintain restrictions on your hard won constitutional freedoms for a moment longer than is necessary.

But I remind you also that we must also now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our tasks in defeating our current enemy. 

And we must be as dedicated to giving effect to public health guidance and advice in the days and weeks going forward as we have been in the days and weeks already past.

And, finally today, as the British people did 75 years ago, we commit ourselves to the key principle for which our Nation went to war eighty years ago.


The principle that prevailed 75 years ago.


The principle that will always prevail.


The cause of freedom.


Under the warm sunshine of peace and freedom, these words may seem a little overly dramatic.


The message may perhaps seem less than relevant today.


But we will only keep the destructive threat of fascism at bay tomorrow by reminding our children and our children's children of the recent history of our Continent and our World.


Because we can already hear today the siren calls of the far right, the heirs apparent to the Nazi message of the 1930s seeking to redefine itself in populist extremism across Europe.


We, the Gibraltarians, will never fail to call out those who seek to oppress others.


And we will never fail to call out any attempt to oppress us or deny us our rights or our freedoms.


Not least our right to freely determine our future for ourselves.

The cause of freedom of the People of the Rock.

And so, it is now my pleasure to invite His Excellency the Governor, the representative of Her Majesty the Queen, our Sovereign, to address you also on this auspicious occasion.