Queen recalls being ‘swept along on a tide of happiness and relief’ on VE Day

The Queen’s recollections of her VE Day celebrations as “one of the most memorable nights of my life” have been shared by Buckingham Palace to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.

The monarch recorded an interview for the BBC Radio 4 programme The Way We Were for the 40th anniversary on May 8 1985.

In archive audio which appeared on the royal family’s social media channels, the Queen can be heard recounting how, as a 19-year-old, she joined thousands of other revellers after slipping into the crowds outside Buckingham Palace unnoticed with her 14-year-old sister Princess Margaret.

“We cheered the king and queen on the balcony and then walked miles through the streets,” the Queen said

“I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”

It was an unprecedented and spontaneous breach of royal protocol when the princesses hurried out of the palace after dinner to join the crowds, accompanied by a group of Guards officers, who were friends of the princesses.

“My sister and I realised we couldn’t see what the crowds were enjoying. My mother had put her tiara on for the occasion, so we asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised,” the monarch said.

VE Day
VE Day

She revealed how they “cheated” to make sure their parents appeared on the balcony to their shouts of “We want the King.”

“We were successful in seeing my parents on the balcony, having cheated slightly because we sent a message into the house to say we were waiting outside,” the Queen said.

“I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my life”.

Under the cover of darkness, the royal teenagers went unrecognised in the throng.

They sang in jubilation, did the hokey cokey and the Lambeth Walk, and also danced the conga through the Ritz hotel in nearby Piccadilly.

Elizabeth and Margaret
Elizabeth and Margaret

An 18-year-old Princess Elizabeth had joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and registered as No. 230873 Second Subaltern Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor and took a driving and vehicle maintenance course at Aldershot, qualifying as a driver.

She was in uniform on the day and told how she pulled her cap “well down over my eyes” to stop herself being recognised.

But she added she was reprimanded by a fellow officer.

“A Grenadier officer amongst our party of about 16 people said he refused to be seen in the company of another officer improperly dressed, so I had to put my cap on normally,” she said.

The Queen poignantly told how one of her party – a cousin – believed to be John Elphinstone – had just returned from years as a prisoner of war.

“I remember the amazement of my cousin just back from four-and-a-half years in a prisoner of war camp, walking freely with his family in the friendly throng,” she said.

Here's Winston Churchill & the Royal family greeting the public from Buckingham Palace balcony, #VEDay, 8 May 1945 pic.twitter.com/Dtx58arzLU

— Science Museum (@sciencemuseum) May 8, 2015

As part of the official celebrations in 1945, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made eight appearances on the palace balcony in 10 hours – on one occasion accompanied by prime minister Winston Churchill.

Elizabeth and Margaret themselves appeared six times with their parents throughout the day and evening.

The Queen said: “I remember the thrill and relief after the previous day’s waiting for the prime minister’s announcement of the end of the war in Europe.

“My parents went out on the balcony in response to the huge crowds outside. I think we went on the balcony nearly every hour, six times.”