New Zealand celebrates Victory in Europe

9 May 1945

Crowds at VE Day celebrations in Wellington (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/4-001527;F)

Germany formally surrendered on 7 May, New Zealand time, but acting Prime Minister Walter Nash insisted that celebrations should wait until after British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had officially announced peace at 1 a.m. on 9 May, New Zealand time.

Huge headlines in the morning papers on 8 May announced Germany’s surrender. The nation was excited by the news and the mood was celebratory. The rug was pulled out from under the feet of many when Nash broadcast that New Zealanders should go about their usual business; VE Day would be observed on the 9th.

The New Zealand Herald summed up the mood of many: ‘The feeling of victory was in the air, but no-one was inclined to let off steam without official authorisation’. It reported a comment from a mayor: ‘In 20 years’ time, school children will be asked to define the word anti-climax, and the answer will be “March [sic] 8, 1945”.’

Image: Crowds at the official VE Day celebrations, Parliament Buildings, Wellington, 1945