National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

New Display – VE Day

New Display – VE Day

The National Army Museum now features a new Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) display case that tells the story of the end of World War II both on the home front and at the frontline.

The new case uses many interesting objects to highlight the story, including a never displayed before full bottle of VE Day champagne that a kiwi soldier bought home from the war.

Assistant Curator Chris Rapley, who designed the case, said the story of the end of the war was riveting because it was a true turning point in history.

“On one hand you had the final defeat of Hitler’s Germany, which was a terrific achievement. But almost immediately after that you had the creation of the Iron Curtain and the beginning of the Cold War – which set the global political landscape for the next 50 or so years.”

Mr Rapley said that it was hard to imagine how relieved the nation must have been when it heard of the surrender of Germany and the news that the Kiwi troops were now out of harm’s way.

Not surprisingly the news of Victory in Europe in May 1945 was wildly celebrated throughout New Zealand with street parades, dances, bonfires and formal celebrations. However, the joy was tempered by the fact that the war still was not over since Imperial Japan remained undefeated.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s troops were in Trieste, Italy, and found themelves facing off against Yugoslavian communist forces that were determined to claim the city and its surrounds. The situation was eventually resolved, but for a time it threatened to boil over and was one of the very first stand-offs of the Cold War.