VE Day reported with relief, joy and a cheeky comic strip

In an era before the internet and smartphones the joy of Victory in Europe (VE) Day was reported in more traditional ways.

When World War II ended in Europe on Tuesday 8 May, 1945 with the unconditional surrender of Germany, Britain’s newspapers played a crucial role in communicating events to millions of ordinary Britons

Our researchers have explored how the popularity of newspapers helped spread stories about VE Day to huge audiences, offering images and commentary that radio, the only existing form of broadcast media could not.

During the war, eighty per cent of British families bought the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, News Chronicle, Daily Herald or Daily Sketch, often out of very small household incomes.

The Daily Mirror was the most popular amongst fighting servicemen and their families, not least because of the mix of sex appeal and humour in a comic strip called Jane.

Created over ten years earlier by cartoonist Norman Pett, ‘Jane’s Journal, the Diary of a Bright Young Thing’, featured the daily misadventures of the heroine, but as the war advanced the comic strip developed with Jane joining the Army.

Secret weapon

Jane became a symbol of British cheerfulness, with Winston Churchill describing her as the country’s ‘secret weapon’ and on VE Day, Pett took the unprecedented step of portraying her entirely naked except for a strategically draped Union Jack.

Other publications were quick to report on the celebrations with The Daily Mail featuring images of huge crowds in Piccadilly Circus, and The Times saying it ‘was thrilled to note that large bonfires ringed London and most public buildings were floodlit’.

The Guardian reminded its readers that ‘war still rages over a quarter of the globe’ and many of the men who had fought in Europe during World War II would have to risk their lives again in the continuing war against Imperial Japan

It’s not surprising that so many of these servicemen were pleased to be temporarily distracted by Jane’s cartoon antics in the Daily Mirror.

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