VE Day 2020: Britain toasts second world war heroes as Red Arrows flypast marks 75th anniversary – live | World news

The Countess of Wessex joked with a second world war airman about his hangover after VE Day celebrations when they met for a virtual chat.

Members of the royal family have been talking to wartime veterans and civilians this week to hear their stories and mark the 75th anniversary of the war ending in Europe.

Louis Goodwin, 94, from Salisbury, told the countess he had joined the RAF in 1943 as an 18-year-old and opted to train as a gunner rather than pilot or navigator because the instruction course was shorter.

Speaking on the Royal British Legion’s special online show, screened on its Facebook page, the former airman said:

When I joined, I thought the war’s not going to last that long and I’ll never get flying, because the training for a pilot was a good year, so I elected to go for a quicker course on air gunnery.

The countess asked about his safety flying in Lancaster bombers, adding: “Quite an exposed position you were in because you were right down in the tail.”

Goodwin joked: “I wasn’t quite as fat as I am now, with flying gear on it was a job to get in anyway – a little bit tight sitting behind four machine guns.”

When he said that he had left the VE Day party at 11pm, the countess said that was “quite civilised, not too bad.” He replied: “We had a few drinks.”

“You remember the headache the next morning?” she asked.

“Yes, yes and wondering what we were going to do next,” Goodwin replied.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex talking via video link to Louis Goodwin. Photograph: Royal British Legion/PA

During the Royal British Legion’s online show, Dame Joan Collins described how her London home was destroyed in an air raid when she was a child, and the tenor Alfie Boe sang.

Collins said: “We got bombed out and I remember going to our home in Maida Vale and seeing that the whole flat was gone.

“‘Oh, where’s my toys?’ I said to my mother. ‘Well, we’ll have to buy you some more,’ said my father toughly.”

The Princess Royal chatted to Dorothy Pettican Runnicles, 95, from Gloucester, who served with the Women’s Royal Naval Service as a petty officer and air radio mechanic.

She said she had “volunteered for the services because it was the thing to do, we had to get this war finished”.

Dorothy was 19 when she lost her boyfriend in an air crash while she was working in the Fleet Air Arm.

She said about her service: “It challenged me, it stretched me. I learned about death.”

The Princess Royal (right) talks via video link to Dorothy Pettican Runnicles.

The Princess Royal (right) talks via video link to Dorothy Pettican Runnicles. Photograph: Royal British Legion/PA

The princess asked how she was coping with the coronavirus lockdown.

“I’m not good in my mobility and I worry [about] not getting out of the flat, but I’ve got instructions from my grandchildren, I’ve got to stamp about the flat from each room and pretend I’m doing physical work,” she said.

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