The Queen on VE Day 1945
The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with The Queen Mother, Sir Winston Churchill, King George VI and Princess Margaret (Picture: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo).
The Queen

Queen: VE Day 1945 'one of most memorable nights of my life'

The Queen, accompanied by her sister and a group of Guards officers, said they were "swept along on a tide of happiness and relief".

The Queen on VE Day 1945
The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, stood on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with The Queen Mother, Sir Winston Churchill, King George VI and Princess Margaret (Picture: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo).

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, has died aged 96.

The Queen described the celebrations after the defeat of the Nazis during the Second World War as "one of the most memorable nights of my life".

Then a young 19-year-old princess, she danced outside Buckingham Place with thousands of other revellers on Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May 1945 after slipping into the crowds unnoticed with her 14-year-old sister Princess Margaret.

It was a rare taste of real life on an extraordinary day for the princesses when they hurried out onto the streets of London after dinner to join the crowds, accompanied by a group of Guards officers, who were friends of the princesses.

They did the hokey cokey and the Lambeth Walk, sang Run Rabbit Run and Roll Out The Barrel, took part in chants of "We want the King" at the palace railings, and also danced the conga through the Ritz hotel in nearby Piccadilly.

In an interview for the BBC Radio 4 programme, The Way We Were, for the 40th anniversary of VE Day in May 1985, the Queen described being "swept along on a tide of happiness and relief". 

"We cheered the King and Queen on the balcony and then walked miles through the streets," she 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.”

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."

The Queen, who served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1945 and was in uniform on the day, described how she was terrified of being recognised on the streets "so I pulled my uniform cap well down over my eyes".

VE Day 1945 outside Buckingham Palace
Thousands celebrated VE Day outside Buckingham Palace on 8 May 1945 (Picture: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo).

She recalled in 1985 how she was reprimanded by a fellow officer.

The Queen said: "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."

According to the biography 'Elizabeth the Queen: The real story behind The Crown' by Sally Bedell Smith, the princess recorded in her diary that the partying continued the following night.

"Out in crowd again," she wrote.

"Embankment, Piccadilly, Pall Mall, walked simply miles. Saw parents on balcony at 12:30am – ate, partied, bed 3am!" 

Three months later, the future Queen again took to the streets to celebrate Victory over Japan (VJ) Day – effectively the end of the six-year war.

Elizabeth wrote that the group again "walked miles" and "ran through Ritz... drank in Dorchester, saw parents twice, miles away, so many people".

The biography documented that this time she was recognised and cheered, but police cautioned party-goers that "the princesses wished to be treated as private individuals, and they were allowed to go on their way".