“V” for Victory Campaign

1942 Win the War stamp
US #905 – WWII Win the War stamp with an eagle whose wings form a V.

On July 19, 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill officially established the “V” for Victory campaign.  The letter “V” became a rallying cry for people in occupied nations as well as Germans who opposed the Nazis.

The idea of using “V” for Victory was developed by Victor de Laveleye, the former Belgian Minister of Justice.  In January 1941, he was director of the Belgian French-language broadcasts on the BBC.  During one of his broadcasts on January 14, 1941, he suggested that people in Belgium paint a “V” for Victory everywhere as a symbol to stand up against Germany.  He chose this because it could represent victoire (French for “victory”) and vrijheid (Dutch for “freedom”).

1943 Flag of Belgium stamp
US #914 – “V” for Victory was originally conceived by a Belgian refugee.

It wasn’t long before the letter “V” was found on buildings and roads throughout Belgium.  Other Allied nations adopted the symbol as well.  Part of the expanding “V” for Victory campaign included the use of the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at the start of BBC broadcasts.  This was because the Morse code for “V” is dot-dot-dot-dash, and the song begins with the same rhythm.  Some took joy in the fact that the Allies were using German music as a rallying cry against their German enemies.

2015 Winston Churchill stamp
Item M12178 includes an image of Churchill loosely flashing the “V” for Victory gesture.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had learned of the far-reaching support of the “V” for Victory idea.  On July 19, 1941, he launched an official “V” for Victory campaign.  Churchill announced, “The V sign is the symbol of the unconquerable will of the occupied territories and a portent of the fate awaiting Nazi tyranny.  So long as the people continue to refuse all collaboration with the invader, it is sure his cause will perish, and Europe will be liberated.”

1965 Winston Churchilll stamp
US #1264 – Churchill was often photographed making the “V” for Victory hand gesture.

The V for Victory idea spread even farther and faster after Churchill’s announcement.  After the US joined the war, the phrase was used on posters promoting the war effort.  Around the world, people tapped out the Morse code for “V” and flashed the “V” for victory hand gesture.  Most photos of Churchill after his announcement showed him making the famous “V” gesture.

The Nazis hoped to combat the campaign, claiming that “V” stood for “viktoria,” and that by making the “V” symbol, civilians were showing their support for a German victory.

During the Vietnam War, the hand gesture came to represent peace.

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4 responses to "“V” for Victory Campaign"

4 thoughts on ““V” for Victory Campaign”

  1. Another story of the “V” sign comes from Old British lore.
    It was said that back in the days of the deadly English longbow, captured longbowmen would have their fingers cut off by the enemy so they could no longer draw their bows. By showing them a “V” with their fingers, a defiant Englishman would be showing an enemy they could still fight and, in effect, was giving the enemy the equivalent of today’s middle finger.
    Therefore, Mr. Churchill was telling the Germans what he really thought of them everytime his picture was taken.
    Whether that story is actually true or not, it does give another “colorful” explanation of the “V” sign.

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  2. Years ago, I remember that the”V” sign made by ones finger, could be interpreted as giving one the”middle finger”. Very good, Mr Gary Marvin.

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  3. In Britain, giving a V can also mean an obscene gesture as “go and get stuffed” if you showed the back of the hand outward with fingers and thumb in the back. Churchill made the gesture with the fingers and thumb facing outward as if to say he was giving the sign to Hitler who was behind him.

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