V for Victory Graffiti

On January 14th 1941, Victor de Lavalaye, a Belgian refugee working for the BBC, first suggested in a shortwave broadcast to Occupied Europe that his fellow countrymen use the letter “V” as a symbol of  the resistance to Nazi terror, since this letter stood for the French “victoire” as well as the Flemish “vrijheid”.  

Reports of  “V”’s scrawled in defiance on walls all over France, Holland and Belgium soon filtered back to Britain, and the BBC, realizing it had hit upon a propaganda weapon of great reach and power, began to use the Morse code “V” (…-) sounded on a drum together with the opening measures of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (whose opening theme rhythmically imitates the dot. . dot. . dot. . dash of the Morse “V”), to introduce much of its overseas programming. 

Churchill V signWinston Churchill, aware of the positive momentum building behind this gesture, officially instituted the “V for Victory” campaign on July 19, 1941. The letter “V” was to be the rallying cry for all the citizens of the occupied nations, as well as those Germans wishing to resist the evils of Nazism.  Churchill’s defiant pose, with his two fingers held up in a “V”, palm outward, became emblematic of the gritty determination of the British. It is probably no coincidence that the “V” gesture, palm inward, was the English equivalent of a similar American gesture that uses only the middle finger.

V for VictoryNot long after this campaign began America entered the conflict, and over the next few months and years the war reached into every city, town and village and was ingrained into everyday life. In this spirit, someone working at the Whiting Box Manufacturing Company (now known as the Wilton Falls Building) painted a large letter “V”, followed by the Morse . . . - on the side of the building that faces the railroad tracks and Island Street, where it curves around and merges into what is now Burns Hill Road. 

V for Victory closeupIt is still there today, faded but visible, the memory of a small gesture of defiance and hope, and a symbol of the solidarity between a New England factory worker, someone who may never have ventured any further from Wilton than Nashua or Manchester, and the men and women, none of whom he would ever come to know, who daily risked their lives to rid their countries of the Nazi occupation.

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