RECOLLECTIONS OF VE DAY – 1945
After celebrating VE Day 75 years on some of our members have shared their memories of that very special time
During the war I lived in a village called Old Woking in Surrey. My father was in the regular army and was away. Unfortunately, my mother developed an inoperable brain tumour when I was under two so we obviously needed constant attention. We went to live with two unmarried sisters who were school friends of my grandmother and had known Mum since she was a child. Fortunately, we had a fairly uneventful war with a few excitements along the way.
I was six on VE Day and excitement grew as the Day approached – no more bombs – no more Wailing Willie (our local air raid siren) disturbing us every night. My Dad was stationed in England and we saw him from time to time, but many of my friends had not seen their fathers or big brothers for years. We were soon going to have ice cream and sweets – a bit of a dream as it turned out. We children were delighted to realise there would be no more lessons underground in dark, flooded shelters with “wildlife” around our feet while we sang Ten Green Bottles Hanging on the Wall and One Man Went to Mow, Went to Mow a Meadow ad infinitum.
For VE Day itself the aunts found a huge Union Jack flag out of which they made me a dress, which I wore all day. Another flag was found and attached to a pole. When I did my daily trip to the paper shop in my dress and carrying my flag I was cheered all the way. In the evening I went out, all the windows were lit up and looked sensational after many years of ‘black out’. The whole street sang and danced all together most of the night so happy and relieved that it was over for us. Just for a very short while we almost forgot about Japan – but of course Japan had not been terrifying us night after night, as had the particularly dreaded doodlebugs!
I was very glad to be able to say goodbye to my Micky Mouse Gas Mask which had terrified me even more than Hitler
It were a lovely day, the weather like we are having these days, but for that banana. (more of that later).
There was a street party in the Close, we could hear the pit engine drawing well, that meant rain was in the offing, but not for today, thank you! The pit buzzer was sounding off, the Bevan Boys clogs were kicking up sparks off the road and the lads were singing and joshing as they were coming off shift. A few well aimed clouts from Olderns kept them in some order. Snuff was being sniffed, (no tabs were allowed dahn pit face), the Youngerns sneezing to much lafter.
Us in the Close couldn’t believe our eyes, there was bowels of tuffies, jellies, potted meat sarnies, cake, tarts and more. The Mum’s had been saving up fer this day big time, bless ‘em.
How did they get the the tables level, cos the Close had a slope?
It were going so well, when some kid from over the back spat jelly all over me Sunday shirt. Mum was mad, she thought it were my fault!!! (Life don’t change do it?). I was dragged ‘ome by me tab to change me shirt. Just then in walked Bunny Stirland, with her Canadian “Boy Friend” ( She were a bit of a green skirt- I was much older when I learnt what that meant!) Gret big fella ‘e were, but nice to me. He gives me this BANANA!!!, I had no idea what it was, Mum saw I hesitated, snatched it off me, ‘an gev it to the kid from over the back. I still to this day, don’t know what that was all abaht.
I was 5 years old and we lived in Shoreditch, east London. My Dad was an air-raid warden, Mum worked at Gainsborough Film Studio as a waitress in the studio canteen. I remember my Dad took me to Trafalgar Square. There were crowds everywhere. Dad put me on his shoulders, and we watched the soldiers and bands march past. There was a lot of noise – people were singing and dancing and cheering. It was very exciting.
When we got home, Mum and my sister were in the street helping to organise a street party. Half our street had been bombed so there was lots of wood and rubbish to make a bonfire. There was beer and lemonade from the local pub. Everybody was happy singing – it was very exciting for a 5-year old.
We were thankful not to be evacuated again, also hoping we wouldn’t have to go down the smelly tube station to hide from the bombs – I remember the air raid warnings and the silence waiting for the bomb to drop. Mostly I remember the smells and the noise of the war; and being evacuated and wanting to come home.
The kids all wondered when their dads and brothers were coming home. One day after the war I met a very handsome soldier at my aunt’s flat. He was very brown. He was my dad’s younger brother who had been one of the Desert Rats – it was the first time I had met him as I had been born after he had joined up .
My dad took me down to Meyrick Park where we sang things like Hang out the washing on the Siegfried Line, Pack up your Troubles and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary; and I embarrassed him by dragging him into the circle to join in Hands Knees and Boomps a Daisy.
I also remember there was a firework display along the seafront, but am not sure if it was the same day – we had to take my mum home as she was scared in such a big crowd.
‘ I was born on 30 December 1945 in the London Hospital, Whitechapel to Rita and Sidney Seltzer. My mum was a WAAF working for Coastal Command in Cornwall and Dad an RAF fitter armourer on Lancaster bombers at Grimsby – they met at a RAF Ensa dance. Mum was pleased to get pregnant, she thought it would be her ticket to get out of service, but she admits she was foiled because the war ended on 8th May!’
I spent the day on a school trip from Bec Grammar School in SW London visiting Kew Gardens. In mid-afternoon we were told to make our own way home. As we went through the ticket barrier at the Tube station the ticket inspector told us that the war was over in Europe. Once we had boarded the train into an empty carriage we pulled away all the anti-blast netting that was glued to the windows, moving from carriage to carriage at each stop.
At home in the evening a street party had been organised by the corner-shop newsagent and tobacconist with a raised stage, a local band and fireworks. He was obviously a forward planner with good contacts! The following day there was a more subdued party for the youngsters organised by the mums. Traffic was no bother to the festivity – in a street with 220 houses there was only one car owner.
I was two on VE Day, and here’s a photo taken to celebrate it. I am far left bottom row sitting in front of my Aunt Doff (I couldn’t say Dorothy and the name still sticks). My mother Connie, and my gran Elsie, are also in the photo. My father was still in Berlin.
On Tuesday the 8th May I woke early in my friend’s house in Kensal Rise in north-west London. Several friends had gathered there the evening before playing cards and chatting about our plans for the next day – which amounted to not very much other that getting to the West End and seeing what was happening.
Bob’s mum made us breakfast, after which we set off walking along the Harrow Road towards Paddington then down the Edgware Road, arriving at Hyde Park Corner where we met swarms of people all heading in the direction of Piccadilly Circus. From then on it became all very confusing with a lot of cheering, singing, dancing, and general hugging until late in the afternoon we made our way down the Mall. It wasn’t a walk – more of a general jostle and at the end finding ourselves level with the Victoria Memorial and joining the frenzied shouting “We want the King”. It worked and the King and Queen came out on to the balcony many times together with Mr Churchill, firstly in the daylight and then in the dark as floodlights illuminated the gathered royals. There was a lot of cheering, hugging and kissing after which we made our way home to Bob’s place. I collected my bike and rode home to Wembley to meet up with my Mum and Dad who seemingly hadn’t worried about me.
The 9th was a working day and I was back being a junior trainee at Maples in Tottenham Court Road.
‘It was my mother’s birthday, and I was given a banana – the first one I had ever seen. I was eight years old and did not know what it was. No banana has ever tasted better than that first one. The man who gave it to me was chief engineer on an oil tanker all through the war’.
I remember collecting wood to build the bonfire which we had on the front street (paved with granite cobbles). The street party was very welcome as we weren’t accustomed to cakes and trimmings. In the evening we were serenaded by an excellent accordion player, who taught me to play a few years later.
Shortly afterwards I remember my cousin coming down the street in full kilt and Black Watch Highland dress uniform after years away from home.