VE Day Reflections

A shared reflection for VE Day, 75 years on.

 

As I made my ‘lockdown phone calls this week, I asked a number of people of a certain age, for any memories they might like to share of VE Day. I rather put them on the spot, but they were very generous and shared the following reflections. I have set them out in no particular order, but the first few set the scene for the big day of wonderful, spontaneous celebration.

 

I am very grateful to everyone who responded to my question, “Before I go, I’ve something I must ask you …”

What follows are their own words …

 

To begin, a few memories of wartime that were shared with me …

 

We had a Morrison shelter under the table and if anything was about, in you went. Quite what good it would have been I just don’t know. You never knew what was going to happen. There was a heightened fear of course at one time that we would be invaded. The hardship was great

 

Nothing came into the country that was not absolutely necessary because someone had to risk their life to get it to England. We didn’t see a banana for years!

 

Newbury was bombed of course. Windows were boarded up. It was extremely hard for women trying to make a home. 

 

I was only 4, but I remember the gliders and bombers at Greenham. I was terrified by the noise when the sirens went off.

 

But then!!

 

Eventually the long-awaited day arrived – 8 May 1945, time to relax and the W.I. meeting became an open party. Mr Saunders took to be M.C., and everyone was grateful for his assistance. The hall was very well filled, and Sir Frank Spickernell kindly played the piano for dancing and musical games. Mrs Mcartney gave an account of the arrangements for the welcome home fund, tea and cakes were then served. The drama club performed a sketch entitled Mrs Whipple’s husband and this was followed by more games and dancing. Everyone enjoyed themselves and a committee was formed to organise the welcome home celebrations.

 

Mother said, stay in because everyone will go wild. All the Church bells rang. Everyone was so pleased the blackout was over.

 

I remember I was in the garden with my Grand Parents & they were extremely excited & happy.

 

I was away at Teacher Training College in Salisbury & we all went to a Service in the Cathedral.

 

I remember walking down the village street at lunchtime & a neighbour Mrs. Stroud was telling everyone’ It’s all over’. Then later listening to King George on the radio & hearing the crowds cheering & bells ringing out across London.

 

We had an older brother who was overseas in The Far East & so for him it was still a time of conflict.

 

War in Europe ended, so my life really became a pretty normal Royal Army Service Corp soldier’s life. The landings were finished, we were still there in Italy and they had to give us a job, so we moved up through Italy until finally my last place was Turin. Life was as normal as it could be, in the circumstances, before I had to leave my Newbury mates, all who had survived the war, and I was sent back to Blighty, on leave for five weeks before I was sent to the Azores to finish my service.

 

 

I was working at Johnson and Johnson in the office. When the news came through, they gave us the afternoon off.

 

I was on an isolated farm near Maidstone at the time. We had a party in the park and I was given a red, white, and blue decoration   . It didn’t dawn on me what was going on at the time. I guess I was too young.

 

 

I was 15 and the local paper said there would be a sedate dance, but I remember it being livelier than that. People provided music from records, everyone provided food. It was a great celebration. Cars were hooting, there was dancing, The Lambeth Walk, Waltzes, quick steps and of course the Hokey Cokey.

 

There were very few houses with telephones, but we had one and news came through that the Russians had released a neighbours Son, a fighter Pilot shot down and I had to run and tell his parents.

We had a huge party in Coronation Hall. We have a photograph somewhere with me in the front row with a little one on my lap I used to babysit at the time. It was an incredibly special day.

Mum, Dad, and I were in Church that day and the vicar had just entered the pulpit. His sermons seemed to go on for hours. When the verger whispered in the vicar’s ear … and he announced the war was over and everyone got up and left the Church. It was a time that really brought people together.

 

There were of course a mix of tears that day Varying emotions and memories.

 

I was going on 16 when VE Day dawned. I had completed another day at Eton and was shut in the house where I boarded with 60 or so other Etonians, each in their individual rooms.

Such a happening transcended normal rules and I made up my mind there and then to ‘break out’ and join the celebrations in Windsor. I felt I owed it to the memory of my Father, who had been awarded a D.S.O. for the effective way he had led the 7TH Armoured Brigade in the decisive victory over the Italians. He was to lose his life in the desert shortly afterwards.

And so, I slid down a narrow roof from my room into the courtyard below and into the street. My mind is dim on the next happenings, but I think I was an onlooker rather than a participant. How I got back into my room again, I remember not, but I clearly did and no reprimand was issued. It was a unique occasion.

 

In conclusion, words from ‘Monty’ Field Marshall Montgomery: “I would ask you all to remember those of our comrades who fell in the struggle. They gave their lives that others might have freedom. No man can do more than that.”

 

At 11.00 on 8 May, we as a Nation fall silent and remember.

 

But then, throughout the day, we come together across the garden fence, with our Queen, through the media and as best we can during our own Lockdown, we celebrate VE Day and our freedom.

 

A VE Day prayer:

Let us pray:

 

Lord God our Father,
we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind, in the cause of peace,
for the relief of want and suffering,
and for the praise of your name.
Guide us by your Spirit;
give us wisdom;
give us courage;
give us hope;
and keep us faithful now and always.
Amen.

 

 

With every blessing  .. Rev’d Tim