VE Day or Victory in Europe Day on 8th May marks the 75th anniversary
of the end of the Second World War in Europe.
of the end of the Second World War in Europe.
VE Day Memories - Anne McCormick
I remember parts of the day vividly because it was so exciting but so strange. We lived in Yorkshire and my parents took us by train to London so we could join in the celebrations. My sister and I, aged 5 and 7, had never been to London before and found it was so crowded and noisy. People seemed very happy, singing and dancing in the streets, climbing lampposts and jumping in the fountains in Trafalgar Square. However many of the buildings were damaged or completely destroyed, the ground covered in piles of rubble but bright with wild flowers. On the train home we shared our compartment with some Canadian soldiers. They were very friendly and gave us some chewing gum, but after trying it for a while we were not impressed. We noticed that the solders, on removing it from their mouths, stored it behind their ears! We copied them but unfortunately it became entangled in our hair and on getting home my mother had to cut off chunks of our hair to remove it!
Barkway RAF mast
At the outbreak of war the RAF had a communications mast erected. This was constructed in wood. There was in fact little activity here during the war. It was intended that there would be ack-ack here, but this didn’t materialise. After the war it was severely damaged when hit by a plane. It was then replaced by a steel mast as seen in the photograph.
VE Day Memories - Graham Penning
I spent the war years in Newport, Isle of Wight where my father was the borough engineer for the duration.
VE day I certainly recall with the excitement of crowds of people watching a grand parade of members of both military and civil organisations in all of their various coloured uniforms. My grandfather and two uncles were participants. My grandfather was in one of the Island home guard units. He had been on battleships in the first war. Two of his sons served in the navy throughout the war. One was in the Mediterranean, and the other on destroyer escorts of convoys to North Russia.
The Island suffered a surprising amount of bombing given its proximity to Portsmouth and Southampton. It was a well- known story that German bombers dropped their loads on the Island early in their mission rather than encounter the ferocity of Portsmouth anti- aircraft fire. Given the number of obscure locations having direct bomb hits, there is probably some truth to this.
Our house in Newport was only a couple of hundred metres from a street that suffered severe bomb damage. We had a Morrison shelter installed in our living room. This was essentially a steel cage with mesh sides, in which a family could squeeze into and sleep. Survival from a direct hit by bomb was not likely, but hopefully survival from a house collapse was.
I remember the sound of air raid sirens, and also of doodle bugs – flying bombs. One landed not far away, and broke glass in our back door. It had the sound of a motorbike overhead. So long as you could hear it you were safe. Once the engine cut out it was heading for the ground.
For a time in the war we gave a home to two young London girl refugees.
My baby cousin and our grandmother who was baby- sitting, were rescued uninjured from their demolished house in Newport. I remember my grandmother arriving at our back door completely covered in dust and soot. Apparently the rescuers had spotted the pram handles sticking out of the rubble, and my cousin unscathed beneath. So many strong memories from the war years.
The World War Two Barkway village pill box in Buckland Road
Our pill box sits just behind the hedge near to the corner of Buckland Road and the High Street. It was meant to provide cover for the twin approaches of the London Road and Nuthampstead Road. Stephen Nottage who was a horse keeper at Turnpike Farm nearby, manned the box with a Sten gun and one bullet! It was sturdily built as apparently an attempt to demolish it after the war with a crane and steel ball created damage but ultimately failed. So in its rather forlorn state it remains.
VE Day Memories - Chris Greening
As with most families with a parent away in the Forces, our war had been pretty nomadic, with spells in Sussex, California, Florida (my father had been helping train the US air force in this and that) Sussex again, and Shropshire.
1945 found us (mother, younger brother and self) in a Buckinghamshire farm my grandfather had rented at the outset of the war as a refuge for the family away from London. Like many children, I’d been shielded from the worst aspects of the conflict - in fact, had found some of it rather exciting - especially crossing the Atlantic with the anti-aircraft batteries on the ship being exercised once a day - but even at the age of 6, one picked up on the overwhelming sense of joy and relief when Germany surrendered. My father by this stage was with the Allied headquarters in Brussels, doing I know not what.
The family all packed into an uncle’s car (goodness knows how he’d got hold of the petrol, which was like liquid gold at that time) and went up to London to see the celebrations. We probably parked somewhere up near Marble Arch and walked down to the Mall and towards Buckingham Palace. The memory that sticks is the tremendous sense of celebration - well caught in the newsreels we’ve all seen. I don’t think I’ve ever been part of such a cheerful, friendly crowd unless it was at the coronation of the Queen years later. We fought our way up to the Palace and saw the King on the balcony - and for years afterwards I was convinced that he had thrown me the packet of chewing gum that came flying through the air in my direction (almost certainly a random shot from a US serviceman, but you know what children are…).
I think the original plan had been to have tea at the Cafe Royal in Regent Street, which had acted as a kind of informal rendezvous for family members passing through London on leave, but penetrating the crush with a gaggle of small children probably looked too challenging, so home we went to Hedgerley - exhausted but happy. It would be nice to think that all was downhill after that, but relatives and friends were still serving in the Far East, and it wasn’t till VJ Day that we could really relax.
As everyone knows, the ensuing years were fairly miserable - hard winters, power cuts, rationing and general austerity featuring strongly - but even at the lowest ebb, most people felt that the war had been well worth fighting - and that the joy of VE Day had made up for a lot.