VE Day 1945 Memories
To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day - commemorating the end of the Second World War in Europe - on Friday 8 May 2020, we have collected a series of recollections of the day from members of the Bede's community. You can read our short collection of personal reflections on the page below.
Whilst we remember the celebrations, we are also commemorating those who made many sacrifices to ensure that others had the opportunity to grow up in a free and peaceful Europe.
It is our duty to keep the events of the past alive in collective memory, including future generations - this is how we ensure that such a conflict never happens again. It is our hope that the nation takes a moment to reflect on the significance of this date, as a milestone that changed the course of history for the whole world.
Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity
We are immensely grateful for any of your family's reminiscences; please feel free to email me at email@example.com with any further contributions.
Head of History and Politics
"I was 7 years old when War was declared. I was living with my widowed aunt and 3 cousins - Reggie was a farmer, Frank was a dairy salesman and 'Pearcy' was a Bomber pilot. I remember them talking about the war and how it scared me. Because we were in Cornwall we had evacuees and I only went to school for half a day for 5 days a week.
"I remember being at my Uncle's farm when a German plane started firing at people on the beaches fortunately I wasn't hit. At various times bombs were dropped all around us, we used to shelter under the kitchen table.
"Just before D Day the Americans came over and I used to get chewing gum and tins of fruit from their camp. I don't remember much about VE Day itself - the celebrations were mostly in the cities. I do remember being relieved that the War was over and the rockets and bombing stopped."
Kelven Hosken, Step-Grandfather of Evan Nayler (Lower Sixth Deis)
"My grandpa remembers there was a party on the 8th of May in 1945 - the street in Barking where he lived held a party, the children were instructed to collect lots of wood for them to have a bonfire. My grandpa lived through the Blitz, so collecting wood was not too tricky due to all the debris from the houses that were bombed. The tables were later set out along the halves of the street, there weren’t many adults around mainly elder family members and women as many young people were out in the war.
"From the rationing of food, there weren’t many delicacies mostly just sandwiches, cakes and jellies. They all set out wearing homemade hats before the lighting of the fire. The shop owner around the corner dragged a 5ft huge box full of fireworks that he had kept from before the war (imagine the display if a bomb had hit). An older man was employed to work on the ‘Ackack gun site’ in Barking Park and he managed to gather a large pack of ‘thunder flashes’ (a loud and bright firework).
"The bonfire was huge, the children had to be held back from the bonfire and firework display! The fireworks varied in shape and spark, some fizzed out quickly but some were beautiful, the children around me were running trying to follow the fireworks. Someone rolled out a piano from in their home and started up a song and dance in celebration of their sound of freedom. The celebration made a feature in the local paper.
"My Grandma remembers walking out of her house at the age of nine and she noticed that all of the lights in houses in the road were on and curtains were open as there was no more blackout. She remembers her friends and neighbours, out of their homes and chatting in the freedom of no more war."
Izzy Sayer (Upper Sixth Crossways)
"Grandad lived through the blitz in East London. The most vivid story he told us is of returning from a shopping trip with his grandmother, aged four, to find his house had been obliterated by a V1 rocket (Doodlebug)! Fortunately no-one was inside their house at the time, however several lives were lost on the street.
"He remembers the VE Day Street Party - ‘all the tables were laid out in the street. I remember, I would have been seven then, and my Mum somehow got hold of a Native American outfit for me to wear. Shirley (my cousin) was also there - in army uniform, she won first prize of 10 shillings. In the photo I am looking up at her as she salutes! We all had a really good time, I don't remember what we had to eat - probably paste sandwiches - and they gave us a V. E Mug - unfortunately, I don't have that now, it would probably be quite valuable!!’
"Grandma was born during the war, and lived through the blitz. Her father was in the navy, and she met him for the first time when she was 3 years old. This is a photograph taken on VE Day, of a party for the neighbourhood children in North London. Grandma is in the front row at the right hand end, sharing a seat with her cousin."
Seb and Ed Cooper (Lower Fifth & Upper Fifth Knights)
"My wife’s grandad was 15 in 1945. He was down in Lincolnshire, in the village of Wrangle, on a working holiday arranged by his school – spending six weeks bringing in the potato crop! They were staying near a US Air Force base and regularly saw ‘thousand bomber’ raids taking off. They heard about VE Day on the radio and had an extra tea ration – however the biggest news of the day was him finding out he had passed his School Certificate!
"In contrast my Grandad, who was a mechanic in the RAF, was part of the Third Tactical Air Force based in Hathazari, India (now Bangladesh) - they were disturbed by the airfield’s AA guns letting off a few rounds, and received extra beer and cigarette rations for the day - then went back to work servicing Dakota transport planes being used in the Burma campaign!"
James Whitaker, Head of History and Politics, Bede’s Senior School
"I have so many memories of VE Day as I took it all in age 11.The main ones are of a VE night bonfire at the end of my road, lit in the street by a family of 7 children. This was on VE night, and a boy threw a German incendiary bomb unexploded into the fire!! Everybody ran! It caught alight and the lady in the house did the wrong thing and threw a bucket of water on the bomb. We had no street lights as none worked as they were Victorian Gas. The bomb lit the whole road up like daylight with the water on magnesium!! The next day there was a big hole in the road having burnt through the tarmac! Nobody cared as there were no cars only bikes or horses and carts.
Since D-Day us boys had gained access to the park on the hill. It had been requisitioned by the military in 1940 and they used it all through the war with all the hotels and many of the big Victorian houses as barracks. We were playing endlessly on the Commando training grounds which were all left intact. They were all kitted up and left for Normandy. We had an aerial runway about 1/2 mile long, and you had to scale this huge oak to the top to ride down on it!
Mysteriously on VE night a massive store in the open on the top of the hill of ammunition boxes at least 100 yards by 40 yards and 50 feet high caught alight. The blaze was colossal. It was seen all over London to the south-west! In the end the auxiliary fire brigade damped it down! Of course on D Day they had all been issued with a full complement of ammunition before embarking on the invasion. We had the biggest bonfire in Britain bar none - nobody ever knew who set fire to it, it was a complete mystery!
After the initial celebrations and a short holiday everybody just went down and slept, and did nothing. The country just went into a kind of trance for a week or two!! Exhausted, and drained, as everybody who was able bodied was involved one way or another even schoolboys. The whole of our existence was about winning the war whatever the cost."
Graham Barlow, Grandfather of Alyssia Smith (Upper Sixth Charleston)
"I was at my friend’s house, he lived in a flat above a derelict café at the top end of Uckfield High Street. I remember that the adults became “very smiley”. They held a big party for all the kids at the Methodist Chapel at the end of Harcourt Road in Uckfield where we lived.
At the time I was ten years old and did not really appreciate the seriousness of the war. I was lucky and I was never evacuated as my father was exempt from military service through health reasons - all that said he was still involved as a very early 'Dads Army' man in the Home Guard."
Patrick Winter, Grandfather of Katy-Anne Burr (Upper Sixth Charleston)
"My Grandad - Horace 'Ace' Webster - was in the Royal Navy and served on several ships. He did his training at Skegness, and his home port was Plymouth. His first ship was the Hecla, a naval supply vessel - it was mined off Madagascar killing several crew. They put a tarpaulin over the hole and limped back to South Africa for repairs and survivors leave. While convalescing in South Africa, he stayed with a wealthy family who distilled cherry and apricot brandy. My Dad still has a gold ring they gave him when he left. The Hecla then went to North Africa for Operation Torch where she was torpedoed off Cape St Vincent.
"His other main ship was the battleship Duke of York, which spent time on Russian convoy duty. It was also at the Battle of North Cape in 1943 when it sank the Sharnhorst.
"On VE Day 1945 he was in port at Plymouth whilst his ship was being refitted. He then became Admiral Fraser's Chief Steward, who later became First Sea Lord of the Admiralty."
Emma Webster, History and Politics Department, Bede’s Senior School
"As a young boy, living in West London through the Blitz, when my technical school was evacuated, I joined the Air Training Corps to train to gain entry to the RAF. I was 17.5 years old and after my training, I became an engine mechanic. I served on bomber command stations around Cambridge and later on, I was stationed in Brussels and Cologne.
"My RAF friend and I had leave in time for VE Day so we went back to my parent’s house in West Acton. We decided to leave the street parties and headed for London for the VE Day celebrations. This was the most momentous day of my life to come, because I met my future wife, Sheila who was on holiday from the North East of England with her friend. We spent a lovely few days together.
"The enclosed picture shows us in Trafalgar Square, me in my RAF uniform and Sheila (on the right) and her friend (in the middle) feeding the pigeons. We married in September 1950 and had a lovely life until Sheila passed away in 2018. Our family of 4 children, one son and three daughters, went on to give us 8 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren but still counting!!!
"There cannot be many people today, who can claim that their VE Day celebrations ended like mine. I went back to my RAF unit a very happy and proud man."
Peter Lake, Grandfather of James Stuart (Lower Fifth Camberlot)
"I was born in December 1939, 2 months after the start of the Second World War. I would have been 5 years old on VE Day and don't remember much about it except that the adults around me all seemed full of emotion- excitement, relief, joy....though my father was still serving abroad.
"My parents had been apart for 5 years as my father had volunteered for the Army in 1940. I had been living with my mother only during that time, sharing her bedroom. When my father did come home I remember how hostile I felt towards him. Who was this strange alien species (a man) with the prickly face and uniform pushing me out of favour!?
"It wasn't until my own adulthood that I really appreciated and loved him."
Anne Nayler-Hosken, Grandmother of Evan Nayler (Lower Sixth Deis)
"I was 5 years old at the time, being 80 now. I remember the food. We had jelly, trifle, fruitcake and sandwiches. The fruit cake was a rare thing which we took home and put in a sealed tin for later. The party went on late into the evening. My father Albert was stationed in London Arsenal as he had good hearing, listening out for aircraft and manning anti-aircraft guns."
Brian Dobbins, Grandfather of John Rodohan (Upper Fifth Dicker)
"Great Auntie Eileen was 20 years old and had been working since she was 14 years old in a factory making scientific instruments for the aircraft. On the 8th May 1945 she was working as usual and happened to glance out of the window over the canal and saw lots of people milling around the newspaper shop, crying and laughing. Her supervisor then announced that the war in Europe was over. She said it was the most wonderful feeling of relief as there had been rumours circulating for a couple of weeks that the war would soon end. She said everyone started cheering and hugging each other. She was very relieved as her husband, Wesley (she was married in February 1945) was in North Africa and she was very worried about him.
"At the end of her shift Great Auntie Eileen clocked off and headed “up West” with her three friends from work. They couldn’t get too close to Buckingham Palace as the crowds were so dense and the noise deafening but they managed to get a glimpse of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret on the balcony. They danced and celebrated until very late but then realised that there were no public transport home as the buses had stopped running in celebration. She and her friends ended up walking the 4 miles back to Camberwell Green in bare feet as their shoes were hurting them from too much dancing!
"She was up early the next morning and in work by 8am as the war was still going on in the Far East."
Ollie and Freddie Loach (First Year and Upper Fifth Camberlot)
"I was 11 years old when the war ended, and it just so happened that date coincided with my 11th Birthday. My mother told me that it would be the biggest celebration I would ever have – and she was right. I remember the big parties in the street to this day – everyone came out with huge trestle tables, homemade food, wearing red, white and blue – and there was so much laughter. I was excited after years of being stuck indoors, and I was finally happy there was an occasion to wear pretty clothes that I had saved up, and wear plaits with red ribbons – as you can see in the picture!
"I will never forget celebrating VE day at Netherwood Street in Kilburn, and this year I plan to make my own Union Jack flags to remember what the end of wartime meant for so many."
Barbara Sheppard, Grandmother of Max Mason (Upper Sixth Deis)
"Great Uncle Norman is now 90 years old. He was 15 on VE Day and went to Trafalgar Square with his church group to celebrate. On the night the war ended they got the news in the middle of a table tennis match. The match stopped abruptly and they all ran out onto the A10 (Great Cambridge Rd) to see what was going on!"
Charlie and Flynn Sweeting (Prep School and First Year Knights)
"Shortly before the start of the Second World War my parents bought a new house. The house was situated in Valley Drive on the outskirts of Gravesend, a town in Kent, on the river Thames. On the opposite side of the river is Tilbury which was a very busy port throughout the war. Our house backed on to Gravesend airport which together with Tilbury was a major target for the Luftwaffe. We had an Anderson Shelter in the garden and spent many nights in it throughout the bombing. The family home, unlike many in the Gravesend and Tilbury area, survived the war with just some minor blast damage. Although I was very young at this time, I can remember many incidents but these are for another occasion.
"I remember VE day very clearly. I was 6 years old. It was a fine, warm May day and the residents of Valley Drive organised an enormous street party. Everyone contributed with furniture and food. My father said that the tables in the street stretched for almost a quarter of a mile! Residents had found balloons and bunting to decorate the street. There was also a primitive public address system which was used to play popular music of the period such as Vera Lynn, Anne Shelton (who I met and recorded some years later) and the big dance bands. There were also some emotional speeches and prayers for those who had given their lives in the war.
"The party food was, by present day standards, fairly basic. We had fish paste, spam and cheese sandwiches. These were followed by a selection of homemade cakes which did not have much flavour. Flour, yeast, butter and most of today’s staples were not available. However, people were very inventive finding substitutes for these items. All food was rationed so the choice of ingredients was very limited. To finish the tea there was jelly and a cream substitute. There was no cream or ice cream available. I cannot remember what we had to drink it was probably orange juice concentrate watered down. I did not taste ice cream or lemonade until I was nine years old! As dusk settled in the younger party goers, including me, departed for bed. I was told that dancing followed, until the early hours.
"If we were able to be free from lockdown and to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day a street party would be ideal!"
Peter Olliff, Grandfather of Henry Olliff (Lower Fifth Dicker)
"Grandma remembers that the family visited Broomfield Park, Southgate, north London on VE Day 1945. There was some music and dancing but not so much bunting or high excitement. Being out of town as it were perhaps the money went into central London! As a family they were not wealthy – there was an overall feeling of relief and tiredness combined with a sense of what happens next. Grandma remembers more going to farms to pick fruit and in particular plums in the previous years, along with the long, dark nights."
Nicola Wren (Upper Fifth Dorter)
"On 8th May 1945, VE Day, I was in Canada at a place called Yorkton in Saskatchewan. I was doing my pilot training course at No 23 Elementary Flying Training School. The news came through to us in the morning but it was a bit vague. Was it true? We didn’t believe it at first but it was then later confirmed - I knew that it was indeed for real as there was a lot of beer that had suddenly arrived. Who had paid for it we had not a clue, but it went down well. Our thoughts were for everyone back home in the UK; no more bombs and black outs.
"We carried on flying in the presumed knowledge that we would surely one day go out to the Far East and join the fight against Japan."
Raymond W. Adams - Great Grandfather of Atlanta Woodhall (Lower Fifth Crossways)
"On 3rd September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany. I was then seven years of age and had little understanding of what that meant. Amongst the 'grown-ups' there were serious faces and a stirring of something dramatic happening but in day to day life nothing immediately changed. I continued to go to school and the adults to work.
"As we moved into the 1940's and I grew a little older the fearsome practicalities of war with incessant German air raids in the Midlands where I was then living became frightening. As a child I joined with others curious to see the great holes in the nearby streets caused by the falling bombs. The barrage balloons tethered in a local field were also viewed with awe as they filled the sky above. Taking shelter at home or in school became commonplace - the warning sirens terrifyingly accelerating us in the direction of the shelters to avoid the bombs.
"It was not until the Allies were able to drive the German forces from North Africa and the Russians expel the invaders from their country that the war became 'alive' for me in the sense that I could then share the advance to victory. I took a great interest in the ebb and flow of the land forces - their movement vividly captured by the graphic representation by arrows on maps. The bombing in my locality had ceased as the German forces came under increasing pressure so no doubt, I was able to spend a little more time keeping up with the news.
"Allied progress became increasingly exciting and knew no bounds when Germany unconditionally surrendered. The war in Europe had been won and VE Day was a magnificent national celebration with (in my locality) street parties taking place wherever trestle tables could be conveniently sited. I had no responsibility for providing the food and drink - rationing continued but on VE Day the party spirit overcame any sense of further deprivation. I had attained the age 13 with a true exhilaration because I was able to share with everyone such a remarkably exciting event."
John Dunstan – Grandfather of Zac Bloom (First Year Dicker)
"My Great Uncle John was 8 years old on VE Day, living in a mining village in County Durham. His grandfather had been killed in the First World War, leaving his Grandmother with 8 children, all of whom were now married with children of their own. On VE Day they were all delighted to be celebrating the end of the Second World War - he can remember the big party to celebrate with their neighbours, and it being great fun - they managed to have party food despite food rationing, and there was flag waving, loud music and dancing till very late. They also listened to celebrations going on in London on the radio."
Ellie Bolingbroke (First Year Bloomsbury)
"On VE Day 1945 Captain Walter James Latimer Willson was in Italy with the 5th Battalion Grenadier Guards; the battalion had just been withdrawn from front-line action, having fought their way from the beaches of Anzio to the Gothic Line in northern Italy. He had recently been presented with his Distinguished Service Order (DSO) by Her Majesty the Queen for leading the defence of his company’s position in the face of a much larger enemy attack. The full text of his DSO citation can be found here."
Walter Willson, Great Grandfather of Elosie Eyre (Lower Sixth Crossways)
"For me, VE Day is a very personal day. My mother who was twenty two at the time was in the crowd that surged in front of Buckingham Palace, anxious to get a glimpse of the King, Queen and the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. She was a nursing sister at the London Hospital in White Chapel. She and her very good friend had walked across London to join in the celebrations, along with thousands of others like them. I often scan the photos to see if a younger version of my mother is looking out at me from seventy five years ago. I know she was there and I am grateful to her and all our forebears who were there that day and those who gave so much and, for many, their lives, to bring the peace that we have all come to treasure and enjoy today."
Richard Frame, Deputy Head, Bede’s Senior School
"‘Mac' was born John George McNair in Belfast on 24 June 1921, the eldest of four boys he was named John after his maternal grandfather who had been a Captain in the Irish Army.
After his school years Mac entered into an apprenticeship with a local garage to train as a motor mechanic. At the age of 18, with war imminent, young men were being conscripted into the Forces and he joined the RAF. His training working on car engines enabled him to work on aircraft maintenance. In due course he found himself in Burma (now Myanmar) where he was part of the team who serviced the aircraft used to transport troops and drop food supplies to the Burmese people.
"On VE Day 1945 he had just arrived back in Northern Ireland prior to discharge, and was preparing for his upcoming wedding in July 1945. The work he had trained for then enabled him to be employed with a new company where he worked as a fitter servicing the factory machinery. Mac’s love of tinkering with engines and machinery never left him – he was always repairing friend’s cars and his own beloved motorbike."
‘Mac’ McNair – Great Grandfather of Evan Nayler (Lower Sixth Deis)
"My Grandfather John McArthur was just 18 when WWII started. He decided to join the army, as his older brother Peter had done, and they both became commissioned officers in the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) with whom their father, William McArthur had fought during WW1.
"Peter was involved in the Battle of France and subsequent Dunkirk evacuation. He was later sent to North Africa where he spent the rest of the war.
"John, despite being so young, gained the rank of Captain and was stationed at a training unit in Kent for most of the war. However after D-Day he realised that the war would soon be drawing to a close so, being young and eager for action, he signed up for active duty and was sent to defend Antwerp. He was only there a couple of months before he was shot in the leg and sent home. While he was in Belgium he witnessed the death of his friend who was in a truck ahead of him in a convoy which was blown up. This was a source of lifelong regret for my grandfather as he felt he had encouraged his friend to join him in action and therefore felt responsible for his death.
"On his return John was initially treated in the military hospital set up in Leeds Castle in Kent before being sent to recuperate fully in a hospital in Wales. Unfortunately he experienced complications - he ended up being there for several months and was still in hospital on VE Day."
Sam Shaw (Upper Fifth Knights)
"My great-grandmother, who is 100 years old, has clear memories of VE Day back in 1945. She recalls that there was not much celebration in small villages because people could clearly see who was missing and therefore who had lost their lives in the war. My Great grandma’s neighbour had also lost her husband in the War and therefore she decided not to celebrate at all, as they realised how many people could not join them because they had died or not returned. However, a few days’ later parties were organised in every street and the lively, colourful waving of the Union Jacks woke my grandmother, who was ill in bed."
Tom Vesnaver, Upper Fifth Camberlot
"On VE Day 1945 Captain Hugh Williams TD was at the 2nd Army Headquarters on Luneburg Heath, near Hamburg, dealing with the surrender of German troops in the area. A fortnight later he was one of four British officers tasked with arresting the remaining members of the German Government under Admiral Donitz, who were at Glucksberg Castle in Flensburg. A full account of the events can be found here."
Captain Hugh Williams TD – Great-Great Uncle of Tye Weller (Upper Fifth Dicker)
"My Grandmother and her sister remember, still with excitement, the street party that marked VE Day 1945. Although food was scarce she recalls the trestle tables being put out on the street, and everyone bringing something tasty to eat - there were sandwiches, jellies, blancmange and little cakes. Her sister remembers the little flags they were given, and the singing and dancing that ensued. Her main memory is of being allowed a torch, as the Germans were no longer bombing the industrial West Midlands - the Black Country and Birmingham – where they lived.
"Why was this such a big deal? It meant that she didn’t have to go 200 yards in the dark to get to the loo. They had no inside toilets in the terraced houses where they lived. She still remembers how, as a 5 year old, how scary this was and how wonderful the permitted torch was."
Luca Hawes, Lower Fifth Dicker
"My Grandad Keith Pearch was a Spitfire pilot in the RAF and was deployed to Burma in 1944 to fight against the Japanese and support Allied ground troops, amongst them Captain Tom Moore. Keith was shot down by a Japanese plane and ejected from his aircraft before it crashed. After spending four days in the jungle, he eventually made it back to friendly territory.
"On VE day 1945 a group of ‘152 Squadron’ including my Grandad were granted leave and celebrated the victory in Calcutta. One of the group, a Sergeant Johnson, is quoted as saying “we stocked up with gin, ate at a Chinese restaurant, and went horse riding in the surrounding hills.”"
Georgie Pearch (Upper Fifth Dorter)
"For much of the war I was evacuated to the countryside to live with my Aunt as Lincoln was targeted by bombing raids – my mother worked in a munitions factory and my father was an army medic. I was just eleven when this photo of our street party in Lincoln was taken and was in isolation because I had chickenpox! I was allowed down just to have my photo taken with everybody else but had to watch the party from my bedroom window.
"My Dad was still away in Egypt and had been away for six years. The soldiers in the photo were just passing by and were invited to join the party – I knew everyone else in the picture!"
Pat Neale, Grandmother of Elia Neale (Upper Fifth Bloomsbury)
"When VE Day was celebrated, everyone was drinking together and enjoying many celebrations on the streets and around the naval docks.
"Our Nonna, her name was Rina (now 96!), was in northern Italy at the time: she had been working in the silkworm factories, who were manufacturing parachutes for the Italian Army parachutists. Later she worked as a servant for a local Countess, until the Germans burned the Palazzo to the ground - luckily she and the other members of staff escaped. She remembers that she and all the villagers celebrated in the village piazza with partisan songs, clapping and lots of singing.
"Nonno, who was called Luigi, had initially signed up to the Italian Army, and was in the Parachute Regiment. He had been deployed over the mountains in the dead of night, and ended up fighting the Germans and communists. He became a partisan and fought against the Germans on the side of the British and Americans. He was in Sicily on VE Day, and they celebrated with a lot of grappa and vino, and again sang many victory songs!"
Laila and Sofia Manji (Lower Fifth and Lower Sixth Charleston)
"My granny clearly remembers as an 8-year-old child, being hauled out of bed to see the bonfire and people gathering on 8th May! She also has a copy of her Mum’s (my great-grandma’s) war diary – the family lived in Kent and granny was the eldest of three children."
27th March Tues. Between 5.30 and 9.30 am we had 4 warnings. At the first siren a bomb came over as near and low as the one which crashed here so the neighbours say. We of course sleep through nocturnal noises as we are still in the shelter. Rhine crossing going strongly.
28th March Wed. A lot of sirens during night and early morning.
29th March Thurs. Several sirens during darkness and in am.
3rd April Tues. Radio reports no V bombs or rockets in 4 days. I do hope they are stopped now.
22nd April Sun. Getting ready for a trip to London tomorrow. All the family went and did all the sights. It was very busy.
25th April Wed. BBC announce complete encirclement of Berlin
1st May Tuesday. Papers and News all say Hitler's dead and Himmler making peace negotiations
3rd May Thursday. Everyone thinks peace is coming at last. The Russians are in Berlin. Hitler's dead. Doernitz is the new Fuhrer. The German army has surrendered to General Alexander
7th May Monday. All day we have been waiting for victory to be announced and at 5pm the Radio said "The Germans have laid down their arms and Mr Churchill will speak at 3pm tomorrow.
8th May Tuesday, VE Day. Went into Chatham and saw decorations everywhere. Mr Churchill spoke at 3pm and King George at 9pm. Put children to bed at 6.15pm and then got them up at 10.15pm. Took them up to Church Fields to see the bonfire.
Tabby Newton (Lower Fifth Crossways)
"My Grandma was very young at the time. She doesn't remember much, however she recalls that there was a party in the school playground and that they ate 'banana' sandwiches made of mashed potato with banana essence!"
Sam Northway (Upper Fifth Stud)
"Our Great Grandfather, Captain Freddie Riding, celebrated VE Day 1945 with his fellow pilots and crew somewhere in northern Germany - he’s second on the left in the front row. He was in the Army Air Corp for the duration of the war and flew ‘spotter’ planes over enemy lines for reconnaissance purposes. He also piloted the plane that took the first aerial photographs of Auschwitz, which were used to provide evidence of what was happening in the camp - needless to say he never spoke in detail about this until long after the war was over. His flying kit is all now at the Army Flying Museum."
Frank and Louis Davison (First Year Camberlot and Upper Fifth Stud)
"My grandfather, Kenneth Hicks, was in the Royal Navy and on VE Day 1945 was serving on HMS Vindex, an escort carrier that was docked on the Clyde near Glasgow in preparation for a voyage to Australia. Throughout the war he served as a signalman on a wide range of ships and bases in Palestine, the Mediterranean, and back at home in England, as well as serving on HMS Diadem on the dangerous Arctic convoy route delivering weapons and supplies to the Soviet Union.
"Between April and October 1944 he served on HMS Commandant Duboc and HMS Commandant Dominé, two ships that had been captured by the British in July 1940 and turned over to the Free French Navy. Many of the French sailors were hostile to the British because of the attack at Mers-el-Kébir (when a British Fleet destroyed a number of French naval ships after the fall of France) so things did not go smoothly. My grandfather was one of the British sailors seconded to the French ships because he was a signalman - which would ensure orders were correctly relayed - there was quite a lot of antagonism on-board and he ended up getting into a heated argument – and was thrown off the ship in his underpants!"
Ethan Collins (Lower Fifth Knights)