Gallery: Remembering the VE street parties in Ipswich 70 years on
This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the day that peace ruled in Europe.
Across the country, street parties were hastily organsied, with rations pooled to provide tasty treats.
Our photo gallery captures the joy of peace in Ipswich - can you spot any familiar faces among the revelllers?
Evelyn Wilkie was nine when the war ended, she said: “We lived in Tennyson Road (Ipswich) and celebrated with having a party in the road, with table and chairs set down the road for us children to eat on. There seemed to be plenty of food; something I had never seen before.
“As I sat eating, a lady appeared by me, wearing very bright clothes, a turban and long dress. Her face was very black, maybe boot polish? I burst into tears…”
But it was Evelyn’s mother dressed up!
“My father was the rear end of a pretend horse and kept running around, amusing the children. He worked on Ipswich Docks and was a lockgate man. His name was Jack Brown. In the 1930s my parents lived in a house on the dock at New Cut East.
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“It was infested with rats. My sister was born there.
“I remember men coming round and helping my father to dig a large hole in the garden to build the air raid shelter.
“It was not very pleasant to sit in and be in the dark.
“When the big raids came, the air raid warden used to bang on the door to wake us.
“Then we would go down Clifford Road School air raid shelters.
“Being half asleep, we would grab as many bed covers as we could and our mattress off the bed as we knew it would be a long night.
“When the war broke out, my father joined the Ipswich Fire Service and had to go to sea to put the fires out on the ships.
“He survived, but I do not know his duties or where he travelled.
“VE Day is special. Everyone was relaxed and happy, but most of all free!”
Janet Mitchell was only about three years old as the Second World War drew to a close, but has vivid memories of that chilling time.
She was living in Nacton Road, Ipswich, and recalls the names of many of the neighbours, including the couple next door.
“I remember running to theirs to use their shelter when the bombs were dropping,” she says.
“I remember one dark morning, standing outside the Racecourse pub with my mum, waiting for the bus to take us to the railway station. I was being taken on the train for the very first time – to Nottingham. My brother was being evacuated to Leicester. His name was Alan Bales.
“I can hear the sound of the train even now, and seeing the countryside. It was a big adventure to me.
“We arrived at the big house. Mum took me in and then left me. I cried, but I soon got used to being there. I was there for two years. When I came home, Nacton Road school had been bombed.
“When the war ended, I remember wearing a red, white and blue dress. Those were the days: didn’t have much, but made the best of what we had.”
Roy Proctor has an unusual memory of VE Day.
“I was working at the Ritz Cinema, now the Palace Bingo club (Felixstowe) as a trainee projector operator.
“I had to work until 9pm. When I finished, I went outside the cinema. The road was full. The band was playing.”
Revellers were singing with joy. “Some of them were trying to climb up the drainpipes to get in the flats over the shops. Then all the streetlights came on for the first time since September 3, 1939.”
Peter Threadkell writes of May 8, 1945: “On that day I was living in Lacey Street, Ipswich, with my war-widow mother and attending St Helen’s Primary School.
“My grandfather, Harry Cole, lived in Woodville Road and had a watch repair business in St Helen’s Street.
“My mother worked in Lacey Street, at a firm called King, Whitefield and Co, who as stamp dealers imported foreign stamps (one wonders where they got the stamps in wartime!)
“At the time, my closest friend was Michael Berry, whose father worked for Ipswich Borough Council. School was closed for the day and I remember running around the town centre and Christchurch Park, waving my Union Flag and cheering loudly.
“With hindsight, it was a bittersweet day for many people, like my mother, who had lost a husband and a brother.”
Jack Packard is featured in one of our photos, wearing short trousers. Although his foster mother put 1946 on the back of the photograph, he’s pretty sure it’s a VE Day party in Ipswich in 1945.
Jack was 10 or 11 when Rubens Road rang to the sound of laughter and relief.
He can’t remember much about the day. “It’s a blur now,” he laughs. “It’s 70 years ago!”
He does, though, know the names of many of the folk enjoying the celebrations alongside him.
Home for Jack was number one Rubens Road. His mother had died in 1937 and he lived there with foster parents Lily and Jack Sadler and their daughter Rita.
“There are a lot of good memories from those times,” says Jack, who would join the RAF when he was 18 and spent 22 years in the force.
“There was a good group of boys – a gang. We used to go to the woods and play there.
“We used to play rounders in the road. There weren’t so many cars around then. If one came along, there was no back-chat in those days. We just used to get out of the way, let them through, and then carry on with our game.”
Sheila Cornish is one of the youngsters featured in the photo of the VE Day fancy dress party held in St Thomas church hall, Ipswich.
It was then in Shafto Road, on the corner of Bramford Road, she says. “Now there are flats there.”
Sheila, then Sheila Potter, was living at nearby Marlow Road.
“I was six years old when the photo was taken. I recognise some of the people in the picture.
“I’m in the front row, standing second left. I wonder if anyone recognises me!”
Diane Buckenham also has a lovely photo of a VE Day street party. She’s in it but has no memory of the day, having been born in July, 1944. “My mother is holding me in her arms, right at the back of the group.”
The celebration was held in Pearce Road, Ipswich – near Derby Road railway station.
“At that time my parents, Albert and Win Noble, were living at number 33 with my grandmother, Mrs E Adams, who can just be seen on the extreme right edge of the photo. Shortly after the war they moved next door to number 31, where they lived for many years.
“My father worked for Reavell’s engineers, as a lathe turner, from 1928 to 1979. During the war he was also a member of Reavell’s fire brigade. My mother worked in the book-binding department of Cowells printers for many years before I came along. Two well-known Ipswich firms which now, sadly, have disappeared.”
Diane, who lives in Felixstowe, says she had never seen the photograph published anywhere. “Whenever I look at it I am surprised at how healthy and well-dressed everyone appears after five long years of war.”
Reavell began life as Reavell & Co Ltd Engineers in June, 1898. It was founded by Sir William Reavell in Ranelagh Road.
Diane also sent us a photocopy of a Reavell advert that appeared in the Evening Star newspaper at the time of the firm’s 75th anniversary. It includes a picture of her dad, “Nobby” Noble, as one of four men who had clocked up 150 years of service between them. Her father had at that stage worked for the company for 46 years.
Luke Ward sends a lovely picture of a party in Westerfield, north of Ipswich.
It was held in a field opposite the village shop, which was between the railway station and the Swan pub.
A good bit of thought obviously went into it, with the tables arranged in the shape of a V – for victory.
It could have been for VE Day, or quite possibly VJ Day in the early autumn of 1945.
Luke would have been about 12 or 13, as he was born in 1932. He’s the chap on the inside-left edge of the V – leaning out so he can see the photographer and balancing his left leg on the grass!
The son of an agricultural worker, he was born in Swan Lane, but, with five children, more space was needed and the family moved to a rented farmhouse at Beeston’s Farm, a fair way from the heart of the village.
“They were hard days, I can tell you,” he says of the late 1930s and 1940s.
Rent for the property was three shillings and sixpence a week.
There was no gas or electricity, just one fire, and water had to be drawn from a 72ft well.
There was no oven in which to roast food, so much had to be boiled.
“I didn’t know what batter puddings were until I joined the army when I was 18!” says Luke, who now lives near Felixstowe.
He remembers German incendiary bombs falling and setting ablaze stacks of corn in the fields.
One bomb threatened to wreck a barn where animals were kept, but his father saved the day by smothering the flames.
He was given a 10-shilling note by the grateful farmer – a fair amount of money then.
Luke himself left school at 14 and earned sixpence an hour as a farmworker.
At 18 he joined the Royal Artillery, and then the Ipswich agricultural machinery manufacturer Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies as an experimental ploughman.
He was made redundant at 55 but was out of work for only a fortnight before getting a job at Felixstowe docks.