VE Day - joy in Suffolk and across the nation
PUBLISHED: 18:00 07 May 2019
Next year will mark 75 years since VE Day and, in the run up to that anniversary, we remember those celebrations and reflect on the consequences of the Second World War.
Few people were untouched by the Second World War.
VE Day came at the end of a war in Europe that was fought in the air, on land and at sea.
By then, the world knew about the Holocaust and the terrible crimes committed against Jewish people and some minority groups in nazi-controlled Europe.
The war against Japan, which would continue for another three months, was finally brought to an end by the dropping of two atom bombs.
British servicemen began to return home to their families, returning to their jobs - many of which had been filled by women during the conflict.
Everyone's war was personal and far-reaching.
My family, like many others, was changed for all time by the War.
My grandfather, a father of four, had fought in the First World War. Called up in 1939, he died during the evacuation of France in 1940. He was aboard the SS Lancastria when a bomb dropped down the ship's funnel.
My aunt June was in the Land army, working on a farm in North Suffolk; my grandmother weighed rations in a branch of the Ipswich Co op. My father in law was in a reserved profession, working at Ransomes factory, in Ipswich, which manufactured aeroplane wings. He was in the Home Guard.
My husband's mother and her family, who lived opposite Mill Hill Barracks in London, were bombed out and so came to live with relatives in Suffolk.
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My sister-in-law's father, who was a pilot, was killed in action over the Wash, aged 29 - he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Medals. Her 22-year-old uncle, also a pilot, was shot down and killed, aged 22.
Thus, VE Day, though happy, was tinged with great sadness.
A mark of the nation's war-weariness after nearly six years of hostilities, came at the July 1945 election when the country's wartime leader, Winston Churchill and his government were roundly defeated by Clement Attlee's Labour Party.
It was on May 7 1945 that the formal act of military surrender was signed by Germany, ending the war in Europe. The following day celebrations broke out all over the world to mark VE Day. In Britain, Churchill declared May 8 a public holiday.
Despite rationing, people all over the country found a way to party. Most streets had a party and many somehow created fancy dress or VE hats. Households provided what they could for the communal tables and it was a festive nation that came together for VE Day.
Monica Last (nee Smith) and her family were at the Landseer Road Methodist Church VE Day party, in Ipswich. She recalls: “My mum (Ivy) made a patriotic red, white and blue blancmange and she used a laundry blue bag for the blue part.”
Did it get eaten? “Oh, yes, I expect so, we ate anything in those days.”
Here are some extracts of recollections of people which were published in the East Anglian Daily Times VE Day supplement in 2005.
• “On VE Day in the evening I saw my first firework display, although these we not really fireworks. Some of the (American) airmen from Rougham came to Beyton village green with pistols and fired what seemed to be hundreds of flares... They were different colours.”
• “I worked at the Ritz cinema (Felixstowe) and when I finished at 9pm, I came outside and there was a large crowd. An army band was playing: 'When the lights come on again all over the world.' Some of the street lights came on after being off all the war.”
• “I remember VE Day as if it were yesterday. I was in the WRNS, stationed at Lowestoft... When the news broke that the war in Europe was over, the Navy 'spliced he mainbrace', in other words issued a double ration of rum at the usual midday 'up spirits'... More than a 'double grog' it must have been as I could hardly stagger back to the wrennery for lunch...” Later that day, our Wren recalls, “As I walked back from HQ across the swing bridge, I passed a matelot stark naked except for a Union Jack draped around his middle!”
• “I remember standing at the gates of Buckingham Palace where the crowd chanted: 'We want the King.” Eventually the King, Queen, two princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) and Winston Churchill appeared on the balcony to the cheers and delight of the people. After the celebrations, we had out street party, followed by a bonfire in the street where an effigy of Hitler was burnt.”
A never-to-be-forgotten day.