Latest News/ VE Day 75 Remembered

Three of our members took part in VE Day celebrations in 1945. Here they recount their VE75 celebrations and recall what happened to them 75 years ago

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Brothers In Arms – A Fitting Tribute

Our very own World War II veteran, Norman Wilson has regaled us often with his many true tales of conflict, valour and the search  for the grave site in Germany of his brother Douglas, killed when his plane crashed while distributing leaflets over Germany.
Inevitable, therefore, that Norman, now 97, would ensure such events were duly celebrated on May 8. He describes the photograph featured above.

“I set up the Tribute on the front of my house. There were pictures (left) covering my 70 year dream of finding the crash site and original grave of my brother Douglas.

Medal Display

“In the centre is a large picture of a Sunderland flying boat in recognition of my wartime actions in these ‘planes against the Japanese, myself propped up against the wall and, finally, my trench coat with the wartime medals of myself and my brother; mine including The Burma Star and Douglas’s including The Aircrew Europe Star.

“Neighbours showed considerable interest and joined with myself and Brenda, who took the photograph, and others in the two-minute silence. I was very pleased with the outcome.”

So you should be, Norman – quite brilliant.!

Light(en)ing Up A Night To Remember

Bert French Recalls A Great Celebration.  I was just over 17 when VE Day was celebrated. I confess I could remember very little about it. Then my son Jolyon who lives in Lincolnshire, reminded me of something I had told him almost 50 years ago.  About a bonfire – and I remembered it well.

It was a very big bonfire in the field opposite the farm.  Jack, our horseman, had spent two days with me and the horse and cart, building it.  We purchased a large number of fireworks from a great friend and local shopkeeper Arthur Green.  We did all our shopping there and, in the summer,  sold him milk to make his ice cream.

Roman Candles

He had the fireworks tucked away for six years from the last time they were allowed, November the Fifth, 1938 when bangers were half-pence each and Roman candles and coloured ones two or three pence each.   The neighbourhood turned out in force for a great evening with all the old songs and dancing round the fire. High spirits everywhere.
We supplied large potatoes from the farm and baked them on the embers. Not much butter due to the strict rationing. But...

WHAT A CELEBRATION!

We'll Meat Again

President Ben Admits:  “As A Family, We Had No Reason To Rejoice.”
Excuse me if I get some of my facts wrong. I was ten and a half when war was declared and I was sixteen and a few months when peace was proclaimed.

We ended the war, with no money (we had property but no cash), no meat and no men. We had another butcher's shop in Brentwood High Street to run and additionally, dad was very poorly at that time, so life was pretty fraught at 86 High Street Billericay in 1945. So a gloomy picture for VE Day.

Train or No Train?

As far as I remember, on May 8, I went to college in London as usual, but when I arrived it was clear the day was going to be different from normal; all the lecturers had cleared off to the pub and we were left to find our way back home.

In Billericay the High Street was being prepared for evening  festivities. During the war we had a battery of searchlights, based somewhere between the top of the High Street and Little Burstead. (a mixed blessing).  In my opinion, the lights attracted the attention of the German bombers instead of letting them fly on, I think the pilots thought we had something to hide.

Space To Party

Anyway, the army detached one of these lights and put it somewhere between what is now  Halifax Building Society and Poundland, laying it flat straight down the High Street, so people could see to dance and party by the Chequers.

It was so bright you could see to read! Dad, as I have said, was very poorly and was confined to his bed and dancing in the street was the last thing you would expect my mother to do, so when it was dark, I wandered down the street to the Chequers and pretended to enjoy myself, there were a lot of people celebrating, in this very friendly atmosphere. The fact of the matter was I had forgotten how to enjoy myself, I always felt I needed several rehearsals or training on how to do it.

So, VE Day came and went and we moved on, getting used to the life without a war.  I did take my Box camera with me that evening and took a few photos, (Remember, when you look at the quality, I took it seventy five years ago). My VE Day is sadly not a great nor exciting memory.