Lakewood Road decided to have a socially separated street party yesterday for VE75. I replied to the invitation and said I was at an original VE day party. Several people expressed an interest in the comments so I thought Chandler’s Ford Today might like to see them. As it turns out, I am not the only one who attended an original party.
An original VE day party
Am I the only one in Lakewood Road who attended an original VE day party? I was seven years old or, as I would surely have reminded people, seven and three quarters. When Mother picked up the newspaper that day, I was having breakfast. She opened it, yelled for joy, and ran out into the street declaring ‘The war is over.’
Roman candles and Catherine wheels
That evening I was taken to a bomb site about a mile away from our house in Sheffield. We children were given currant buns to eat – wow, and a fizzy drink. Normally the best we could expect was some bread and margarine or dripping if we were lucky. There was a huge bonfire, taller than the adults. Someone put a figure of Hitler on it. The most vivid memory was of fireworks which I had never seen before. I learned about rockets, Roman candles, Catherine wheels, sparklers and bangers. Roman candles were my favourite.
There was bunting strung everywhere made of any scraps of material that could be found. Houses, walls and shops had ‘V’ painted on them in whitewash. The morse code …- for V was daubed on doors. I did not know at the time about Beethoven’s 5th symphony but I had heard the call sign on the radio preceding the coded messages going out to the resistance workers. Whitewash signs reading ‘Welcome home, Jim’ or Fred or Sam were beginning to appear. A little insensitive if your neighbour no longer had a loved one to welcome home.
The overall mood was one of relief
It was a brief and joyful interval but the overall mood was one of relief and thanks that it was all over at last. Our parents had been through 2 world wars and fortunately, we had not lost a close family member.
Father served in WWI but in WWII he was a haulage contractor and a member of Dad’s Army which was known as the Home Guard. They practised throwing grenades using clods of earth. I was excited to go with father on his lorries loaded with the ‘tallboy’ bombs from Sheffield to the ordnance factory where they were filled. I wasn’t allowed in the ordnance factory but stayed with the guards at the gate who always gave me something to eat.
There was no thought of the 75th anniversary but here we are and it will be an interesting party. Mother’s immediate post-war aim was to get me educated so that I would not have to go down the pit like most boys in our district. Orgreave Colliery was nearby and my contemporary, Arthur Scargill, who I never met, could tell you all about that.
Great party on Lakewood Road
We had a great party yesterday, sitting outside our gates on the pavement. There was an abundance of bunting and we all dressed in red, white and blue. I learned that I was not the only one old enough to remember. Someone told how he remembered seeing Portsmouth ablaze from a raid in 1942. Another spent a lot of his time in a Morrison Shelter. Robbie Sprague was there too but he cannot remember it as he was only 1 year old.
Another resident Peter wrote the following story –
Mike, No, you are not the only one in Lakewood Road that remembers VE Day. At six years old we had a street party with bonfires in the road, not gardens, with singing and parties where I threw my teddy bear onto the bonfire, having just thrown-up on it (the teddy, not the bonfire)!
I came out of my parents’ Morrison shelter (Father fought and was wounded in WW1 and was in Dad’s Army) awaiting the demolition of the concrete built shelters in the road so that everybody could use.
However, we stayed at home in the Morrison shelter with our neighbours.
Thank GOD! We have survived and to those young lives that fought and died for us to be what we have today.
I cannot thank them myself, but I do remember them with gratitude.
A tribute to the human spirit
I am pleased that lock-down muted the celebrations. I feared that it may become too jingoistic and nationalistic. It is a tribute to the human spirit that, when these 75-year-old memories are activated they bring a wave of emotions with them. People do not forget.
There must be other readers of Chandler’s Ford Today who have memories of the original day. Tell us your story.