How Wokingham and Britain Celebrated VE Day

Local Historian Jim Bell has collated some information from the Reading Mercury and Wokingham Times which gives us a fascinating insight into how Wokingham Celebrated VE Day in 1945

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Germany surrendered on the 7th of May l945 and the 8th May was declared V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. The people of Britain celebrated and those of Wokingham were no exception.

   The Wokingham Times & Weekly News of May 11th 1945 described the feeling of the residents of Wokingham in their celebrations during Victory in Europe Day as being restrained-sober but thankful jubilance.

 

The following extracts are taken from the report—

 

Fri 11th May Reading Mercury

WOKINGHAM AND DISTRICT CELEBRATE VE DAY

The official declaration of Victory in Europe day was celebrated in Wokingham and throughout East Berkshire, with sober restraint. With a few exceptions, there were no scenes of wild enthusiasm, the populace generally, preferring to observe VE DAY in the privacy of their homes. To many whose husbands and sons are still fighting in the Far East, this was not their occasion for rejoicing—their day will come, with the cessation of the Japanese conflict.

Flags, bunting and streamers were prolific, and displayed from every house in the district. More ambitious residents displayed fairy lights in their front gardens, while business houses and factories made full use of the end of the blackout, by flood-lighting their premises.

The public holiday with no organised entertainment, left no alternative but to continue with their own personal pursuits, and the countryman took the opportunity of the occasion to spend VE DAY in the garden or in the allotment.

Other sections of the community took full advantage of showing thanks to victory by attending Thanksgiving Services, which were held throughout the day in churches of all denominations.

In Wokingham, the day’s services culminated in a United Thanksgiving Service which was held in the Market Place, and attracted a large congregation. The Mayor and representatives of the Corporation attended, and the service was conducted by Rev. Gordon Kenworthy.

At the conclusion, the square was crowded with spectators who remained to listen to the broadcast of the King’s speech.

As was to be expected, local licensed house were prepared to meet an unprecedented demand and so great was this that at times, particularly in the Market Place, it was impossible to gain an entrance to many of the ‘pubs’.

While the atmosphere was most convivial, and the scenes of comradeship and good fellowship were rife, no incidents occurred, the public enjoying themselves with noticeable sobriety.

The large crowds in the square joined in the dancing which had spontaneously commenced to the sounds of relayed dance music, the scene being illuminated by flood lighting from the Rose Hotel.

The fact that the ‘dance floor’ consisted of recently laid gravel appeared to be no deterrent to the dancers, whose numbers increased as the public houses closed. Fireworks and ‘thunderflashes’, also made an effective contribution to this unusual (for Wokingham), spectacle, and at midnight everyone joined in the singing of “God Save the King”.

On the evening of VE plus 1 Day, presumably in view of the success of the previous evening, relayed music was broadcast from the Rose Hotel, and another large crowd assembled to dance outside in the square.

The Mayor took full advantage of this opportunity to go round amongst the people with a large basin asking for contributions towards the “welcome Home” fund, and collected £10 15s.

Whilst the festivities were progressing in the centre of the town other scenes of festivity were being witnessed further afield. In Waterloo Road, almost all the residents of the road, with many friends, joined in the dancing in the road, to the music relayed by Johnny Goswell. The scene was illuminated by flood-lighting.

At Forest Road, Wokingham Without, fifty odd children of the district, having been entertained to a sumptuous tea party arranged by residents of the district at the Changa Service Station, completed their VE day celebrations by dancing madly round an enormous bonfire. The occasion was made doubly exciting for the youngsters for the burning of a Nazi effigy. We learn that this spontaneous treat followed a VE Day-eve party in which most of the residents celebrated on the green outside the Warren House, and terminated in the very early hours in the morning. Having had their treat, it was felt that the children should receive one too.

 

ministry of fuel and power

 

8 May 1945

– VE (Victory in Europe) Day – was one that remained in the memory of all those who witnessed it. It meant an end to nearly six years of a war that had cost the lives of millions; had destroyed homes, families, and cities; and had brought huge suffering and privations to the populations of entire countries.

Millions of people rejoiced in the news that Germany had surrendered, relieved that the intense strain of total war was finally over. In towns and cities across the world, people marked the victory with street parties, dancing and singing.

But it was not the end of the conflict, nor was it an end to the impact the war had on people. The war against Japan did not end until August 1945, and the political, social and economic repercussions of the Second World War were felt long after Germany and Japan surrendered.

Many people in Britain didn’t wait for the official day of celebration and began the festivities as soon as they heard the news on 7 May. After years of wartime restrictions and dangers – from food and clothes rationing to blackouts and bombing raids – it was understandable how eager they were to finally be able to let loose and enjoy themselves. Colourful bunting and flags soon lined the streets of villages, towns and cities across Britain.

 

 

VE Day was a national holiday

A national holiday was declared in Britain for 8 May 1945. In the morning, Churchill had gained assurances from the Ministry of Food that there were enough beer supplies in the capital and the Board of Trade announced that people could purchase red, white and blue bunting without using ration coupons. There were even commemorative items hastily produced in time for the celebrations, including V E DAY MUGS. Some restaurants had special ‘victory’ menus, too.

Various events were organised to mark the occasion, including parades, thanksgiving services and street parties. Communities came together to share the moment. London’s St Paul’s Cathedral held ten consecutive services

 

 

What You Need To Know About VE Day

 

8 May 1945 – VE (Victory in Europe) Day – was one that remained in the memory of all those who witnessed it. It meant an end to nearly six years of a war that had cost the lives of millions; had destroyed homes, families, and cities; and had brought huge suffering and privations to the populations of entire countries.

Millions of people rejoiced in the news that Germany had surrendered, relieved that the intense strain of total war was finally over. In towns and cities across the world, people marked the victory with street parties, dancing and singing.

But it was not the end of the conflict, nor was it an end to the impact the war had on people. The war against Japan did not end until August 1945, and the political, social and economic repercussions of the Second World War were felt long after Germany and Japan surrendered.

 

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Some people celebrated early

Many people in Britain didn’t wait for the official day of celebration and began the festivities as soon as they heard the news on 7 May. After years of wartime restrictions and dangers – from food and clothes rationing to blackouts and bombing raids – it was understandable how eager they were to finally be able to let loose and enjoy themselves. Colourful bunting and flags soon lined the streets of villages, towns and cities across Britain. On the eve of VE Day, bonfires were lit, people danced and the pubs were full of revellers.

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VE Day was a national holiday

A national holiday was declared in Britain for 8 May 1945. In the morning, Churchill had gained assurances from the Ministry of Food that there were enough beer supplies in the capital and the Board of Trade announced that people could purchase red, white and blue bunting without using ration coupons. There were even commemorative items hastily produced in time for the celebrations, including ‘VE Day’ mugs. Some restaurants had special ‘victory’ menus, too.

Various events were organised to mark the occasion, including parades, thanksgiving services and street parties. Communities came together to share the moment. London’s St Paul’s Cathedral held ten consecutive services giving thanks for peace, each one attended by thousands of people. Due to the time difference, VE Day in New Zealand was officially held on 9 May. The country’s leadership wanted to delay the national holiday until peace in Europe had been announced by Winston Churchill. New Zealanders therefore had to go to work on 8 May and wait until the following day to celebrate. In the Soviet Union, too, VE Day was on 9 May due to the different time zones.

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Churchill addressed the nation

Winston Churchill was the man of the hour on VE Day. Britain’s Prime Minister had been a major driving force behind the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany and, now that peace had come, the British people were keen to celebrate it with him.

At 3pm on VE Day, Churchill made a national radio broadcast. In it, he announced the welcome news that the war had ended in Europe – but he included a note of caution, saying: ‘We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.’ He knew that the war was not over: Japan still had to be defeated. Later on, Churchill appeared on the balcony of the Ministry of Health building in central London and gave an impromptu speech. Huge, cheering crowds gathered below and he declared, ‘This is your victory.’ The crowd shouted back, ‘No – it’s yours!’ Despite Churchill’s crucial wartime role, the British public did not vote him back into power in the July 1945 General Election. Instead, Clement Attlee’s Labour government had control of the country in the immediate post-war years. For Churchill, nothing would match his period as wartime prime minister – he later wrote that everything afterwards was ‘all anti-climax’.

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The Royal Family took part in the celebrations

The Royal Family also played a central role in London’s victory celebrations. Huge numbers of people surged down The Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and their daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, soon appeared on the balcony to wave to the cheering crowds.

In total, the King and Queen made eight appearances on the balcony, and at one point were joined by Winston Churchill. While the King and Queen were waving to the crowds for the last time that evening, their daughters were secretly mingling with the jubilant crowds below them. The future monarch, Princess Elizabeth, and her sister Margaret had been allowed to leave the palace and take part – anonymously – in the party-like atmosphere. Princess Elizabeth later recalled, ‘We stood outside and shouted, “We want the King”… I think it was one of the King”… I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my life.’

King George VI, like Churchill, also gave a radio address. In it, he praised his subjects’ endurance and called for a lasting peace. He also paid tribute to those who could not join in the celebrations, saying: ‘Let us remember those who will not come back…let us remember the men in all the services, and the women in all the services, who have laid down their lives. We have come to the end of our tribulation and they are not with us at the moment of our rejoicing.’

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There was dancing in the streets and pubs stayed open late

The VE Day celebrations continued well into the night. The largest crowds in Britain were in the capital, but people all around the country took part in the parties, singing and dancing. Many bonfires and fireworks were lit to mark the occasion.

An estimated 50,000 people were crowded around Piccadilly Circus by midnight. The joy of the day broke down normal social conventions, and people spoke to and embraced those whom they had never met before. Music was provided by gramophones, accordions and barrel organs, and revellers sang and danced to the popular tunes of the day. Licensing hours were extended so that people could toast the end of the war with a drink (or two), and dance halls stayed open until midnight.

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V-E Day, also written VE Day

   V-E Day stands for Victory in Europe Day. In the Soviet Union it was called simply Victory Day and still goes by that name in states of the former USSR. Some early reports in the West also called the day V-Day, but V-E was more accurate, as the war still continued in the Pacific Theatre. Today in France the day is called World War II Victory Day.

 

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VE Day – historical and military history eMagazines

historymags

BBC History Magazine is a British publication devoted to history articles on both British and world history and are aimed at all levels of knowledge and interest. Inside the May issue: Max Hastings, James Holland and others look at the reasons for the Nazis defeat.

History of War The stories, strategies, heroes and machines of armed conflict through the ages. Packed with facts and analysis, stunning photography, cutaways and infographics, battle strategies and stories of heroism, History of War is a must-read for anyone interested in military history. The current issue is a VE Day 75th Anniversary Special.

BBC History Revealed brings the past to life for everyone. It’s an action-packed, image-rich magazine with zero stuffiness, jam-packed with facts, features and historical fun.

All About History is an entertaining and educational magazine that brings to life the most fascinating and important periods of human history. Perfect for readers of all ages. Inside the current issue: a feature on how Hitler intended to conquer Britain.

Your library membership number gives you complimentary access to all these digital magazines and many more from the UK and worldwide. Visit https://www.wokingham.gov.uk/libraries/library-services/e-magazines/

Not a library member? Apply for library membership online at https://wokingham.spydus.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/JOIN for instant access.