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"Don’t get carried away, still no sweets for some time!” – first-hand accounts from VE Day 1945

07 May 2020

As told to Jamie Williams

At 9pm tomorrow, 75 years after her father, King George VI, gave a radio address marking the day Allied Forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, ending of the war in Europe, the Queen will once again address the nation.  Her Majesty is expected to use the anniversary to highlight that, despite immense suffering, the UK can hope for a brighter future.

To mark the VE Day anniversary, we spoke to Newgate family and friends, who were kind enough to share their memories of the 8th May 1945.  It is strange to think that one day I will, I hope, be telling my grandchildren of the moment that the Queen addressed the nation at the height of the COVID-19 crisis and declared that “we will meet again.”

To those who shared their memories, thank you.

Geoff Dee, Hampshire, who was 14 in May 1945

“It was a school holiday and I was at home in Radlett in Hertfordshire. It was not unexpected but nevertheless a great relief. There was a broadcast by Alvar Liddell followed by the Prime Minister's broadcast. The celebrations were very much improvised and ad hoc, and included a bonfire in the village.

“For my family the war was not finished. The war in the Far-East was not over and the suffering and destruction were very much on people's minds. My elder brother was in the Indian Army preparing for an assault on Burma. This muted any sense celebration or euphoria.”

Christopher Lee, Wales, 13

“I remember VE Day quite well. It was my last term at a school near Malvern. Everyone in the school was aware of it, and lessons were stopped around midday. I vividly remember the Headmaster telling the school “don’t get too carried away – no sweets for some time yet!

“We were transported up to a village green up in the Malvern Hills, where the British Legion ran a service. A great crowd assembled with speeches, prayers, hymns and a huge picnic afterwards. I remember it was a lovely day, filled with relief, joy and happiness. It was something I had never seen and made a big impression.”

Joseph Prosser, London, 9

“I was in the countryside in Buckinghamshire at my grandparents’ house, where me and my brother Kenny had been evacuated to. We heard it on our Grandad’s old radio, which had two stations. We were all excited and some neighbours released fireworks to celebrate that very night.

“As children, we were excited since it meant we were able to go home. We had been evacuated at the beginning of the war so had spent four years away from home. My Dad and my uncles were all in the army fighting in the war and sadly one of my uncles was killed fighting abroad, so we were very happy for it to be over.”

Adam Hoxford, Leicester, 5

“I was in Market Harborough near Leicester at the time and although I was only five, I remember a huge convoy of American soldiers heading up the road in jeeps and armoured vehicles in celebration. 

"My siblings and I shouted, "Got any gum chum" at the American. Apparently chewing gum was exclusive to Americans at the time and much sought after by British kids.”

Thelma Price, London, 13

“During the war, my older brother and sister had been evacuated to Dorset. However, I refused as I wouldn’t leave my mum. So, when the war was over, we were so happy as it meant they could be back home for good. 

“It was very exciting when the celebrations took place and I remember we all got on a bus to go to Buckingham Palace where there was going to be a big party. We stood with thousands of people on the Mall to see the Royal Family come out on the balcony and I think even Winston Churchill was there. It was a great atmosphere with everyone so happy.”

Pamela Smith, Dorchester, 22

“I was expecting a baby at the time and everyone in the hotel was talking about it, however it was not a surprise. Just a huge sense of relief.

“We walked, alongside thousands of people on the streets, to the Mall to watch the King and Queen on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. People were still out on the streets the next day!”