Friday 8th May is a Bank Holiday designated as a time of celebration for the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Many events had been organised to celebrate this important event and to commemorate those who lost their lives during the Second World War. Obviously, it is hugely disappointing that these commemorative events can no longer take place due to the Coronavirus lockdown. However, there are ways we, as a community, can come together to mark this special occasion.
The VE Celebration website has this suggestion:
We are encouraging everyone to undertake the ‘Nation’s Toast to the Heroes of WW2’ at 3pm on the 8th May, from the safety of their own home by standing up and raising a glass of refreshment of their choice and undertaking the following ‘Toast’ – “To those who gave so much, we thank you,” using this unique opportunity to pay tribute to the many millions at home and abroad that gave so much to ensure we all enjoy and share the freedom we have today.
It would be a wonderful display of gratitude to those who gave so much, particularly those commemorated on our village war memorial, if we could participate in this toast by opening our doors or standing in our front gardens at 3pm on Friday 8th and raising a glass or cup of something! Our Thursday night Clap for Heroes have been well supported, lets use the same enthusiasm to remember the heroes of the past.
Another way you can support this event is to decorate your house with bunting or flags. Homemade bunting would look great. Visit the Download section of the website for a template and instructions or visit bbc.co.uk/make a difference.
Finally, if you, or anyone in your family has memories of VE Day please post them in a comment box on the website, the community would love to hear how the end of war in Europe was celebrated 75 years ago.
Great comment Eleanor – thanks for sharing!
Below is an extract from the diary of my father, Donald Redhead. He was in the RAF based in Northern France on VE Day, attached to a Polish Mosquito Squadron working as an RDF (Radar) Mechanic. Dad was age 20 at this time and a very keen musician playing the piano, Saxophone and clarinet.
Following the diary extract, I have attached transcripts of 4 letters from his father which give detail of their feelings back in Plaistow East London. Due to problems with the post, they had taken to numbering all letters so they could be sure if any did not get through. The 333’s mentioned in letter 69 are a brand of cigarettes.
Sunday 6th May 1945
In the evening I had to go to the boxing play at the theatre to play the national anthem when the show finished.
I was chosen because I wasn’t able to spend the evening in the section as I did in the afternoon.
Monday 7th May 1945
Went in in morning. It’s all set for the peace now – everyone knows it. Stand-down in afternoon.
Weather has turned very fine now.
Stayed in billet all evening. Down at the canteen all beer was free & the blokes came in drunk. The lights didn’t go out till 1.
Tuesday 8th May 1945
V. E. Day
Peace treaty of Unconditional Surrender was signed at 0241 yesterday.
Stand-down from dinner time till tomorrow night.
Angus was supposed to leave today but there was no transport & so he is going tomorrow.
Pete & I fixed up the amplifier outside Flying Control for the AVM. Speech at 4 this afternoon. We relayed Churchills speech at 3 & dance music from the wireless while the chaps were waiting.
While the blokes were in the blazing sun, we were down a shelter in the cool controlling the amplifier. I went to Douai in the evening.
What a night. I was wearing the 305 badge & met some Canadian aircrew from 305 and a Yank & we all got half cut.
Penny one of the officers is a real decent kid. Eventually I lost them.
There were bags of fireworks & the aircrew had brought in Pistols & flares which they fired. At 12.30 I went to the wagon after saying cheerio to the Coupes who I’d met at the Town Hall dance, but no one wanted to go so we decided to leave at 2. I went to look for the Coupes but they had evidently gone home but I found Barkway dressed as a woman & he & I had great fun. I forgot all about the wagon & had to sleep with him at his friend’s place.
Wednesday 9th May 1945
What a night back at camp at 1.
Took easy afternoon & went to 305 dance in evening.
They had a Civy Polish band as their own band is u/s due to the P.A. player having been posted. The Civy band were supposed to come but due to a misunderstanding they didn’t turn up & I spent 1 ½ hours with the wireless Sgt driving around getting blokes. We eventually played with Cpl Moulds F/S Mink Bill Holland Billy Norman & myself but we did far better than the other band. Bed at 1.
Dear Don 7/5/45
I have received 78 today and I should imagine you have had a very interesting time with the Box C. you have certainly seen something, and I am glad to know I was somewhere else in 1917.
Everybody is keyed up today waiting for the moment VE is announced, should it be tonight or in the morning Mum & myself Jean & Ern will be off to Laindon for a couple of days away from the excitement. How I wish it was all finished so as we could look forward to you coming home for good. My only wish is that the other job will not take too long.
Bert got the music for me, if you remember Chappell Connelly wrote about a year ago, saying that owing to the shortage of paper they were compelled to discontinue their orchestral club, and returned the subscription.
As regards the “Practical Wireless” Bert got that from the City. I explained in one of my letters Smiths said they were difficult to get and that they would be put on the mailing list.
Both Mum & I hope you will not wait too long for the 333’s and trust you receive them by the date you mention.
I trust the weather will soon be a bit more settled, it has turned much warmer today and it will be nice if it keeps like it.
Beryl is four years old today and Walter called for the Dolls House, he did not know what to get her so he told mum he would take her to the toy shop and let her pick out something.
It is nice to hear about the band, and I have no doubt the four of you enjoyed the applause, perhaps there will be less worry with a four or five piece. Anyway, it will keep you in good trim for later on.
My next job is to get your papers done up and post them tonight.
I think this is all this time. So will say cheerio and conclude with love from Mum & Dad.
Dear Don 10/5/45
I have received today two letters 79 & 80. There has been a two day break in the post, so my last letter dated 6th May will probably be delayed.
We got the right kind of news on Monday night the first step to the end and I hope the Jap business will be finished soon.
We closed for the two days and spent them at Laindon. It was a bit quieter there than at Plaistow, they were still keeping it up with bonfires, music & dancing when we got home last night.
I have made a note of the things you require and will see about them but I was wondering if you thought it wise to send them in view of your leave which might be quicker than you think, now VE day has been announced.
What are your hopes of getting posted back to England the same as your pal?
I hope it will not be too awkward for you now you have lost your interpreter.
Wishing you all the best.
Love from Mum & Dad
Dear Don 12/5/45
Was pleased to receive no 81 and would have been more pleased had you been home at this time.
I am more than glad to know you were not at the Canteen celebration, I know you will appreciate it better when you can celebrate in London.
I think we did wise in going to Laindon, it done us more good than staying in Plaistow, I cannot see eye to eye with this business, perhaps I am a bit old fashioned, I know mum & I will feel better when we can get a decent place to live in, and the waste of time lining up for this & that is finished with.
I know only too well how you feel about things but keep cheerful and I sincerely hope that it will not be long before everything is right again.
I will try and get Practical Wireless for you every month.
I shall be going to Fleet St and if necessary, to Clapton next Thursday to get the things you require. I suppose these things will have to be declared.
Walter has been here this evening, and he told us that he took Beryl to the toy shop on her birthday and she picked out a nice lot of stuff. So you can bet she has got plenty to amuse herself with.
I hope the weather suits you, it has been very warm today and it looks as if we shall have a fine day tomorrow (Sunday)for our trip to Laindon.
How we wish you had come back with Angus, I expect you miss him a great deal.
We trust you had a good time at the dance in the square.
Well cheerio & keep smiling.
All our love & thoughts from Mum & Dad
Dear Don 15/5/45
I have received no 82 and I expect you have received my letters to let you know how we spent VE day etc.
You evidently had a fine time, a three day continuous performance, we both hope you had a good time.
I am glad your efforts were appreciated, with the band you got together, and I bet you enjoyed your days rest.
I hope to be lucky enough to get what you require on Thursday when I go in the City etc.
I spoke to Ern about the zip fasteners and he would like 2 10” (two 10 inch) one for Jeans handbag and one for himself.
I sent the papers off as usual last night and this week’s Stratford Express should be very interesting to you.
The weather has improved after a boisterous time.
Sunday as usual we went to Laindon, it was very nice till about 2 o/c when it turned very windy, so windy that one of the Poplar trees broke off and fell on the lawn, but I am thankful there were no mishaps.
It turned very chilly but the time we left and that is the first time I have been without my raincoat, so I shan’t risk that again, although it made me sweat the previous occasion.
There has been 2 local prisoners’ home, Albert Hughes last Sunday and Harvey Burrows of Tweedmouth Rd today.
I saw Walter last night and he showed me his sports car. It is a batty affair and will have petrol when he can dodge about instead of using his other cars.
He made us smile when he told us he took Beryl out in it and the wind blew her clothes up. Her remark was “aint it good”, that was a standing joke on Sunday when the wind was blowing while mum & Jean were working in the garden.
Will now conclude with love and best wishes and hopes for a speedy return home.
Cheerio Mum & Dad
What a fascinating insight Eleanor. Thanks for sharing it on the website.