Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Britain’s Victory in Europe, marking the start of the end of World War Two. The country took to the streets to celebrate the end of years of fighting, bombings and death. Those who were there share their special memories of VE Day.

Marion Parry, 78, of Aberdare, Wales Marion lived with her parents, Ethel and Ernest. Her dad joined up as a gunnery soldier with a Royal Artillery anti-aircraft regiment defending naval bases in Scotland, near the Orkney Islands.

This family photo was taken when he returned to Wales, in June 1941, to meet baby Marion. Marion, far right, honours May 8, 1945 in verse…

VE Day reader memories Marion Parry 78, from Aberdare, Wales,as a baby with parents

Marion’s father’s VE Day poem

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2

A bonfire stands upon the hill for everyone to see, The daily news reads, “Peace at last!

We’ve won the victory.” Flags are flying, people singing, children start to shout. But I am only four years old, I don’t know what it’s all about.

Soldiers in their khaki suits, relief spread on their faces. Shake hands, join arms with ” GI Joes” of many different races. “We’re going home at last!” shouts Bill. “New York, here I come!”

“Oh! What will we do now?” moans Dai. “Who’ll give us
chewing gum?” My Mickey Mouse gas mask will finally be put away,

In the hope that it may never again see the light of day. The air raid shelters will soon come down, As peace returns to our small town.

The village band plays a Glenn Miller tune to set feet tapping with
a swing. And pit hooters sound throughout the hills, while church bells start
to ring. A radio plays Vera Lynn, as she begins to croon,

“There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover,” That ever-popular tune. It’s time at last, the torch is lit and the bonfire starts to burn.

Crackling wood and soaring flames light up each face in turn. A new tomorrow will soon dawn and war will fade away, But we must never forget the price that we all had to pay

For freedom and the right to live in peace at last. However many years go by, we remember the past. Now, 75 years on, we’ll remember, and celebrate with tea.

There’ll be plenty to eat and plenty to drink, more than enough for you and me. But we will still stop and wonder how we survived each day, Of rationing and coupon books and queues along the way.

Yes, the time has long since passed but it seems no time ago, That I still remember VE Day, When I was only four.” Gillian Holding, 83, Sheffield

I was nine and living on Firth Park Road on VE Day and we couldn’t have a street party as the road was too busy with trams, buses and tanks. The houses all had Union Flags outside. My family had a very tatty flag which had been used for the 1918 celebration.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Gillian was nine when the war ended

Opposite our house was a Chinese laundry and I remember the anticipation of seeing which flag they would hang out – it was the Union Jack!

As there was no street party, my aunt gave us some money and coupons to help arrange a party on a green, open space nearby. We had sandwiches and cake but I was very upset that the younger children had jelly too – it would have been such a treat. My father went on the train to London and had an amazing time with everyone smiling, laughing and
dancing.

Pamela Broadhurst, 79, Dorset

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Pamela was five when this photo was taken

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This is a photo taken on VE Day. I was five and my brother was eight but I still remember the day. In the evening there was a party in a marquee for the adults – but us kids stayed up anyway.

All our friends and neighbours from Eric Avenue in Padgate, Warrington, were there. It was such a happy time, though growing up during the war meant I really didn’t know any other way of life. You’d hear the air raids and knew it was time to run home.

It was just what we did.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Pamela remembers the war and the air raid sirens

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But the first time we could have sweets, it was amazing – the queues used to go round the block. There were few men there. My father had been in the Army from the beginning and was still away.

I now live in Dorset with my husband Colin, 82, and we will soon celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary. Sheila Doughton, 86, Wolverhampton

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Sheila Doughton was just six when war broke out

  I was aged six when the war started.

On VE Day we had a big street party. One of the neighbours, Mr Emery, brought his piano out into the street and his wife played it. All the surrounding streets had lorries driving round with the children on the back who were all dressed up.

Each truck had a theme, ours was The Victory Queen. Claire, being the eldest of us, was the Victory Queen… we were all dressed in red, white
and blue. The lorries were driven round the surrounding streets and through the hospital grounds.

We children were so excited and we all really enjoyed the day.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Sheila celebrating the end of the war with friends

We had a small shelter in our back garden at home and some nights we used it and other nights we stayed in the pantry under the stairs. Our ARP Warden, Mr Courtney, used to come down our entry during the air raids and shout at Mum through the pantry window: “Are you all all right, Mrs Bate?” In my mind I can still hear the German planes flying over us – the hum, hum, hum sound that they made.

You could tell they were loaded. We used to hear the whistle bombs being dropped and us children would go out the next day to pick up the bits of shrapnel that had fallen. Thomas Spittle, 74, Gamesley, Derbyshire

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Thomas was born on VE Day – just

 

Thomas was the first baby born in Manchester on VE Day – and his middle names, Victor and Edward, are a reminder of his special birthday. Here, he reveals what sharing such a famous date means to him… I am extremely proud of being born on VE Day.

My mum, Margaret, told me she went into labour the day before, when everyone was preparing for a party outside the house. I was born one or two minutes after midnight on the day itself, I just made it! I weighed 10lb 5oz.

I was so big the nurse said Hitler must have known I was coming! Mum held me in her arms as she watched the bonfires and the dancing in the streets with my older sisters.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Thomas, pictured with his wife, is now 74

We lived on Wendover Road, in Urmston, Greater Manchester. My parents had a five-bedroom house
with a big cellar where they used to go when the sirens went.

I remember bunk beds there when I was growing up. My dad Jack worked as an ambulance driver in Kent during the war but he made it back up for my birth. My mum and sisters said he’d bring up boxes of fruit for them.

They used to share them around kids on
our street. I now have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and I’ve talked to them about the meaning of my name. It’s important not to forget.

VE Day meant a lot to a lot of people. The war should never have happened, it caused a lot of hardship all over the world but at least we won. Five years ago we had bunting and flags out, and all the family here to celebrate the 70th anniversary of VE Day as well as my birthday.

This year I’ll be 75 but the celebrations will be more muted as we are facing a different battle today. Val Nuttall, 75, Stockport, Cheshire

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Val is celebrating her 75th birthday today

  My mother, Hannah Kathleen Davies, was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a PT instructor when war broke out.

My father, Thomas George Beaumont, was a Lieutenant in an artillery regiment. They met when they were stationed together at a camp near Derby before he was posted abroad. I was born on VE Day.

At the time, my mother was living with his family at the corner shop they owned. When Mum went into labour, Dad’s sister was sent to the phone box to ring for a taxi to take her to the nursing home where she was to give birth. My aunt had been looking forward to going to celebrate victory but spent the day and night running between the shop and phone box, checking the progress of the labour, relating it to Grandma.

Luckily, she didn’t hold it against me that she missed out on the fun and became my godmother. The 50s and 60s brought challenges of growing up but I was lucky to be born when resilience and optimism were a huge part of the national character. This is a photo of myself and my parents, in about June 1945.

Dad’s still in uniform, my mother looks gorgeous… and I was too young to spoil it! Joy Lennick, 87, who now lives in Alicante, Spain

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Joy Lennick, 87, on right, has written a book about being an evacuee

  Joy wrote a memoir called My Gentle War about being an evacuee.

The eldest of three kids, her dad was in the RAF. She recalls: “When peace was finally declared, Dad was still serving, Mum was working as a welder and we children were evacuated to our third place. I had another brother, named Royce, as Dad was stationed nearer to home.

“We were overjoyed to be reunited as a whole family, while mourning the loss of Dad’s youngest brother Bernard.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Joy now lives in Spain

“I can recall the feeling of euphoria which swept the country when the war ended. “Our parents took us on the train to London. There were bonfires, like beacons of hope, blazing in back gardens and flags waving everywhere.

“We watched, entranced, a huge firework display from Westminster Bridge, and giggled as sailors climbed lampposts and kissed as many girls as they could catch! “Goodness knows what time we arrived home, tired but so happy.” Joyce Hughes, 85, Hale, Liverpool

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Joyce is the girl with bow in hair, turning round, to the right of her mum, Teresa, who is seated in black with baby on lap

 

During the war I lived in a terraced house in Vale Road, Woolton, with my parents Teresa and Jack Langley, and six brothers and sisters. Dad and Mum worked in a components factory. I remember sirens and air raids.

We used to go to a family with a shelter or to one in Gladstone Street. We were only children, so it seemed like a big adventure. We were still going to school but had to carry little gas masks with us.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Joyce says the war felt like a big adventure at the time

Once, in 1944 when I was 10, we came out and a bomb had dropped on the next street.

It only demolished one house but when we went back to ours, Dad went to put the key in the front door and it just fell backwards into the house. The windows had gone. There was soot everywhere but our little dog lived through it.

On the day the war ended there was a big bonfire at the bottom of the road, someone had pushed a piano out and everyone was singing and dancing. A few days later we had a street party in the afternoon. I have no idea where the food came from but there was plenty to go around.

Rex Wellard, 90, Chigwell, Essex

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Rex was evacuated to three different places

  Rex was evacuated to three different places in six years and has written a book called Don’t Forget Your Gasmask about his experiences. He says: “I had been home with my family for about five weeks when at daybreak one Monday, we were woken up by a cacophony of noise coming from the river.

“The boats moored on the Thames were sounding their steam horns and many gave hoots emulating the V (for victory) in Morse code. ‘That’s it!’ my dad said. ‘The war’s over.’ “My friend and I caught a train to London and squeezed down The Mall to join thousands in front of Buckingham Palace. “The crowd were chanting for the Royal Family, who came on to the balcony with Churchill.

The loud cheering and flag-waving was years of tension being released. “In Shaftesbury Avenue, an American Forces club had its windows open wide and a gramophone blared out music. Soldiers leaned out calling to girls as a long conga line snaked about.

“They threw fire-crackers down, too. A middle-aged couple got a shock when one went down the man’s sweater and exploded, blowing a hole in it. He was unharmed but his wife was most annoyed.”

Bill Bennett, 91, of Kidderminster

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Bill served in the Royal Navy

  He joined the Merchant Navy at 18 but was seconded to the Royal Navy. He worked on Pluto (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) to allow petrol to be pumped from the UK to France and was mentioned in Dispatches for his bravery for helping a wounded colleague.

There were a lot of shells and dive-bombers and I wasn’t allowed to carry a gun as I was from the Merchant Navy. But I was too busy getting on with the job to be scared. I just remember tremendous noise, as well as hundreds of planes, and the smell of cordite.

We sailed back to Folkestone on May 7 but got back into the harbour late so stayed aboard the ship. Next morning as I went on deck, there was a buzz of excitement. A group of men on the quay were talking and looking at a paper.

I shouted “What’s happening?” They said the war was over in Europe and the Germans had surrendered. Looking around you could see people shouting and talking to one another and the excitement and buzz was unbelievable. After five years of tension, there was such relief for all.

The next two days were spent celebrating on land. We felt a great lift. But our war was far from over.

  • Bill, a Royal British Legion member, was involved in the Japanese campaigns and was finally demobbed in November 1947.

Don Sheppard, 100, Royal Engineers and 51st (Highland) Division

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Don was involved in that final battle

 

My division was involved in the last big battle on May 5, 1945, in Bremervorde, north-west Germany – known as the final surrender. As the attack was progressing, many of the enemy surrendered to our troops, which was the beginning
of the final capitulation of all of Germany’s armed forces on VE Day. My thoughts at the time, after surviving five years of war, was relief that nobody was shooting at us any more.

I’m sure the German soldiers felt the same.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Don says he felt relief at the end of the war

Then, of course, I celebrated the event with a  tipple or two. But I found myself thinking, what a futile way of life, killing one another. There was a sadness of all those comrades who would never be going home, like I was longing to do.

The casualty figures from my division alone from D-Day to VE Day was 9,000 killed, wounded and missing. Let us remember with thanksgiving and honour all those who gave their lives in the pursuit of freedom. Sergeant Fred Foster, who died in 1990 aged 75, by his son Steve Foster, 70, author of The Soldier Who Came Back

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Fred died aged 75

 

Dad joined the Army in May 1939 and saw action in Norway in 1940. Over five days of fighting in deep snow in the village of Tretten, the British were subjected to continuous mortar and machine-gun fire which they had no answer to. Armed only with rifles, they were eventually overrun as tanks passed through them.

Hand-to-hand fighting took place in order to hold the village but it was finally taken when most of the brigade were killed, wounded or captured. Fred was imprisoned in Stalag XXA, Thorn, Poland, where in 1942, he and a friend undertook an escape to the Swiss border. At the border they were recaptured, harshly interrogated and eventually returned to the camp.

From there, Fred was moved to Stalag 383 in Hohenfels, Bavaria, where he was finally liberated by American forces on May 1, 1945. However, there were 250,000 allied PoWs released in Germany in May 1945 and most would not get home by VE Day. The pure logistics of feeding, clothing and transporting them was a huge challenge.

Documents show that Fred was given a day pass from his camp on May 5, so he was effectively still a prisoner but held by British authorities and he did not get home until May 13. He and his friends, who had spent more than five years as prisoners, were still in PoW camps in Germany on VE day and not out on the streets in their home towns celebrating. This is perhaps a little-known fact.

Walter Taylor, 96, of Waterlooville, Hants, served as a private with the Tank Corps from 1941. A D-Day veteran, he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur in 2016

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Walter Taylor served as a private

  He says: “I volunteered at 17 because I hated my job in a Lancashire shoe factory.

On D-Day we landed on Gold Beach and I saw some terrible sights. That night one of our drivers was sleeping under his tank when the Luftwaffe hit it. “He was the first of our casualties but not the last.

I lost some great colleagues as we made our way through Europe, including Geordie, who looked after me like a second father. “We pushed on to the Rhine and I started to get the feeling we might be getting to the end – youthful optimism, perhaps. “Then, in May 1945, we were in a wood near Luneburg Heath in Germany.

There were lots of vehicles moving around – and I now know that was because the Germans were surrendering. At about midday on the 8th, our Sergeant Major came out and said: ‘That’s it, it’s all over.’

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2He was in Germany when he was told the war was over

“We were told it was VE Day and were very pleased, obviously. But we didn’t have any booze to celebrate with so I just had a cup of tea.

One of my mates was fed up and made a sign saying ‘VE Day and NO BEER’ and hung it on a tank. “So I’ve promised myself I am going to have a bottle of beer on Friday to mark this 75th anniversary. I’m going to toast all the lads who never came home.”

Walter was demobbed in 1946, returning to join the police force. He married Vera and the couple had three children. He adds: “Before the coronavirus lockdown I was meant to be coming to London to lay a wreath on the Cenotaph.

“But I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that on Remembrance Sunday in November instead.” Barbara Hurman, 89, from Aylesbury, Bucks, joined the Army at 17 and became a teleprinter operator in the Royal Corps of Signals

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Barbara was in southern Italy when she heard the news

Following D-Day I volunteered to go abroad and joined the Central Mediterranean Forces. I was in southern Italy when news of the end of the war came but I never had a chance to celebrate.

My unit was in transit, waiting to be posted to our next billet, so we weren’t allowed out. It was only afterwards I realised I had spent VE Day confined to barracks! As a member of the Royal British Legion, I was looking forward to taking part in the VE Day events in London this year.

But now I will be celebrating at home as I didn’t get the opportunity to all those years ago. You don’t tend to hear so much about the work that women did to help win the Second World War. Women played a valuable role – at home and abroad – and that should be acknowledged more.

Bernard Morgan, 96, from Crewe, Cheshire, was a codebreaker who found out about the German surrender via a telex two days earlier than most. He still has the original message

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Bernard was a code breaker

  I landed on Gold Beach at 6.30pm on D-Day – the youngest RAF sergeant to land in Normandy.

I can still vividly remember seeing dead bodies scattered all over the beach as I came ashore, and that is a sight that will stay with me for ever. By May, 1945, I was stationed in Schneverdingen in Germany – where I got advance warning that VE Day was coming. I got a telex to let me know that the war was ending and that the German surrender was imminent.

I still feel very privileged.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Bernard remembers the party well

I remember VE Day very well, the drinks just appeared from nowhere and we lit a bonfire, and had a massive party. It’s so important that we make the most of these opportunities to remember what happened – not just
to celebrate the achievement but also to ensure that such horrors never happen again. Secret agent Odette Hallowes, by her granddaughters Sophie Parker and Nicole Miller-Hard

Our French-born grandmother Odette was recruited by the British Government to join the Special Operations Executive and work undercover in occupied countries.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Odette was a secret agent

After training, she joined SOE agent Peter Churchill in France but, in April 1943, they were both betrayed, captured, and imprisoned. Odette was brutally tortured for information about her fellow agents but refused to say anything, saving their lives and enabling them to carry on their vital work. During her confinement in the notorious Ravensbruck bunker she did all she could to try to keep her mind and body active and retain her dignity.

In the spring of 1945, as the Allies were closing in, Odette, emaciated and extremely ill, was taken from Ravensbruck by the prison commandant, who had been instrumental in the extermination of 100,000 women. They went in his own car and she was told, ominously, that it would not be necessary to bring her things. She was sure her end had come and he would drag her into the woods and shoot her.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Her family have told how she was tortured

But it was not to be.

On May 3, just days from the German surrender, the prison commandant handed her over to the American military base and her relief must have been immeasurable. We are sure that arriving home in England after two years of incarceration and knowing she was at last going to be reunited with her daughters must have been monumental for Odette. The sight of London’s streets hung with the glorious flags of military victory, and the joyous sounds of the VE celebrations would have affirmed that her hopes and dreams had finally become a reality.

Odette was awarded the George Cross, an MBE and the Legion D’Honneur. Alec Borrie, 95, Slade Green, Kent

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Alec was the youngest member of the SAS

  I was the youngest member of the 1st SAS and was with them for two years during the war.

On VE Day I was in a transit camp in Chesterfield and the news came at about midday. I can sum up VE Day in two words: Getting drunk.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Alec remembers getting drunk when he heard the news

We went to a pub and I spent quite some time trying to strike up a conversation with another man from 1st SAS, until I realised I was actually looking at myself in a large mirror. Eileen Storey, 94, Norfolk

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Eileen was a gunner

 

Every time I hear the lovely Vera Lynn sing The White Cliffs of Dover, I am transported back to the day when I joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service at the age of 18. I became a very proud gunner.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Eileen Storey with great great granddaughters, Isabelle and Olivia

We were positioned on the white cliffs of Dover at the time when the V1 and V2 rockets, doodlebugs, were beginning to attack. Most of the crews were young girls.

I still have lovely memories of friendships formed during the war. John Stuart Chapman, by daughter Jan Stewart, 68, London

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2John turned 21 on VE Day

  My father was an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy and turned 21 on VE Day.

His ship sailed into Plymouth harbour as the church bells were ringing out for the end of the war. But to him, it felt like everyone could have been celebrating his 21st. Dad, who had done some bell ringing, found a nearby church and rang a peal of bells himself.

Dad, who was only 15 when he was called up, operated depth charges on destroyers. He didn’t really talk about the horrors he must have seen but he told us two stories. He thought he had been blinded when a depth charge exploded near him – but found he could see when his eyelashes, which had been stuck together, were trimmed.

And one night in the Atlantic, a huge wave washed him overboard, but the next wave washed him back on, which he said was a miracle. Dad, who worked for BT after the war, died at 84 in 2008. Lillian Cox and Doris Hobday 95, of Tipton, West Mids, are the oldest identical twins in the UK

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2The twins say they were relieved when the war was over

 

The end of the war was announced on the radio, which our parents rented because we had hardly any money. At first we were so relieved but everyone was worried in case it started again or another war broke out. We lived in the Black Country, and worked in a factory.

Even during the war we went to work each day, carrying our gas masks and ID cards. Everything was rationed. We had coupons for food, clothes, furniture.

Times were hard but we got through it. When we came home from work we would hear the sirens and had to go straight to the shelter in our garden.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Identical twin sisters Lillian Cox and Doris Hobday

We used to sit there frightened while we heard the loud planes overhead. Our father was a firefighter looking after the streets to make sure everyone was safe.

Doris had recently got married and her husband, Ray, was called up – he was a private in the Army and away for two years and eight months. When he went away he had a full head of hair. He came back bald and it never grew back.

Towards the end of the war, a bomb went off just behind where we lived. It shook all the houses. Our mam was shouting: “Arrrrh, my bloody mantle is broken!”

But we later learned that bomb killed three children and a doctor. When we heard the war had finally ended we were able to relax a little and start living our lives. Joyce Masters, by her daughter Marion Trathen, 74, from Cornwall

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Joyce was cutting cabbages when she heard the news

 

My mother wrote her story down before she died in 2009, aged 86. She joined the land army in 1941, aged 18, and was sent from London to Cornwall. On VE Day, she was cutting cabbages to be sent on the train at midday, when the housekeeper called: “The war is over!”

Needless to say, the cabbages were thrown into the air and they had a cabbage fight. They danced and sang “the cabbages never saw the railway truck”. Marie Scott, 93, New Malden, Surrey

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Marie transmitted messages to and from the beaches on D-Day

 

I was in Fort Southwick on D-Day and transmitted messages to and from the beaches. I went to London for VE Day with my friend Betty, aiming to walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. But most of London was determined to do the same thing.

We met a human tide and were hugged and kissed by soldiers, sailors and airmen! People were delirious with joy.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Marie went to London for VE Day

  • Marie is supported by The Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, taxicharity.org

Edith Pleasance, 97, from Wymondham, Norfolk, was on a delayed honeymoon For most of the war I worked in a factory making aircraft parts.

One day a voice announced “Mrs Pleasance, please report to the main gate”. A friend was waiting for me with a telegram. My husband Jim had been captured by the Germans 14 months earlier at Anzio and incarcerated in a Stalag in Eastern Germany, so I was pretty certain he would have been on the much-publicised Death March.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Edith was on a delayed honeymoon when she heard the news

I tore open the envelope and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as I read: “ARRIVED SAFELY.

SEE YOU SOON. JIM.” Jim and I had married on his first leave in 1940 but we had no honeymoon.

So after he arrived home – at 2am on April 21, 1945 – we decided to go to Plymouth. We were there on VE Day when we heard Churchill on the tannoy. Then it was announced that celebrations for all would be organised on Plymouth Hoe.

The party was like six New Year’s Eves rolled into one. Si Liberman was a 20-year-old US airman stationed at Attlebridge airfield, near Norwich

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2American serviceman Si Liberman, front centre

  The explosion of joy had not yet erupted.

But there, in the heart of London, darkness was strangely absent on one city street. A stream of light illuminated almost an entire city block. Some happy soul had raised a blackout shade.

And for the first time in nearly six years, it was done without fear of inviting an air raid warden’s citation or German bombs. That marvellous lighted scene, foretelling the end of Europe’s deadliest period, has stayed with me all these years. The date was May 7, 1945.

I was 20 then and a B-24 bomber radio gunner on a three-day pass from my air base outside Norwich, a five-hour train ride away. On an Underground train en route to Piccadilly Circus, I kind of got the picture after spotting a newspaper headline. “Unconditional Surrender Imminent,” it screamed. By 3pm the next day, it was official.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Si read the news in a newspaper

Standing on the War Ministry balcony above Whitehall at that hour, a beaming Winston Churchill flashed his usual V sign.

This time, though, his V for victory was no symbolic promise. Hostilities with Nazi Germany were over. “This is your victory,” he told a huge crowd that had gathered.

Cheers grew into one helluva party. People poured into the streets, shouting, dancing, embracing. They mounted double-decker buses and utility poles, waved flags, started bonfires and danced the hokey pokey around a statue of Queen Victoria.

Sirens blared, car horns honked and church bells pealed. I found myself drawn to Buckingham Palace. A roar from the crowd and wild applause greeted the appearance of people on the balcony.

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VE Day 75th Anniversary

From where I stood among a mass of humanity, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, their princess daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, and Prime Minister Churchill were a distant blur.

That night floodlights illuminated Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament for the first time since the Battle of Britain began in 1939. And Big Ben’s toll, signalling the official end of the war in Europe, was greeted by exploding fireworks and screaming sirens. The celebration went on for two days.

Thomas Byrnes Barry was a technical sergeant, aged 30, at Headquarters Squadron, 94th Air Depot Group of the US Air Force Army

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2Thomas was 30 when VE Day declared the war over

  His daughter, Patricia Coleman, shares a letter he wrote to his wife while in London We arrived in Parliament Square about 2.15pm on VE Day.

The place was overflowing with people – civilians and members of the Armed Forces: British, American, French, Poles, Norwegians, Belgians.

Poignant VE Day memories from those who celebrated and those who fought in WW2He was in parliament square

We stood facing Big Ben. As the chimes began to ring before the stroke of the three we snapped a picture. The crowd almost went wild with cheers.

The bugle call “cease fire” was sounded, then the Speaker of the House of Commons introduced Mr Churchill, who gave a very fine talk, sprinkled with cheering from the crowd.

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