Rossendale to celebrate VE Day with a 'Stay at Home' street party

Today sees the 75th anniversary of VE Day, marking the acceptance of the Allies of Nazi surrender in Europe in 1945. The declaration marked the end of six long years of Second World War bloodshed in Europe which left 382,700 members of the British Armed Forces and 67,100 civilians dead. VE Day celebrations were reported on the front page of the Free Press, along with pictures of street parties across the Valley.

Scenes that would - in calmer times - be recreated in a long weekend of anniversary celebrations, however rendered impossible this time around due to the country's latest, solemn fight against an invisible enemy.

Front page of the Free Press in 1945

Nevertheless, residents are being invited to get out the red, white and blue bunting and enjoy afternoon tea and a doorstep sing-a-long with a 'stay-at-home street party' to commemorate the anniversary. Today there will also be a national two-minute silence at 11am as well as an address from the Queen at 9pm - the exact moment her father, King George VI, gave a radio address in 1945. Council leader Coun Alyson Barnes said: "We are in really challenging times and it is such a shame we cannot come together to mark this important anniversary.

"But hopefully we can still commemorate VE Day in our own homes. There's lots going on nationally we can tap into and there are activities for people get involved with too. "Of course, while the end of war in Europe is a time to celebrate, it is also a day of reflection as we remember those who went to war to fight for our freedom, many paying the ultimate sacrifice."

Rossendale to celebrate VE Day with a 'Stay at Home' street party

The Free Press of May 12, 1945 reported: "There was an air of expectancy.

The flood-lighting of the church, the twinkling fair lamps among the trees, the illuminated V sign in the gardens, the powerful street lightning which had been installed and the coloured lighting on the Pavilion in the background. "Later in the evening, came the awaited announcement - that war in Europe was officially over, and that Tuesday would be VE Day. "There were jubilations in the square, crowds began to gather in Queen's Square.

Community signing of songs of the last war and the short lived favourites of the day provided amusement even if a few false starts were made.

Rossendale to celebrate VE Day with a 'Stay at Home' street party

"Others thought of their sons in those Japanese prisoner of war camps, and there are those whose loved ones will never return. "To these the sounds of rejoicing added poignancy to their grief. To forget them would be to commit the unpardonable sin."

If you want to share what you are doing for VE Day, please email [email protected] or through Facebook.

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A birdsong was signal of peace

Rossendale to celebrate VE Day with a 'Stay at Home' street party

Being in the Signals, despatch rider Lewis Banham was in one of the first brigades to be told that the war was over. The 97-year-old from Weir served in 44 Brigade of the 15th Scottish Division and was in Schwerian on the River Elbe in Germany when VE Day was declared in a house the British army had occupied. He said: "When cease-fire came the guns went silent and I could hear all the birds chirping; I had not heard them for so long because of the gunfire.

It was a wonderful sound to me. "It felt grand knowing that I could go out on my motorbike without fear of possibly being hit by a bullet. There was relief among the soldiers and we had a celebration.

"I can still see the house. We had billeted in a semi with a little garden, it had three bedrooms and there were four of us living there - three upstairs and one downstairs, that was me and I slept on a window seat. "I had taken the cushions off the sofa to make a bed and the lady who used to live in the house came back and removed them.

When I told her what I needed them she replaced them and left me six eggs, I guess as a peace offering."

Rossendale to celebrate VE Day with a 'Stay at Home' street party

Lewis arrived in Europe in June 1944 in the fifth wave of troops to land on the Normandy Beaches on D-Day. From there, he travelled throughout Europe delivering messages to the front line on his trusty BSM20 motorbike, the same bike he was still riding nearly a year later when the guns fell silent. Shortly after VE Day, Lewis moved to Baad Segeburg where again the troops took over houses from residents and he recalled how they allowed the owners back to tend their gardens and look after the vegetables.

He said: "I remember the lady of the house had a son Klaus, he was about six, and I would give him chocolate and he was delighted. His mum would look after the garden and she also took away my washing and brought it back clean and ironed. "Not everybody's in the house - just mine."

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After a month's leave in England, he was then posted to Austria, when he was delivering despatches by train through the Russian area.

His motorbike had been swapped for a jeep and latterly a Dodge truck. Lewis always liked the bike but the 4-wheel-drive of the jeep meant it could go through any mud with ease. After contracting jaundice, he spent 13 weeks in a Vienna hospital only being released days before being demobbed in November 1946.

Arriving back in Bacup, by train, Lewis got on the bus to the centre then bumped into his father who helped him carry his kit bag to his home on Tong Lane where Bessie was waiting to greet him. They had married in March three weeks before Lewis was called up on April 16 1942. Lewis has since been honoured with the Legion d'honneur, the highest military medal of France, and the Dutch Liberation medal.

Party went on as Paul came into world

Rossendale to celebrate VE Day with a 'Stay at Home' street party

While most people were spending VE Day celebrating out in the streets - Paul Victor Worswick was taking his first breath. Catherine Smyth reports.

Paul, who lives in Oakenclough Road, Bacup, with his wife Christine, was born on May 8, 1945 in the middle of a street party in Longsight, Manchester. His mother Dorothy, a typesetter, went into labour and the midwife was called. Paul was born in an upstairs bedroom late in the afternoon while the party continued on outside.

A collection raised a very generous GBP2 for newborn Paul - whose middle name is Victor for Victory. The couple had planned to spend his 75th birthday celebrating on the remote Scottish Orkney island of Papa Westray, a place they have visited several times before. However Paul's wife is artist wife Christine who has Parkinson's and so she has to be shielded during the coronavirus pandemic, and as her carer he too is not allowed out.

He said: "We are postponing the birthday trip until our wedding anniversary in July; hopefully we will then be out of lockdown. "We do have a bottle of champagne at home ready and we will be raising a glass not just for my birthday, but to all those who fought for our freedom 75 years ago and to the NHS staff and my former colleagues who are keeping us safe today."

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He praised the actions of veteran Colonel Tom Moore, who has been walking the length of the garden at his care home in Berkshire to raise money for the NHS. Tom was 100 on April 30.

His original GBP1,000 appeal has topped GBP27 million and Paul said: "I hope he raises GBP100m." As well as being his birthday, May 8 was also Paul's first day of training as an Emergency Medical Technician in the Ambulance service in 1979 - the same day of the Woolworths fire in Manchester centre which saw 27 people rescued, 47 taken to hospital and claimed the lives of 10. May 8, 2010 was his last day at Greater Manchester Ambulance Service; he retired at 65 after 31 years' service.

Since then the couple have built their own eco-home, which although they moved into in 2016 is still a work in progress and they are currently finishing the garden. They have visited India, Australia (any more?) and completed the Scottish 'Route 66' the North Coast 500 a rural tour around the coastline from Inverness to the West Coast. And of the future...Paul said: "I hope I am here when it is the centenary of VE Day and I get to raise a glass once more."

Town hall salute to hero Captain Tom

Rossendale to celebrate VE Day with a 'Stay at Home' street party

Rossendale council leader Alyson Barnes saluted NHS hero Captain Tom Moore, as he celebrated his 100th birthday.

Second World War veteran Captain Tom, who was made an honorary colonel on his milestone birthday last week, has raised more than GBP30m for the NHS after walking 100 laps of his garden. His big day began with a Spitfire and Hurricane from RAF Coningsby making three passes over his Bedfordshire home in three different formations. Captain Tom thanked the public for their "very overwhelming" generosity on his 100th birthday, telling supporters the past few weeks have put a spring in his step.

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He said: "Reaching 100 with such interest in me and huge generosity from the public is very overwhelming.

People keep saying what I have done is remarkable, however it's actually what you have done for me which is remarkable." He finished his message by saying: "My legs may be tired, but my mind is racing and I'm hoping to be back very soon with other ways in which I can help people, help others. Please always remember, 'Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day'."

Coun Barnes said: "You certainly cheered up the nation with your exploits during this very dark time. What you have achieved is nothing short of a miracle. From everyone at the Council and in the borough, a big happy birthday to you."

A row of houses on New Line, Bacup pays its tribute to the NHS, to Colonel Tom Moore's 100th birthday and to the 75th anniversary of VE Day with red, white and blue bunting along with special messages.

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