VE Day then and now
You might be wondering what VE day is all about and if it is at all relevant today? It will inevitably have more significance to some people than other.
What is VE day?
VE day 1945 marked a very significant moment in the story of British and European societies. The 8th May 1945 was the end of six years of war in Europe. It meant the defeat of Fascist regimes in Italy and Germany and the end of hostilities. It would be a long time however before any sense of normality could return.
The Second World War touched the lives of everyone in Britain, there was a constant fear of invasion, danger from aerial bombardment by enemy planes and the blackout to endure. There were strict controls imposed by government and a constant media campaign to keep everyone informed.
Everyone was issued with a gas mask and you could be fined if you went out without it. There were shortages and food rationing imposed. Many luxury or non-essential products ceased being available as factory production was turned over to the war effort.
For those who had relatives on active service as well as missing them and wondering when they would be together again, there was always the dread of a telegram bringing bad news.
The very sound of the siren struck a fear into you. I mean as soon as that siren went I can remember my heart pounding and I’d listen – you could tell which were German planes y’know…
Don’t know where, don’t know when…
Many families were apart during the war; children were evacuated from cities, and many schools in the cities were shut.
Young adults either joined the armed services or were working for the war effort away from home in the land army and in the mines. Men on active service could be posted anywhere in the world, for long periods of time. Some became prisoners of war, with no certainty of when that would end.
Many Europeans became refugees or displaced through the devastation of the war, and uncountable millions disappeared into concentration camps from which few survived.
My brother was in the Air Force and I’d gone into nursing which two bedrooms free at home, so we had refugees from Jersey – a mother and a little girl
Keep smilin’ through…
Keeping morale high was very important in the myriad of difficult circumstances caused by the war. The radio played songs in the factories and a special Forces radio helped to connect people across the world. The Forces sweetheart Vera Lynn sang songs that captured the feel of the moment including the songs ‘We’ll meet again’, and ‘White Cliffs of Dover.’ There were dances to go to and the cinema was very popular.
We could go dancing every night, there was always somewhere with a dance!
I made so many friends during the war… so much love… everybody cared, everybody wanted to give.
Some Sunny Day….
The first sunny day was 8th May 1945, the end of war in Europe. There was quite a wait till 15th August for the second sunny day when the war ended in the Pacific and Asia.
‘Oh, relief and thank goodness, and go to bed to sleep without thinking, no planes going over….intense relief.
Jubilant, oh, excited and happy…dancing in the streets, bunting up, flags everywhere, singing and dancing and – oh jubilation! Yes, it was lovely.
VE Day 2020 can’t hope to recapture that intense relief and joy that was felt at the end of six years of darkness and worry. However, it is a chance to say thank you to all those who put their lives on the line over 75 years ago to defend the democratic freedoms that our countries enshrine.
What are the parallels?
In our current crisis there have been parallels, government has imposed strict controls for our safety, there have been shortages and much worry, and losses.
Good things have come out of the crisis too, fund raising efforts, people volunteering and trying to protect the vulnerable in our communities.
Communities clapping for the NHS always makes me feel emotional. It is really good to do something together, and this Friday you can join a community response for 75 years since VE day, but with safety in mind maintaining social distancing. So, hang out your bunting, prepare a family tea party and look up the words to We’ll Meet Again and make the 8th May 2020 another sunny day.
Memories from ‘Words on War’ by Helga Hughes from Kirklees Museums and Galleries Sound Archive