Weston-super-Mare remembers: Victory In Europe Day in 1945
PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 12:22 12 May 2015
FIREWORKS, parties, dancing and music filled Weston’s streets on May 8, 1945.
This was Victory In Europe (VE) Day, recognising the end of conflict in Europe during World War Two.
The 70th anniversary of this momentous occasion was remembered on Friday, and Mercury reporter Sarah Robinson has this week delved through the archives to recall how the day was celebrated all those years ago.
Troops begin to return home
In the weeks leading up to May 8, there was a feeling things were changing.
For the people of Weston, stories of those who were injured in battle, missing in action or would never return home were all too common throughout the war.
But finally, in those closing weeks, those tales were gradually replaced by stories of those returning to the town after years of fighting or being held as a prisoner in German and Italian war camps.
Life at home was returning to something like normal. Weston Rugby Club’s committee recommended a re-start to the season in 1946, and men had begun to return to their families.
One of whom was Paratrooper Henry Pope, aged just 20.
Gallery: World War Two in Weston
Bombed houses in Severn Avenue.
The Bournville estate became known as 'bomb alley' during the war, as it suffered from so much bombing.
Grove House in Grove Park was bombed.
A mass burial in Weston Cemetery following an air raid in 1942.
Wadham Street following an air raid in 1942.
Waterloo Street after a bombing.
Weston's Post Office Home Guard were stood down after VE Day.
For six months, he had been reported missing, with no word on what had happened to him.
The Mercury reported how ‘quite unexpectedly, he walked in on his parents and gave them one of the biggest and best surprises of their lives’.
He had been held at a German Prisoner of War camp.
But among the reports of those returning from war camps, were the stories of telegrams announcing fathers, brothers, uncles and sons who would not be returning.
The paper detailed those who were still missing, and those who were injured.
VE Day plans announced
But finally, plans were afoot to celebrate the ending of the war which had claimed so many lives across the continent.
The Mercury announced the plans for VE Day’s events in its May 5 edition, saying: “Although not on a pretentious scale, they are designed to cater for the wishes of the townspeople’s celebrations and reverent thanks.”
Such was the occasion that dancing licences were extended until 1am, and Weston received notice that it would be allowed to end the ‘dim out’ where it had turned off the lights to cloak itself from German bombers.
The celebrations begin
The Mercury said: “Weston has never known such a week of music. The song of victory has gone up from thousands of throats, and the instrumentalists ranged from the Weston Orchestra to the accordionist in the back streets.”
In Moorland Road, children were entertained with tea in the streets, a bonfire and community singing.
Public houses ran out of beer and rousing songs including Land Of Hope And Glory and There’ll Always Be An England were heard throughout the town.
Effigies of Adolf Hilter was set alight on numerous bonfires.
Soldiers from America, Poland, Canada and Australia were still stationed in Weston and they joined in with the celebrations at the Winter Gardens.
The Mercury reported: “We have passed through great eventful days, vast armies have surrendered, despots have died and free people of the world have rejoiced in the triumph of their armies.
“The battle of the past ages, Thermopylae, Agincourt, Crecy, Blenheim, Waterloo, pale in insignificance compared to the gigantic fights that have brought the Nazi tyrants crushing to their doom and saved Europe from something worse than a return to the dark ages.
“Nowhere were the jollifications more spontaneous than on the Bournville estate, Weston’s bomb alley as it has sometimes been called. That district, which has seen so much death and destruction in this war, probably led the town in patriotic fervour.”
A time for remembrance
A week after the celebrations, members of the Armed Forces visited Grove Park for a service.
It was a far more sombre occasion, recognising the sacrifices made by not just those fighting, but those who had been left behind.
The Mercury said: “From the gaiety, dancing parties, fireworks, and the victory parade the mood had changed to one of reverent humility, of thought and prayer, for those who fought on against the Japanese and remembering all those for whom the end of the war is not the end of suffering.”