- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Joan Carmichael (nee Blackburn)
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 November 2004
VE day came after I had been working in Bath for just over a year. With some friends from the office, including the boss and his wife, we all rushed down to the centre of Bath and found a nice pub where we had a celebratory meal and lots of drinks.
Later in the evening we joined the crowds dancing around Bath Abbey until the small hours. Someone suggested going to London to celebrate there, so we caught the early morning train with a two hour journey to Paddington and somehow — tube, taxi, walking, I cannot remember — we made our way to St Paul's — the symbol of Britain surviving the Blitz. Hundreds of people were walking around.
Knowing that I wanted to work in Fleet Street after the war, we then went straight there, looking at all the great newspaper buildings and ending up at the famous journalists' pub The Cheshire Cheese. Carried along by euphoria, we walked all the way to Park Lane, talking to strangers all the way. A distant relative with a flat near the Dorchester Hotel took us in for a cup of tea and a wash. We arrived back in Bath in the early hours of the morning.
We had to be back in the office by 8.30am. 'Back to work,' said the boss, 'our war isn't over yet.'
During the morning the phone went. I answered the phone for the boss and it was Tommy wanting to speak to Miss Blackburn. After all the celebrations away from the office, how could I ask the boss for leave?
Everyone in the office knew about Tommy, the boyfriend I had not seen for five years and I got permission to go home.
The rent I paid only allowed me one bath a week and if I wanted another one I had to pay an extra six pence!
On this occasion the landlord (he was the local gas man who read gas meters for a living) said, 'You'll wash your skin away for that young man,' but he allowed me to have a bath.
He and his wife had heard all about Tommy and seemed as thrilled as I was.
During the wartime journey from Bath to Leeds, I poured out my excitement to an elderly lady on the train, who gently warned me that I should not expect to see the healthy young man I had last seen on Waterloo Station in 1940.
Remembering returned prisoners from the First World War, she advised me not to show my shock if Tommy looked pale and thin and perhaps pot-bellied after a diet of boiled potatoes.
Instead I was met by a sunburnt young man, who, having been released from his POW camp by the Americans before the war ended, had spent the previous days marching through Germany and France eating farm food wherever he could, finally reaching England by Dakota - one of the first POWs to arrive in England on VE Day.
In the thrill of the reunion I quite forgot it was I who must have looked pale and tired, after at least two days' celebrations in Bath and London without any sleep.
I remember sitting on a fence near Harewood House outside Leeds, thrilled to be together again and then driving back to my family home for a great welcome.
I remember my mother nearly in tears when she refilled Tom's teacup. He had drained every drop and left only a few tealeaves in the cup.
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