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Celebration and Remembrance

by rayleighlibrary

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Archive List > United Kingdom > London

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Len Smith
Location of story: 
West Ham East London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

Six weeks after the last V-2 rocket fell on London, the war in Europe ended, and May 8th 1945 was offically proclaimed V-E day ( Victory in Europe) and a public holiday.

There were mass celebrations in central London. Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus resembled scenes typical of New Year's Eve, except that the celebrations were going on in daytime. In the East End, the occasion was observed in traditional style with street parties. Tennyson Road were I lived was decked out with flags and bunting. The afternoon and early evening were devoted to childrens' activities and a tea party for which we pooled our rations. Later there was entertainment and dancing for the adults. A stage w3as constructed, and makeshift lighting was rigged up as our street lamps were still masked from the wartime blackout restrictions. An impromptu group provided the music, including a pianist, a gutarist and an accordionist(me). It is at events like this that a wealth of local talent emerges. There were some good solo singers and comedians, but for me the most memorale performance of the night came from a family of four who formed a close harmany group. I can still recall one of their songs. It was "Harbour Lights," and on the rare occasions when I hear this sentimental ballad of the nineteen thirties on the radio, memories of V-E night come flooding back.

The party continued into the early hours of the morning.

Amid all the euphoria, there was more than a touch of sadness. We thought of the many whom whould never know the joy of this day, including fourteen of our neighbours who had been killed in the bombing. Among them were John and Dinah Romer who had lived at No165. They were also customers on my delivery round, and I had called at their little home and enjoyed a cup of tea with them just a day before their terrible end. They were such a nice old couple.

I remember Arther Long, a fellow pupil at my Sunday school. He died along with five other members of his family when their home inManor Road was was destroyed during the first great raid of the blitz on the 7th of Semptember 1940. His baby brother of 6 months was among the dead. There were of course other victims I knew all too numerous to mention here.

Few will remember these people today. They are now just names among 1207 listed in the council's Roll of Honour of civilians known to have lost their lives during the Second World War.

Although for many, V-E Day was something of a bitter sweet occasion, we all had a feeling of sheer relief that after five long years of bombing and missile attacks, we could at last sleep soundly - and in our beds - at night.

I do not believe that anyone who have not shared out experiences could appreciate the way we felt at having this mental stress lifted from us. Above all we were thankful to have survived when so many others all around us had not.

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