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15 October 2014
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VE Day celebrations in London

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4386396
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site at Surrey History Centre on behalf of Mrs Hyams. It has been added to the site with the author’s permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I had spent the last few months of the war down in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, where I had been evacuated with my London school (Raine’s Foundation, Stepney). Some of us would be invited into Matron’s sitting room in the evening to listen to broadcasts on progress of the final days of the war. Churchill’s speeches always seemed very thrilling. We had no sense of history in the making when the war in Europe came to an end. Most of the children didn’t want to go back to London. It would be the end of freedom and independence. We had all done pretty much as we liked in our spare time. All we had to do was turn up for meals, do our chores and be in by curfew.

May 8th and 9th were declared national holidays, and I came back to London for a day or two. My father took my sister and me to Trafalgar Square to see all the celebrations. The crowds were unbelievable. People were hanging from lampposts, many debagged and partly undressed; some women were waving items of underwear! My father held on to us tightly. My sister, who was 20 and very pretty, was nearly dragged off several times by soldiers. It was exciting yet frightening. Many people were very drunk but we didn’t see any violence or punch-ups.

The Mall was packed from end to end. The Royal family were to appear on the balcony. Dad managed to get us to the comparative calm of St James’s Park. The grass was a sea of ‘courting couples’. My father was quite shaken and put his hand over my eyes. I was twelve years old and it was quite an eye opener.

We had to walk most of the way home as the few buses that were running couldn’t get through. My father was still very shaken and needed a drink but a lot of the pubs were shut. We did manage to get him a small bottle of beer from an off licence and that cheered him up a bit. My sister Peggy and I agreed that we had had a great time and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Next day my sister’s arm was black and blue where she had been grabbed. Dad made a beeline for the pub. We censored the ‘juicy bits’ from our story when we described things to Mum.

On VJ Day, in August, I went to a friend’s street party that was very lively. Two women nearly had a fight over who made the best sandwiches, In September, I was back at school in London looking forward to a happy and peaceful future with no wars ever again!

D Hyams, Surrey

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