Saturday, 18 September 2021

Remembering the day WWII ended in Europe

MORE than 40 people shared their memories of Victory in Europe Day 70 years ago at

MORE than 40 people shared their memories of Victory in Europe Day 70 years ago at a special lunch in Henley.

The day marked the formal acceptance by the Allies of Germany’s unconditional surrender in the Second World on May 8, 1945 and is celebrated annually.

The meeting was organised by the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion and was held at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road.

Shirley Lees, the Henley Poppy Appeal organiser, showed the group a film called After The War Was Won featuring veterans and their families sharing their memories of the day.

One of those featured was Jean Hammond, who lived in Sonning Common as a child and recalled when her father returned from the war. There was laughter as the audience listened to soldiers remembering having to adjust to civilian life and several people had tears in their eyes by the end of the film.

The guests were then served a lunch of bangers and mash and talked about their own experiences of the day.

John Green, chairman of the branch, was 10 and living in Sheffield when the war ended.

He said: “There was a bomb site near where we lived and when we heard the war was over we lit a huge bonfire there.

“I looked in the attic for the Union flag but I could only find the French flag so I walked through the street with that. I was stopped several times and told it wasn’t the French who won the war, it was us!” Malcolm Lewis, 80, from Nettlebed, was living in Croydon and recalled how his neighbours celebrated with a bonfire.

“It was a great relief, even at nine years old,” he said. “We had a great evening — everyone was in and out of each other’s houses and the fire burned wonderfully.

“The next day my father and his neighbours were very concerned about the holes the fire had burned in the road, so they spent the whole day mixing up cement to fill them in.”

Mary Hunter, 83, of Milton Close, Henley, lived in Walsall as a child.

She said: “I remember rushing out to build a big bonfire. We sang and sang and everyone cried for the three boys who lived near us who had died.”

Jean Rooke, 90, of Phyllis Court Drive, Henley, worked as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park in the Forties before being deployed to Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, to help translate Japanese weather reports.

She was still in Asia on VE Day and did not return until after the end of the Pacific War, which finished four months later.

She said: “It was very exciting when we heard. My mother wrote to me saying how wonderful it was and asking when I would be home. I had to tell her the war was still going on out there.

“Even after the war finished in Japan, the prisoners of war quite rightly went home first.

“We had to wait another two or three months until the shipping brought us back.”

The lunch also included a collection for the Poppy Appeal and members were able to buy VE Day commemorative badges.

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