German radio broadcast on May 7th that General Alfred Jodl would sign the official surrender of Nazi Germany the following day. Winston Churchill immediately announced that the 8th May, 1945 would be a national holiday. This date became known as the Victory in Europe (VE) day.
That same year that Patty started school, the war ended. It had lasted for six long weary years, and for those of us who had been young at that time, it was a big slice out of our lives. When it was finally all over, there was singing and dancing in the streets. Victory bells rang and people cried and laughed at the same time and hugged each other. We had street parties for the children, and although they were too young to know what it was all about, they caught the excitement of the moment, and with balloons and streamers they joined in the fun. I made sponges and jellies along with Jean Brodie from down the road, and even helped with the paper hats.
News filtered through that the war had ended suddenly because a small bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. Nobody questioned why it had come to an abrupt halt. Like thousands of others, we were relieved and happy that hostilities had ceased and hoped that our lives could proceed along normal lines once more. It was several months before the word atomic was mentioned, and we were ignorant of its consequences. We ignored it all. The war was over and that was enough. Much later, we saw and heard the full horror of this weapon that the Americans had used and were appalled. That it must never happen again was a phrase that Governments bandied about for years, and which we believed, like so many other things. We were young and we were gullible. Impossible to think, then, that nuclear weapons would become the ultimate 'deterrent'. Impossible also to believe that when the final page of history was being written, we discovered that Germany had also been busy perfecting this deadly weapon of destruction, and it could have been us and not Hiroshima as the target. A moment for reflection. One sobering thought. How could things ever be the same again?
It has been wonderful to watch the end of this dreadful war. And now that we have France, there will be no more fears of being blown to pieces, by bombs or being burnt alive by fire in our homes, at least we will now sleep at nights! As soon as we can get our men home, there will be great joy for those who left their loved ones behind. Some, many, will never return - those who have been lost in this awful fight, we owe our peace to them as well as those who have been saved. In honour of those - who have not returned, I pray that one day the World will forget its selfishness and greed, its love of money and longing for the less work. Then maybe their sacrifice will not be in vain.
As long as we go on inventing and making new and more deadly weapons of war and destruction we shall be tempted to use them. It is for the scientists to use their brains to help in healing to make machines to help heal, rather than to maim and kill. If they don't do this, then the Mothers of all the lands will cry out 'God Save our Children'.
As midnight ushered in May 8th VE Day, one of the bigger ships in Southampton docks let out a deep throated V sign. Others, large and little, joined in cacophonously with their raucous or piping notes, and searchlights flashed out V in morse across the sky.
But London had earned the honour, which would have fallen to it in any case, of providing the centre of rejoicing. The weather was dull in the capital next morning; a light rain, inappropriately, fell. Many houses displayed Union Jacks, but some had produced hammer-and-sickles. Each resident prepared to celebrate in his own manner. The Daily Mirror, fulfilling a faith long held in the fighting services, rejoiced by disrobing completely the hitherto tantalizing 'Jane'. Crowds massed, on the other hand, at St Paul's Cathedral which was packed with worshippers all day.
In the afternoon, the sun came out to play over the dense crowds in the main streets. Many were wearing red, white and blue rosettes. Comic paper hats of all kinds abounded, policemen's helmets, crowns and silver cones. A couple of soldiers were spotted wearing a badge, 'Pity the poor unemployed.' At three o'clock, Churchill broadcast to the nation, and the many crowding outside the House of Commons heard his familiar voice relayed over loudspeakers, and joined in fervently with 'God Save the King' when it was played at the end. Immediately afterwards, Churchill proceeded from Downing Street to the House, and his car was pushed the length of Whitehall by the sheer weight of the mobbing people, all of whom seemed set on shaking his hand. After cabinet and M.P.s had joined in a Thanksgiving Service at St Margaret's Church, opposite Parliament, Churchill pressed on to address rapturous crowds from a balcony overlooking St James's Park. He enjoyed himself, it seemed to his bodyguard, "like a schoolboy on an outing".