VE Day celebrations in 1945 and 2020

April 01 2020
VE Day celebrations in 1945 and 2020

Yate & District Heritage Centre: David Hardill looks at how communities came together to celebrate the end of the Second World War.

AT the time of writing the numerous events planned for the May Bank Holiday to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day will probably not occur.

Some events have already been cancelled and, although unavoidable, this is a great shame. At least we can mark it in print.

The Victory in Europe celebrations of 1945 took different forms, although most of them happened on May 8 and many were street parties. In Yate, then a parish of around 2,000 souls (compared with 23,000 today), there were parties in a number of streets, including Westerleigh, Wellstead and Maybank Roads.

Although the Second World War brought people together, it had been a traumatic event. The community was scarred by the death and serious injuries of military personnel in the conflict, while the bombing of Parnall Aircraft, with 54 casualties, in 1941 would have remained fresh in the minds of many.

street party

VE Day party in Westerleigh Road, courtesy of Sheila Jabs. People named in this picture include Barbara Buck, Margaret Kilminster, Mary Clark, Margaret Cooke and Miller.

Many of these events were put together quickly, with relatively few resources, but with great community interaction. Les Walter of Yate recalled people going round each house in Maybank Road collecting butter, sugar and flour in order to make the respective cakes for the party.

Children were at the focus of the party. The classic street party was formed of trestle tables end to end, placed down the middle of the road. Sheila Jabs recalled four long tables on Westerleigh Road, with 36 children crammed in. There were, of course, the obligatory sandwiches, cakes and lemonade for the children, plus urns of tea for the adults.

Not all adults attended these celebrations, and some went down to Bristol, where they had friends. Some celebrations took place at local pubs, such as the House at Home in Burton. In Old Sodbury, Iris Parfitt noted that teenagers within the community put on a tableau of scenes representing England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Less well known were the VJ Celebrations on August 15. Les Walter remembered the Maybank Road party falling foul of the authorities. The adults’ party had singsongs, dancing and carousing through the evening and beyond midnight. Unfortunately, such activities were forbidden on Sundays and the local constabulary came to break up the party – to the consternation of some of the revellers.

*Yate Town Council has closed Yate & District Heritage Centre to the public until further notice. For updates on opening, visit yatetowncouncil.gov.uk.

Main picture: A VE Day party in Westerleigh Road, courtesy of Sheila Jabs. People named in this picture include Richard, Mrs Marquand (host), Margaret Carter, Joan Tilling and Ann Tooth. Can you name any others?

Further pictures of VE Day celebrations in 1945 below (all courtesy of Sheila Jabs):