London

VE Day: 'Elated and deflated' at victory in London

Dancing in the streets of London Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption VE Day on 8 May 1945 celebrated the end of war in Europe

On 8 May 1945 the streets of London were packed with well-wishers as the news spread that the war in Europe was over. BBC London's 94.9's David Friend explores what it was like for those who were there.

"On 8 December 1940 I said goodnight and goodbye to my young friend Mary who was nine.

"She went into a shelter and it had a direct hit. There were about 50 odd of them and they were blown to smithereens," said Gladys Hale.

Five years later Ms Hale was aged 13 and living in Bermondsey, south London, when the war in Europe ended and her feelings were mixed.

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption Huge crowds gathered in London to celebrate the German surrender in 1945

"I was elated and deflated," said Ms Hale. "I was thinking of all the soldiers that were fighting still and all the prisoners.

"I hated the war, everyday I used to say, please when is it going to be over?"

The end of nearly six years of conflict in Europe triggered celebrations around London and crowds poured into Trafalgar Square and gathered in front of Buckingham Palace.

Terry Charman, a senior historian at Imperial War Museum, London, said: "The British people had been rationed since January 1940.

Image copyright Imperial War Museum

"The strain, the wear and tear of nerves… there was all that worry. So in May 1945 there wasn't the same riotous rejoicing that there had been in November 1918 when the Armistice was signed."

In 1945 Joy Hunter was an 18-year-old working at Prime Minister Winston Churchill's underground Cabinet War Rooms.

"When Churchill came in, if you met him, he was very affable, very pleasant," she said.

"And of course if you didn't see him, you smelled his fantastic cigar."

Image caption Joy Hunter worked in Winston Churchill's underground Cabinet War Rooms

She began VE day by travelling to work from her home in Paddington.

"I remember going into the lift. The lift man said 'but you shouldn't be here'. So I got myself out of there as quickly as I could and knew that my parents were going to be in the Mall. Goodness knows how, but I found them."

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption Parades, thanksgiving services and street parties were held to mark the occasion

Ms Hunter and her parents gathered in front of Buckingham Palace hoping to see the Royal Family - and they were not disappointed.

"The King and Queen came out with Churchill between them, the most fantastic roar went on for several minutes," she said.

"The atmosphere was electric, suddenly the fear had gone."

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption VE Day was a national holiday and Winston Churchill made a radio broadcast to announce the war in Europe was over

The elation was also largely sober, according to Mr Charman.

"One diarist said that he felt VE Day brought out all the best of British virtues. There was very little drunkenness, partly because there wasn't much to drink, he said.

"The only vandalism was ripping up air raid shelter signs… and making bonfires."

Ms Hale may have had mixed emotions on VE Day, but she felt at least some exhilaration.

"Later that day, when we were having a meal, there was a very loud engine noise," she said.

"Someone said it's not the Germans because the war was over. All of a sudden we saw what it was.

"It was a Spitfire doing a victory roll. We saw him go past the window and he went past so fast. We said 'No wonder we won the war!'"

Image copyright Imperial War Museum
Image caption Crowds gathered in front of the Ministry of Health building in Whitehall

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