I have a very good memory and I can very easily recall in a few seconds the event that has stayed in my mind since I was a child. VE Day. To me, it was the most extraordinary celebration that ever happened in Great Britain in its entire history.
I grew up in Upper Armley, a suburb of Leeds, and I see in my mind’s eye all of the streets around us filled with men, women and children. All of them laughing, shouting, crying, being joyous in a very over-the-top way. It was just sheer excitement and happiness that we had won the war.
My mother and father were as excited and as happy as everyone else on VE Day. I distinctly remember my father, who always wore a suit and tie, had picked out his very best clothes for the event. And I remember wearing a brand new yellow summer dress with little flowers on it that my mother had bought me from C&A along with a yellow cardigan my Aunt Olive had knitted!
Every door in the street was opened, people were milling around, drinks in their hands, toasting Winston Churchill for the most part, and calling him “Winnie, our saviour”. Fireworks were filling the air with brilliant light, there was bonfires everywhere, women were bringing out food and drinks for everyone, in other words it was a gargantuam street party that has never before been seen before and after. I remember having a Union Jack flag in my hand my father had given me and, in the other, a sparkler.
There was also music. Someone had arrived with an accordion and had started playing it. A couple started dancing, then half the street were dancing. At one moment, someone began to sing the national anthem, God save the King, and after that we all went on singing all the favourite Vera Lynn songs – We’ll Meet Again, We’ll Be Seeing You and White Cliffs of Dover.
Try and imagine that this was going on in every street, in every city throughout the country. It was the party of all parties. The whole country was having a party.
During the day and in to the evening we had visitors from other streets and some of our neighbours went and celebrated down the road. They all came back and said “We’ve got the best party!”. I think we must have gone in to bed at something like 2am in the morning. It was a day that lives on in my memory and always will.