2020 marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe or VE Day – the formal surrender of Nazi Germany. At 22.01 GMT on 8 May 1945 military action ceased. This brought an end to almost six years of conflict.
In Berkshire it was a day of restrained celebration. The report below from the Wokingham, Bracknell and Ascot Times on 11 May 1945 tells how some residents held gatherings, bonfires, and danced in the streets. Many others, still with absent loved ones, chose to celebrate in their own homes.
Extract from Wokingham, Bracknell and Ascot Times, 11 May 1945, D/EX2470/8/8
The Second World War continued until August 1945, when Japan surrendered (VJ Day). By then, the initial euphoria of VE Day had passed, and Europe had begun the long and difficult road to economic and social recovery. Find out more about VJ Day in Berkshire.
What a Victory
Not everyone in Berkshire waited for the official day of celebration. Many people had begun celebrating as soon as they heard the news the previous evening.
The diary of William Henry Hallam from East Lockinge includes daily entries from February to May 1945. In the extract below from the 7th of May, William recalls:
“Mrs Carey came running up where we heard the news and brought with her a decanter of wine to drink a toast to Victory. Then I got our poles out, got out our union jacks – tacked them on and pointed them out of the front bedroom windows. I was not the first – a party opposite had theirs out before I had mine. What a Victory. Thank god. Tomorrow and Wednesday public holidays.”
Extract from the diary of William Hallam, 7 May 1945, D/EX1415/53
Image showing a V.E. Day party in De Beauvoir Road, 9th May 1945 [reproduced with kind permission from Reading Libraries, ref. 4626918.]
A time of thanksgiving
In Berkshire’s many villages there were discussions as to how to commemorate the day appropriately.
The meeting extracts below are from Inkpen and Sunninghill Parish Councils and contrast the need to celebrate and reflect. While the members in Inkpen unanimously agreed to ‘serve tea for the old people’, Sunninghill council decided that this was ‘not the time for large scale celebrations, but rather a time for thanksgiving.’
Extracts from Parish Council Meetings, 1945
Many VE church services were held across Berkshire. The images below show the authorised form that those services took. It gives an insight into what the Government felt was the correct emotional response to the end of war.
The service began with the congregation standing and singing the first verse of the National Anthem. Its theme was thanksgiving, deliverance from our enemies and slavery, and that god would give us strength for the future.
Guidance booklet for the ‘Service of Thanksgiving for VE Day, 1945
VE Day anniversaries have always sought to look forward as well as back. The significance of the Second World War is taught again and again to each new generation.
The colour photographs below show a party at Winkfield St Mary Primary School to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 1995. In the same year, the Royal Naval Association marched through Reading.
50th Anniversary of VE Day celebrations at Winkfield Primary School and VE Day Parade in Reading , 1995,
FOLLOW THROUGH TO