By Julie Whitehead

We had been waiting for days for the official announcement. Had the War ended, or not? Rumours abounded. “The church bells would ring”, said some. “No”, said others, “that is the signal for invasion.” “Signal beacons would be lit”, said some. “No, the all clear siren would sound.” The truth was, nobody knew. Everybody stayed close to the wireless. Surely it must come soon. We heard that Hitler had escaped, and then that he had committed suicide with his mistress Eva Braun, but their bodies had not been found. And still we waited.

Did we go to school? Did the grown ups go to work? Some did, some didn’t. The mum’s decided the children would be better occupied at school, before the excitement got too much for them. However, when they got there, to their delight, they found the school was shut so they rushed back home, whooping with joy. The grown ups gathered in groups to discuss the situation. We heard that crowds were pouring into the streets around Whitehall and Buckingham Palace. We knew the King and Queen would be in London, as they had been for the duration. As the Queen had said “The King won’t leave England, and I won’t leave the King, so here we stay.And still we waited.

Not until 3pm on the 8th May were we told by Mr Winston Churchill that the War with Germany had ended. Mr Churchill then gave everybody the rest of the day and the next as a holiday. At last plans for the celebrations could be made.

 

We heard that there would be fireworks and bonfires, to the children this was wonderful. For six years we had been told “Put that light out!”. Torch lights had been hooded with black tape so that no light could be seen above the pavement level. The street lights would come on again, something that the smaller children had never seen.

Bunting saved from King Georges’ coronation was hung across the street, and coupon free red, white and blue cotton material was on sale for 1 shilling and 3 pence per yard. Mums had done wonderful things with the food rations for six years and now their ingenuity was to be tested to the limit. There was the street parties to organise!

Carefully hoarded luxuries were brought out. A rare tin of salmon, the cake made with butter that someone's cousin in Canada had sent. Did you know that a passable jelly could be made with lemonade and isinglass? (A type of gelatine). And who could forget the fish paste sandwiches!!! Dried fruit for buns had been bought, when available, on ’points’ which were extra to the rations and somehow a feast was produced.

 

There was no nonsense about police permission for the street to be closed, or insurance in case of accidents. Nobody owned a car, so the street was clear anyway. No fancy dress shops in those days, but all the girls wanted to dress up for the party, so mums dug out old dance dresses not worn since happier times. With their usual ingenuity there appeared princesses, gypsies and fairies. The boys would have none of this ‘sissiness’ and there were very few, reluctant, cowboys and Kings.

 

Kitchen tables were carried out and one plank balanced on two chairs and covered with a blanket could seat six children. One house in every street would be bound to have a piano. Out it came, complete with pianist, not classically trained, but who cares when you can dance to the old favourites like ‘Knee’s up Mother Brown’, and ‘Roll out the Barrel’. And as the evening wore on, the sentimental ‘We’ll meet again’ and ‘The white cliffs of Dover’, brought a few tears from the wives who’s men were still ‘...over there…’. The war was not over for the men still fighting in Burma and the far East.

 

The Children on the whole were very puzzled. What was all the talk about fruit called bananas that we would all be eating soon? ‘Pineapple’, one small boy explained, ‘grew in lumps and was put in a tin’. He had been shown some by his Grandma. Oranges the older ones remembered and described to the little ones. But one thing they could not understand. The grown ups said there would still be newspapers and news on the wireless. How could this be? Whatever would they write or talk about?

For six years ninety percent of all news had been war news. Maybe there would be papers that consisted of cartoon strips? That would be fun, whole papers filled with ‘Garth’, ‘Jane’ and ‘Ruggles’.

 

It seemed that the world was going to be a wonderful place. As many sweets as you could eat, no more nights in the Anderson shelter in the garden and a mum that didn’tcry any more when she listened to the news because Dad was safely home again.

The adults knew that there would be hard times to come but at least they were together.