VE Day and VJ Day Parties

by Kate Elliott Jones

VJ Day Party at Southend Fire Station, 8 Nov 1945

When the lights go on again all over the world'

To celebrate the end of the war in Europe, local schools closed on 8 and 9 May 1945. On 10 May, a thanksgiving service was held in the Baptist Church for Oystermouth schoolchildren. The following October the schools closed again to mark the end of the war in Japan.

'Its over! Peace at Last!' To see all the lights go on around the Bay has been a tonic. To realise that our POW’s will be home soon is another. To realise the war is over is profound. Aye! War brought its trials, but it also engendered in Mumbles a spirit of comradeship and Brotherhood.

Mumbles Letters to the Forces, 1945

Harry Libby in his newsletter to the Forces on 15 August 1945, described the scenes which had taken place in Mumbles: There were 'street parties, dances, (especially in Stanley Street), bonfires, lifeboat trips for the kids, and now fireworks.

At midnight last night everything went barmy, parachute flares went up and there were more nightdresses on parade between the Yacht Club and Sander's Corner than I imagine were ever worn. We didn't forget the boys who will not come back nor He who giveth us the victory.

Others describe their VE or VJ Days, whether spent in Mumbles or in far distant places.

VE Day party at Victoria Avenue

David Spooner who lived in Victoria Avenue recalls the excitement of the party and how it involved Stanley Street as well, and possibly Queen’s Road too. ‘Mother got everything she could but how they managed to make stuff I don’t know. She must have been saving up rations.’

VE Party at Norton: II

Published in the Mumbles News March 1971, lent by Mrs Daisy Thomas

Geoffrey Cottle has supplied names for some of those shown above-

Carl Thomas is the boy on the left hand chair, looking towards camera, who lived in the house subsequently knocked down to left side going up Glen Road.

Brian James, sitting next, lived in the cottage, one of a pair just down the road from the Beaufort Public House, on the opposite side of Norton Road, ie just below the old grocers shop.

Isabel Hopkins is the lady standing on the right, the wife of the coal merchant who lived in Glen Road, just above Norton Cross.

Greta Walters, née Delve, is the lady to the back right, who lived in the last house of the row of cottages, running from the cross to Boyd’s shop.

Three other boys have been identified as Donald Winston, Alan Ockwell and a ginger head lad with surname Sanders, who lived in Glen Road.

Libby Morris has identified her mother Pat, (known as Patty) Gammon as the little girl standing on the far left, who married David Vaughan and later lived in West Cross. Patty was the daughter of Connie and Tom Gammon, sister to John and Gerry Gammon.

If you can identify other faces, please contact the editor.

VE Party at Norton: II

Carl Thomas is the boy sitting left centre, with Brian James next.

Who is the boy in the big hat?

Both photos were published in the Mumbles News May 1971, lent by Mrs Hill, Norton Road.

VE Party at Norton: III

If you can identify the faces, please contact the editor.

Mary Colburn I remember a frenzy of activity as preparations were made for the party. The bonfire in Stanley Street which had to be extinguished due to its proximity to the petrol pumps then at Pressdee’s Garage. The dancing and happy faces; the laughter and relief; the silence of the air raid siren, which had been so much a feature of our young lives.

Another picture of the VJ Day Party at Southend Fire Station, 8 Nov 1945

Peter Howell. It was a Monday afternoon in May 1945 and I was in the algebra class at the Grammar School, when Ernie Matthews, our teacher announced that the War in Europe was over.

That evening, the children were all out on Nottage Road, excitedly playing, while the adults gathered in the house, which had previously been the ARP headquarters. Each family had brought the remnants of whisky, rum, brandy and anything else, which they had hoarded throughout the war for special occasions. The party went on until late in the evening!

A few weeks later during the summer holidays, my Mother took me to stay in Kent with a friend of hers, who had been in service with her many years before. My father could not accompany us, as he could not take time off from his two-man business.

We returned a fortnight later, having heard in London, that the War in the far-east was about to end. We were met at Swansea Station by my solemn–faced father, to be told that my grandmother had suffered a stroke and was very ill.

She died a few days later on 13 August 1945.

Outside, the village was in high spirits as it prepared for the celebrations of VJ day. There was to be a party for all the children in the school-yard opposite Gran’s cottage, on the afternoon she was to be buried. My mother insisted I attend the party, so dressed up in a home-made Able Seaman’s uniform, I joined the others at trestle tables and ate the savouries, cakes and jellies, which the village mothers had somehow managed to find and prepare out of their stocks of wartime rations.

Across the road and hidden from us by the wall of the school-yard, the mourners assembled for Gran’s funeral and then followed her hearse to the cemetery.

Richard Evans. We were in the northern Italian city of Ferrara when VE DAY declared and we were ordered to move to Vienna. This was a city full of 3rd Line Russian soldiers who were not fussy who they killed as the raped and looted a flattened Vienna. I think everyone had just about had enough and the question was 'when do we go home'. Eventually the great day came and after spending weeks in Transit Camps across Europe we finally crossed the Channel enroute for demob areas.

Six years away from all that one holds dear was a long time and I was worried about a pair of cricket boots I had left in the park Cricket pavilion when called up all those years before.

VE Day bonfire at Thistleboon, from Michael Llewellyn, who is pictured in the centre, wearing a white hat.

VE Day bonfire at Thistleboon and 'The End of Evil', from Michael Llewellyn.

VE Day bonfire at Thistleboon and 'The End of Evil', from Michael Llewellyn.

Eric Thomas. At 2 o'clock in the morning on 6 May 1945, we were in Arnhem in Holland when we received the message we had waited so long for. It just said, 'The war in Europe is over.' Gallon of Rum were produced and although a teetotaller, I drank my ration and that's all I remember of 6 May 1945.

Six weeks after the end of hostilities we learnt that we would be going to Burma. On the 6 August 1945, my birthday, an Atomic Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. At noon on 15 August, we were told we would be going to Burma because the war in Japan was over.

John Cumming. I was serving as a forward observation signaller with the 1st Medium Artillery Unit in Burma. We were on a detached forward unit of one Coy of Gherka a battery of 5.5 guns clearing the road from Mandalay towards Rangoon.

We knew about VE day because we usually managed to listen to and read the Reuter report in morse code most days.

On VE day, we were being held up by a Japanese force, which had fortified a village behind a small river. Any advance we made was immediately shelled by 75mm guns, which we then had to knock out. Altogether the Japanese had set up 6 gun positions and used each one separately as we destroyed the others, which took some time.

When we then attempted to enter the village, we encountered a large minefield in the area of the bridge and more time was lost making a ford for vehicles while the Ghurkas cleared the remaining Japanese before we could move on to the next village.

One particular memory of this village was the very effective ‘barbed wire’ protection presented by a plantation of pineapple plants whose strong spiked leaves meant we didn’t have to face a bayonet charge.

Alan Davies. My father, Ernest Davies was a member of the choir at All Saint and was also one of a group who rang the church bells up to the outbreak of the war in 1939.

The ringing of church bells had been totally banned when war was declared, except to warn of enemy invasion in the locality of the church. The ban had been partially lifted in 1943 but it was decided that the Oystermouth church bells would not be rung until victory had been achieved.

On 8th May 1945 a small group of parishioners, including my father, my brother, Geoffrey and myself met at the church and rang the three ‘Santiago’ bells - not very melodiously but for quite a long time, so I was delighted to accept the offer to ring the replacement bell before the Sunday service on 8 May 2005.

My other memories of VE Day are of the street party we held in Glenville Road and of the swimming gala held in the static water tank in Underhill Park.

Mayor Harry Libby

Anne Ardouin. Eventually the war ended, and on V.E. day, Mayor Harry Libby (photo) invited the Vicarage family to a street tea at George Bank. I well remember the joyous occasion when sandwiches, jelly and fizzy pop were served. Afterwards, Harry Libby, megaphone to his mouth shouted ‘make way for the vicar and his party’ as the Mumbles lifeboat was launched. It was a mortifying experience to troop behind Harry Libby, my parents and local dignitaries to get a good view!

Perhaps, retrospectively, it was poignant too, as the lifeboat crew may have included those gallant eight who lost their lives attempting the ‘Samtampa’ rescue in 1947.

Peter Aspell. Then it was all over - we had some celebrations then for V.E. and V.J. days. There was a big party down on the green in the village, and we made collections for the returning prisoners of war so that they would have a purse of money when they came home.

A similar scheme to that mentioned above is noted on the card, below,

'a token of appreciation from Mumbles United Welcome Home Committee.'

We have also recorded details of another committee, Mumbles United Comforts Fund, which sent letters and aid to men and 'lassies' from Mumbles,

who were serving in the Forces,

'Mumbles Correspondence Committee.'

Gwynne Hodge was a good Welsh international gymnast, the longest serving table tennis league player in Swansea and a Welsh weightlifting champion.

He was a prisoner of the Japanese, since his ship, HMS Exeter, was sunk on 1st March 1942. In August 1945 he was at the Macassor death camp when he heard of the end of the war. 'There was much speculation as the rumour spread that the war was over. We waited apprehensively as the Dutch Commandant climbed on to the platform and began to speak in Dutch. We listened without comprehending, but as he spoke we began to sense his meaning, confirmed for us by a Dutchman in the ranks who muttered, ''The war is over, The war is over.'' Pandemonium broke loose; tears, shouts, screams, kissing and hand-shaking'.

Gwynne described being in Perth for about six weeks after the war had ended, arriving on HMS Maidstone at Fremantle, the port near Perth, on September 30, 1945, to a rousing welcome from the Western Australian public.

prisoners of war at Macassar (Celebes) and had been members of crews of the Exeter, Encounter, Electro, Stronghold, Jupiter, Anking and Francol, all of which were lost in action in the Java Sea early in 1942.

He had only been in Perth a few days and was queuing for his pay at a barracks, when he collapsed. He spent the next few weeks in Hollywood Hospital, but Gwynne said 'almost the only time anyone was in bed was at visiting time, as we went over the fence into town, if we were able to do so.'

When they left on the HMS Maidstone, each of them carried an Australian Red Cross hospitality parcel containing some foods they had not seen for the past three and half years.

He was amongst 440 officers and ratings of the Royal Navy who had been

Carol Powell Most of us cannot remember much before about the age of three, but my earliest memory is of a very special day — the VE Day street party at Rhondda Street, Mount Pleasant, on 8 May 1945, when I was two years and one week old.

VE Party at Rhondda Street May 1945, photo taken by Lieut. George Bladen, Swansea Home Guard

Included 2nd LHS is Mrs Tomkin & on the RHS Miss Gifford.

Note the Air-Raid Shelter, in the middle of the road.

I remember it being a sunny day and a feeling of excitement, although of course, I did not understand the reason for it. I recall several people in fancy dress — Hazel Gough and her friend, Joan Gough attired as Chinese ladies in floral dressing gowns, flowers in their hair and sporting sunshades. My Mum, Elaine, and a neighbour were dressed in school gym-frocks and Grandpa Bladen had his pyjamas on over his suit. Everyone brought out their tables and chairs and soon a splendid array of food appeared. How they must have hoarded their precious supplies and saved their coupons to obtain it. There were sandwiches, blancmanges and cakes galore.

Strangely enough, even today, all these memories are visualised from the height of a two year old!

John Powell. I remember the VE Day street party Bellevue Road and my memory notes that we had another one soon after, the VJ Day Party. The photo below, was taken right outside my house. I wonder if it shows my mother, the lady on the right of the picture. I knew nothing then of the trouble taken to give us this treat, after four long years of shortages and hardship. The innocence of youth!

VE Day Party in Bellevue Road and may also have included children from Druslyn Road.

Bellevue Road, The VE Party took place here

VE DAY & VJ DAY 1945

Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day or V-E Day, was the public holiday celebrated on 8 May 1945, to mark the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Victory over Japan Day, VJ Day or V-J Day, is a name chosen for the day on which Japan surrendered, in effect ending the Second World War, and subsequent anniversaries of that event.

August 15 is the official VJ Day for the UK, while the official U.S. commemoration is September 2.

May 8th, 2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the destruction of Hitler’s Third Reich, followed on August 15th by VJ Day.

It is probably the last time that the generation who fought that conflict – in foreign combat and on the Home Front – will be able to assemble in numbers, a final chance for succeeding generations to offer thanks for their labour and sacrifice and the part they played in the triumph over a uniquely evil creed.

Quiet celebration for victory in war and its ensuing peace seem the order of VE Day 2015.


Text previously published in

MUMBLES Memories of the Second World War 1939-1945

by Kate Elliott, Carol Powell and John Powell

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