River Wissey Lovell Fuller

VE Day

May 2020

It was obvious by the end of April 1945 that the Germans were beaten and yet, as I remember, there was a certain reluctance in the UK to accept it. The whole nation had become a fighting machine, almost every action of everybody was part of the war effort in some way, keeping the home going whilst the men were away, producing the food to feed the nation and to feed the forces, making the weapons and the ammunition, the aeroplanes, the communication radios, everything. Was it really going to be all over, had Hitler still got something he was going to unleash? When the news was heard that the unconditional surrender had been signed on May 7th, it was finally accepted that it really was all over. Many people were overjoyed, there was a spontaneous reaction, they wanted to hug somebody, kiss somebody, shout and sing. But many others just wanted to sit down, as though they had been tense for years and suddenly the tension had gone. The next day May 8, was officially VE day, a day we were supposed to celebrate. It was incredible how, at such short notice, although no doubt some had planned in advance, there were street parties everywhere, despite the rationing there was food to be had. People were enjoying themselves in the way that suited them, any servicemen around were dragged in, like It or not. There was drinking, of course, but not to the extent that I would imagine it would be today, simply because there wasn’t so much booze to be had. Beer was famously weak, spirits difficult to come by and I don’t remember wine at all, not in the street parties that I saw. There was a happy atmosphere and inhibitions were swept away. Somehow there was music, small bands or individuals playing accordions, or mouth organs, pianos were wheeled out into the street and I suppose there were gramophones. Lots of dancing, noisy boisterous dancing. There were four separate parties within 500m of our house and with my friend we spent time in each one. I was always of a serious nature and, whilst enjoying the sense of bonhommie, there were times when I felt the atmosphere was rather euphoric, some, it seemed, felt as though they should be enjoying themselves but weren’t quite sure how and did stupid things as a consequence. Most people had no sympathy for the Germans, they were responsible for so much carnage across the world, but I am sure I was not alone in thinking of the German civilians, mostly women, they had suffered so much from bombing and now they were scrabbling in the ruins for something to eat. Some at the mercy of Russian soldiers seeking revenge for what their civilians had suffered. The whole war was such an enormous tragedy the gaiety seemed somewhat out of place to me. My over-riding memory of the time after VE day was the enormous sense of anti-climax. What do we do now? Everyone had been working for several years towards the one end – victory. Now it was here, suddenly the whole aim of the nation had been achieved, and there was a loss of purpose. The war had been a great unifying force, we were all in it together, but now, all in it for what? As the weeks passed, there was a sense of disappointment, now the aim had been achieved why weren’t things better? Nothing much had changed, the food rationing remained, sweet rationing, clothes rationing, along with all the other shortages. Those few who had cars were still not permitted petrol to use them, the buses were still full, only five people allowed to stand. Our soldiers were still dying fighting the Japs in Burma. In truth it was a long time before things did get much better, we were financially broke, we had a large sector of Germany to feed and a large army in Germany to pay for. The Americans, who seemed to come out of the war richer than they went in, poured money into Germany to rebuild them as a buffer to the Russians, but they were somewhat reluctant to help us. It took a while but we did find some sense of purpose - to rebuild the nation. (The restrictions on pleasure motoring were lifted fairly quickly in 1945 and a ration was introduced, I remember the amount of ration depended on the size of the car, it was adjusted to enable 90miles to be covered in a month. 90 miles eh! Whoopee)

Ron Watts

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