St Albans district celebrates 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe

PUBLISHED: 09:00 07 May 2020

VE Day party in Tavistock Avenue, St Albans.

VE Day party in Tavistock Avenue, St Albans.

Archant

On this day in 1945, the Allied Forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, bringing to an end almost six years of war in Europe.

VE Day party in Longacres, St AlbansVE Day party in Longacres, St Albans

Although victory in Japan was still some months away, on May 8 Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the nation and declared the day a national holiday.

As was seen elsewhere in the UK, VE (Victory in Europe) Day was celebrated across St Albans, with street parties held into the night.

Historian Mike Neighbour, whose website www.stalbansowneastend.org.uk looks at the east end of the city, recalls being at one of the parties in Woodland Drive.

“I was at one of them, though my memory really comes from what my parents had told me, but I was told repeatedly that I enjoyed myself – I was, after all, nearly two years old.

A VE day party in Pagent Road, St Albans taken in 1945A VE day party in Pagent Road, St Albans taken in 1945

“The party was held between, I think, numbers 29 and 37.

“A wireless was brought into one of the front gardens, and one householder with a piano entertained the junior troops through the open windows. I know one or two others who would have been there scoffing the sandwiches and jelly – ration-free food for the occasion – would have been Derek Shearman, Tony Dunkley, Mary Grosvenor, Peter Stickland and Andrew Stone, but don’t be surprised if one or two others add themselves to the list.

“As it was then a new road there were many young families with small children and the mums-with-prams especially, would have got to know each other through their daily visits to the Fleetville shops to join the queues with their ration books.

“I’m afraid my parents, though having a camera, didn’t record the party.”

A VE Day party at an unknown location in St Albans.A VE Day party at an unknown location in St Albans.

Those celebrating included a number of Guernsey families who were billeted in Harpenden until the end of the occupation. The Herts Ad published a photo of a children’s party for them on January 14 1944, when the hope was expressed that they would be able to celebrate at home by the following Christmas, which was unfortunately not possible. The Channel Islands celebrated VE Day on May 9 because they had to wait an extra day for their freedom from occupation.

To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day tomorrow, residents are encouraged to join St Albans Mayor Cllr Janet Smith in a special toast.

She raise a glass as part of a National Toast for the heroes of the Second World War.

With the country in lockdown due to COVID-19, there are no street parties or other large social gatherings to mark the occasion so the Mayor will perform the 3pm toast at home and has invited everyone in the district to join her at that time.

A special VE Day 75 page has been created on the Enjoy St Albans website: https://www.enjoystalbans.com/things-to-do/ and on the Enjoy St Albans Facebook page, residents can contribute photographs that capture the spirit of the occasion with the Mayor awarding prizes to the best image.

The Mayor said: “I am hoping that our residents can come together by joining me in the toast at 3pm to commemorate this turning point in our history.

“This will be our way of saluting those generations who made so many sacrifices during World War Two and had their lives changed for ever.

“We will always be in their debt and should never forget those who lost their lives or suffered terrible injury while protecting the freedoms we enjoy today.

“I’m asking for residents throughout our district to stand up and toast those heroes on VE Day 75, thanking them for all they did for us.”

Councillor Mandy McNeil, portfolio holder for business, culture and tourism, said: “We have posted a wealth of information about VE Day on a special webpage and I hope residents take a look at it. It can become a focal point for the district at this historic time.

“Many of our businesses are providing help to people who want to stage a small celebration at home by offering special deliveries of food and other treats. I urge people to make use of that.”

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