Edith Kay née Hayston
And then when we were getting ready for VE Day, we put all the flags out and made bunting, and they'd had to make it, because they probably couldn't buy it, but I remember sewing all these triangles onto pieces of string (laughs) and we had it all out, all ready, and the bonfire was built up, further up our street, and my Mother went to work, at the butchers. She'd gone to give a couple of hours work and our John, he was still in bed, he was only a little boy, and I was eleven, well about eleven, I think on VE Day. And there was a knock on the door, and it was the telegraph boy, and he said ‘Is your Mum in?' and I said ‘Oh no, she's at work' and he said ‘Oh, I have to take an answer. I have to wait' he was only fourteen, because they were only fourteen weren't they, these little telegraph boys? And he didn't know what to do, you see, and he said ‘I've got to take an answer back, I've to wait for an answer' so I said ‘Well, I'll have a look at it' so I opened it and it was to say that my Dad had died in this camp, so I said to him ‘There's no answer' and off he went. I can remember him to this day. He were just stood staring at me, and I were sort of staring back at him, neither of us knew what to do, you see, because he was so young, too young really, to take that sort of a message, wasn't he? So I went to my Auntie, who lived higher up, at the top end of Hibernia Street. I got our John up and took him with me. And she said ‘Well, you stay with Dorothy' that's my little cousin, ‘and I'll go and get your Mother.' So she did. She went to the butchers. And I always remember my Mother, she was so angry, when she came in, she was so angry, and she said ‘I don't believe it' and she just wouldn't accept it at all. We stayed at my Auntie's... We didn't go to the party or anything that day, so that was it.
I was just nine years old when the War ended. The weather was fine for our party in Moorland Grove. The street was decked out with bunting and trestle tables were put up to hold the sandwiches, cakes and jellies which were produced by the ladies who lived in the street, Mr. Cook, Mrs Kavanagh, Mrs Taylor and others. It must have been difficult to cater for so many in these times of austerity. No doubt the ladies of Ingledene played their part as they too joined in this celebration. Young and old were seated and there was much laughter and general noise, watched over by effigies of Hitler and Mussolini hanging from the trees in the churchyard.
Mrs Fleetwood, who was a member of the Rosemere Operatic Society, organised a sing song and I seem to remember some kind of a microphone being set up. Margaret Cook won a competition for being best at singing ‘The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.
How well I remember VE Day. It was my mother who was voted in to take charge of the street collection and to organize a party which she did very well. She hired a Sunday school hall and a small band so that we could have a good dance after our meal. What a feast it was - and what a “rig-out” I had for the occasion. My mother had some pre-War silk material which she had kept very carefully. My sister made two pinafore dresses and blouses out of this for me and herself. We dyed the dresses red and left the blouses white. The addition of a blue ribbon in our hair meant that we sported our patriotic colours of red white and blue.
On the 8th May 1945, we were all paraded on the barrack square to hear Winston Churchill on the radio proclaim the end of the War in Europe. We were then given the day off, which we used by drinking all the Schnapps and wine we could find in the barracks. I, with a few other chaps, commandeered a German utility car and we took turns at driving it all over the barracks. My manoeuvres were quite good, considering my condition! I also confiscated a Nazi banner from the band room, which I brought home.
On the Sunday following the War’s end in the summer of 1945, I was standing on the tower steps inside St Mark’s church on Fletcher Street. The church was full to capacity, hence my position, and every single one was singing Jerusalem as though their lives depended on it. I have rarely been so moved in the almost fifty years that have elapsed since.
Strange men would be coming down our streets in strange brown uniforms and picking children up and hugging them. Nobody picked me up and nobody hugged me and for the first time in my happy young life I knew what it was like to feel the odd one out.There was flag waving, bunting and street parties to celebrate the end of World War Two, but I mourned. I wanted the War, if that’s what we’d had, to go on forever. To me it meant the end of childhood and the beginning of growing up.
My memory is that we all danced in the Town Hall Square. I used to fire watch where I worked at the Dolly Blue Works in Wordsworth Street.
Mary Brownbridge née Pilling
On VE Day a party was held in the road at the back of Park Cottages, Smithills. Midway through putting up the bunting my prospective brother in-law arrived on a two stroke motor bike (black as the ace of spades) from Lincolnshire where he was serving as a bomb aimer in the RAF. My sister married him very shortly afterwards. Part way through the service at St. Peter's a dear comrade of his walked into church having escaped from being a Prisoner of War.
Mary Freda Boydell
I got married in October 1942 and 2 weeks after our wedding my husband had to go in the Royal Air Force.
The day before VE Day he set sail from Glasgow, eventually arriving in India, so I did not celebrate VE Day.
Norah Oakes née Eachers, wife of Sergeant T H Oakes
As I was born in Salford in 1920 I still think I am a Boltonian. I came to live here in 1956. My memories of VE/ VJ Day were happy that the War was over at last but sad for the families that had lost loved ones. My cousin lost her husband at the beginning of the War and was left with a baby who would never know its father and what it was to be nursed by him. I lost a cousin in Holland who left a wife and child, a brother and sisters. Another Aunty lost a son of 14, an ARP messenger boy age 14 who lived in Pendleton and it was a day of sadness for many who lost loved ones in the air raids. I was an ex WAAF Flight Mechanic and I thought of the girls I worked with and hoped they would all make it home, one Lillian Langstreth was from Bolton, and I wondered if she had made it home. I was waiting for my husband to be demobbed after seven years in the RAF. Oh yes there was a time to think it was all behind us but the sorrows and sadness would stay with all the families who had lost their loved ones, all for the greed of men.
Lament of a Dead Pilot
I lie in my bed and look at the sky
And watch the birds go fluttering by
Then it's the start of another day
I walk to the tarmac and my feet feel like clay
The ground crew are filling the planes with gas
And we all stand around waiting for the sirens to blast
I fix my chute, oh my heart beats so fast
I get to my plane and I am all of a tremble
I jump on the wing then it's chocks away
I start up the engine and then we are off
To seek the unknown way above the clouds
We see the enemy in the sky
It's them or us who have to die
I make a mistake and fly into the sun
And then I realise there is the Hun
I release my guns and hope for the best
And suddenly without warning I feel the heat
I feel no pain though I see the blood
Bale out, bale out the skipper shouts
Your engine's on fire you don't have a chance
I struggle and struggle but can't feel my legs
My body is on fire and there's naught I can do
It's the death I have always feared
I feel no hate for what has been done
But oh dear God don't let me die alone
Let my death be a warning to others who follow
The greed of man can only bring sorrow
The plane goes whizzing to the ground
But I am oblivious to the sound
This is only a small part of what our generation went through.