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VE Day in Swindon 

How Swindon celebrated the end of WW2 in Europe, 70 years ago
 
As parties go, it was probably the biggest and most eagerly awaited that Swindon had ever seen.
 
The greatest e-VE-r party:
Redcliffe Street, VE Day, 08 May 1945
Josie Barrat
Seventy years ago, on 8 May 1945, this town celebrated along with a whole nation the end of World War Two.
 
It was a bloody conflict that had lasted six, almost intolerable, years and had ended in a victory that ultimately cost millions of lives.
 
So it was no wonder that when official confirmation came through of the German surrender, it signalled an explosion of joy unique in our history.
 
Revellers took to the streets in their droves to cheer, sing, dance and rejoice at the news that their ordeal was over. Bells peeling from churches all across Swindon could be heard for miles around.
 
And before anyone could say 'Knees Up Mother Brown', whole areas of Town were covered in bunting, flags and general merrymaking.
 
Many people organised street parties at astonishing speed, with tables and chairs, live music and what ever else they could lay their hands on.
 
Dancing in the streets:
Swindonians let their hair down in Farnsby Street

All thoughts of rationing went out of the window as eggs, butter, flour and dried fruit were sooned pooled together to bake cakes and other treats.
 
Luxuries that had been stashed away during the war (alcohol, mainly) was also soon shown the light of day and used to toast 'The King', 'Winston Churchill' and 'Victory in Europe'.
 
"It was an amazing day," 84-year-old Swindonian Ernie Crompton told us. "One I'll never forget.
 
"Everyone was so happy. There was so much relief at knowing that the war was at an end. We all knew for months that things were going our way but when we finally heard Churchill on the radio, we all started hugging each other.
 
"I have to say that I don't much remember most of it after about 5 o'clock. I think I'd had a bit too much even by then!"
 
A day like no other:
The Mayor and Mayoress of Swindon Councillor Charles S.
Macpherson and Mrs. Phylliss Macpherson attend a street
party in Westcott Place

One particular novelty that proved hugely popular were late-night bonfires - many with an effigee of Hitler burning on top for good measure.
 
Until VE Day they had been strictly forbidden because of the black-out laws and the threat of German bombers targeting the GWR Works, so those who had a chance lit up feverishly.
 
As it was, the country was already in the middle of double-summer time, where the clocks were put forward by 2 hours instead of just one so that the war effort could make more of the daylight.
 
That, and with pubs in Swindon being given special dispensation to open 'later than usual', meant that the celebrations lasted well into the night and the early hours of 9 May.

Even Swindon Police were surprised how the much the criminals stopped working to celebrate.
 
Only a small number of minor incidents were reported - the majority relating to people being 'drunk and disorderly'.
 
Gradually, however, the day's festivities grew to an end, and the atmosphere - although still lifted - drifted back to the normality associated with the era.
 
The following morning hangover gave thought to those who weren't around to enjoy the victory; the lost ones who weren't coming home and who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the bitter preceeding years.
 
The war in other parts of the world was also far from over, and many of Britain's troops were still in the east fighting the Japanese.
 
The country would have to wait until 14 August - VJ Day - before a total end to hostilities could be announced. And even then many soldiers didn't return home until a year or more later.

Back to reality:
Queuing for rations in Swindon
was a common sight right up to
1951
After that, they still had to face rationing, unremitting hardship and the punishing working hours needed to rebuild the country - the dawn of a new post-war age that Swindon would benefit from more than probably any other town.

But for that one day - VE Day - none of that mattered. Swindon had survived the war.
 
It deserved a party.
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