VE Day 75th Anniversary

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Ernest
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VE Day 75th Anniversary

Post by Ernest » Fri May 08, 2020 6:45 am

Today is being used to celebrate, albeit in a Lockdown climate the 75th Anniversary of the day that the War in Europe came to an end with the Signing of an Armistice between Germany and the Allied Powers. Great emotions are being aroused among people, with comparisons being drawn between the end of hostilities in one theatre of War, not forgetting that the war against Japan continued for several months more.

What is forgotten is those who today, continue to suffer from the Virus, and those grieving, many of those who have died are elderly people, who were alive during that period in 1945 and served or waited at home for their loved ones to return, or grieved for those who'd died or were missing as Prisoners of War, who were in uncertain times for them.

When I think of where my relations were in 1945, my Father was in Northern Italy, on his way with his unit to Austria, where he ended his war in 1946. My Uncle Danny, had just endured the Long March with thousands of other POW's from a Camp in Poland, when he was picked up by US troops advancing to meet up with the Russians. Another Uncle was on a RN Vessel in the Baltic. Another was in the Far East fighting the war against Japan. One aunt, was in the WRENS in Portsmouth providing communications to the Fleet in the far east.

So many individual stories shared, no longer because all have died. Jen my spouses Father was in the RAF as a Radar Technician, all of his brothers and sisters were in uniform in the Navy and RAF. My Maternal grandfather having fought in WW1, was in the Emergency Fire Service. My mother worked in munitions, as a what was described on her wedding certificate as a Machine Operator. She had a wartime baby, my half-brother Tony, who died two years ago, and we had never met as he was raised by his grand parents.

So much happened in families during that war, that I find it a bit rich to compare our current situation - apart from the unfortunate deaths of many of that generations in situations of care, where they should have been safe.

So, while others might be celebrating, I will be remembering all of those I have written about, who are now dead, and those who survived the war, and have died, more recently of the virus. They will all be in my prayers. :votive1: :votive1:
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Emle
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VE Day 75th Anniversary

Post by Emle » Fri May 08, 2020 10:23 am

An interesting account Ernest, I have not really considered today as a day of ‘celebration’. I have of course followed the preparations or rather the cancellation or adjustment of events no longer able to take place, but in my mind I think I was always seeing it as an acknowledgement and sharing in memories of a generation who gave so much on our behalf. I have enjoyed hearing interviews with people about their personal experiences, how they signed up, some under age like my father who was only 16 when he joined the Royal Navy, and hearing how and where they heard the news that the war was over.

My father is no longer with us but he left a very personal recording of his life during war time made on four mini cassette tapes on a personal recorder. I found in its box at the back of the wardrobe and I was able to transfer the recordings to CD. Each of my siblings have a copy in our respective homes. My 13 yr old granddaughter was recently given an assignment to interview an elderly person who may have war time memories .... my Father’s tape recordings were accepted as a primary source and she said she felt truly privileged to have got to know him and to hear his voice telling it as it was for him.

I will be in Thought and prayer for all those who gave their lives as well as those who survived to tell their tale. If it were not for the gravity of the Care Homes situation just now I feel sure a celebration in honour of that generation and their children would be very welcome and appreciated.

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Joyce
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VE Day 75th Anniversary

Post by Joyce » Fri May 08, 2020 5:16 pm

Good point, Joan, that it's other things beside a celebration.I remember at the 50th anniversary in 1995 that John Major, whose idea it was to move the bank holiday a week from the 1st to the 8th, insisted we should call our activites a 'commemoration' rather than a celebration. Churchill, whom more or less everybody in office in the nineties would have remembered, had only said 'a brief period of rejoicing' because there was still much going on. The war wasn't over in the rest of the world and there were all the shenanigens with the iron curtain that were to last another generation and a half.
The church I was attending was on a village green and we stood around the green singing patriotic songs after a short service. We had Spam sandwiches and tea at some point. There were some stalls and a couple of vans selling hot dogs and ice cream. My father, who'd been in the Royal Engineers, was staying with me and came to the do. I think my mother, who'd made parachute silk and welded bomb cases, must have been at home doing something with her church.
My friend's son was a day boy at an independent school where some of the pupils boarded so in keeping with the normal practice of such establishments where bank holidays didn't happen, lessons carried on as normal. He complained loudly, though, that they'd all been served wartime rations at meal times.
Some weeks later, on VJ day, I went to a party given by some Indian friends. They called it a 'thanksgiving' and the food was wonderful. The bunting carried the flags of all nations. The weather was a lot warmer by then and the fun went on into the night.

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Ernest
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VE Day 75th Anniversary

Post by Ernest » Sat May 09, 2020 6:51 am

It is interesting the recordings exist of Joan's father recounting his war time experiences. Many people didn't record or even speak about what they did in wartime, sometimes until their very old age.

My father seemed to have enjoyed his war, although once wounded, he was unfit for the infantry after that and was transferred to the Royal Signals for the rest of the war. I was able to obtain his military records some years ago, and the different movements between units and theatres of War. Before the war, he had joined the Band of the Beds & Herts aged 14. In 1939 he was still only 16 so was discharged as he couldn't go to war. He was involved in Fire Watching in Shoreditch where he lived until called up again in 1941, back to the Beds & Herts. After a period of preparation, he went with his Battalion to Egypt and was at El Alamein and later battles. That was where he was wounded. After a period in hospital, he was transferred to R Signals.

One of the things about his life was that his father, my grand father had driven a horse and cart for Great Eastern Railways for over 45 years. Dad spent some time with him working for Great Eastern as a delivery driver. When he joined up, he was asked if he could drive - he said yes, meaning a horse and cart, but they classified him as a driver and so, that was his main employment. He never ever took a driving test as his Army experience was good enough to exchange the Army licence for a full UK licence on return to Civvy Street. He went through from Egypt to the Invasion of Sicily, than the Italian mainland and all the way through Italy to Austria where he went for demob (in his year turn) in 1946 about may time. I have documented his wartime experience, based on his own recounting and given it to his old Regiment(s) for their archives.

In contrast, my Uncle Danny was a Regular with the Beds & Herts joining in 1937 from the TA Royal Artillery. In 1940 he was a Corporal, training recruits at Kempton Barracks Bedford, when he and 150 other experienced NCO's were sent to Scotland to form a new Battalion (the 16th) of the Durham Light Infantry and they were sent to Egypt in November 1941. They were involved in various operations until the Battle of Sjedan in where the Battalion came up against a very strong German force and he along with a number of his company were captured and taken POW. By this time he was a Colour Sergeant and his Company CQMS.

They were sent to Italy as POW's and detained until the collapse of Italy and the German takeover. They were put onto a train to Germany, travelling in Cattle Trucks. On the journey, he and 2 other POW's manged to jump from the train while still in Italy, and got away. The were sheltered by an Italian farming family and engaged in operations against the germans. After five months, he was recaptured, carrying maps, and was treated as a spy initially,l despite having his Dog tags and some remnants of his uniform.

He was badly beaten and interrogated, something he remembered life long, eventually he was sent too a POW camp in Poland. In 1945, with the Russians approaching, the POW's from all of the Camps were marched hundreds of miles towards Germany, many died along the way as it was winter and with inadequate clothing and food, frost bite was a hazard.

Somehow he managed to escape again and travelled onwards and eventually met up with the US troops advancing and was flown back to the UK by them. Being a regular, he was given two weeks leave and sent straight back to another Battalion (not the 16th) by than in Austria and promoted to Sgt Major. He was eventually discharged on medical grounds in 1947.

He could recall to the day he died, all of the names of those of his Company in the 16th Battalion who were killed or wounded or taken POW. We often had long conversations about his time in the service and he gave me photographs and his journal (his own children had no interest apparently) and I managed to get his service recorded by the DLI and a website entirely devoted to the 16th Battalion DLI, and it is now online for all to read.

It is important that the service of veterans, oral history or written memories are maintained, not just in private hands, but shared wider as public records, at least I have been able to do that.
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Pam
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VE Day 75th Anniversary

Post by Pam » Thu May 14, 2020 11:58 pm

Fascinating memories! Thank you for sharing some of your families' histories.

My maternal grandpa and uncle were miners, which was a reserved occupation, so they weren't called up. My father went into the RAF and trained as a navigator, but he didn't get to fly very often. My mother took the opportunity to apply for nurse training, as the educational requirements had been waived, and her father, who wouldn't have allowed her to leave home at 17 in normal times, felt it was better for her to be a nurse than join the women's armed forces. She loved singing, and did good impressions of both Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields!

We had an email from the residents' association suggesting that we should have a 'socially-distanced street party', sitting out in our drives and watching each other eat scones and playing patriotic CDs. Some people did this, but I found the idea a bit forced. VE Day isn't a date I'm normally aware of.

We watched a very good film the next night on the i-player, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, set after the war, but recalling the events of the occupation of Guernsey, and the shadows still cast by the war over people's lives. This felt like a good way to remember all those affected by the war.

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VE Day 75th Anniversary

Post by Joyce » Fri May 15, 2020 1:42 am

Thanks to an incident to do with crossing marshy ground in which an officer wouldn't listen to him and sent him to fetch the cocoa instead, and on another occasion being in hospital with appendicitis at the time of a 'push', my father twice found himself still in England with no colleagues. The army then thought they could make use of his erstwhile peacetime experience by having him teach convalescent wounded officers various crafts. I still have a table lamp - the delicately-painted lampshade has long since worn out -that a young man made with his feet when his hands were bandaged up. Dad said the job made him feel he was making a contribution to the war effort. He was used to instructing his own apprentices and didn't find it particulalrly difficult. He was a lance-corporal in the Royal Engineers.The problem for the army was that many of the wounded officers were former public schoolboys still in their late teens or just out of them. The consequence of having so recently left the classroom was that these young men out of habit called anyone teaching them 'Sir'. The army didn't like that. So,they took Dad out of the therapy unit - or whatever they called it - where he was useful and sent him instead to Officers' Training School in the hopes of making the boys' politeness appropriate.
Dad had never been academically inclined. There was a reason my grandparents had applied to take him out of school before the official leaving age of fourteen and paid for him to be apprenticed as a joiner in a building firm. We found the Education Committee's permission papers after he died. I forget what he told me the lowest possible rank of officer was - sub sub lieutenant ?

By VE day he was no longer in the army - well not as a potential fighter anyway. They'd already discharged him and his by then rheumatic knees to the occupation he hadn't really needed to give up anyway. I went through his wartime paperwork a few years ago and found the statement, ' His services are no longer required for the purpose for which he enlisted.' Ironically, one of his own pre-war former employees whom he'd taught,who'd claimed reserved occupation,was his boss until the war was over. About fifty years later we were driving past an abandoned army building near Matlock and Dad said, 'I put those windows in.' Do you know, they were still in good condition, probably holding the whole place up.

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Ernest
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VE Day 75th Anniversary

Post by Ernest » Sat May 16, 2020 6:05 am

Thanks Joyce. Your fathers story reminds me of one that I recall. Jen my wife's Uncle Cyril was employed before the war as a Chef at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.

He was called up for service with the Catering Corps, and after basic training, as a fully qualified Chef, he was posted back to the Woolwich Arsenal and spent the rest of the war doing his civilian profession in uniform, literally in the same kitchen.

He ended up as a Sergeant, supervising the very civilian chefs who he'd been a member of before the war. When he was demobbed, he decided to do something different and opened a pub. Eventually he went back to cooking, but not at the Arsenal.
Where there is hope and love there is life!
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