Victory Celebrations in 1945

From late 1944 onwards, measures that had been introduced at the start of the war were beginning to be relaxed but it wasn’t until the Spring of the following year that an ending to the war began to be strongly anticipated. When German capitulation eventually came, the news was delivered to the British people over a number of days with official announcements delayed long after the news of surrender had been released in the press. The formal German surrender took place on the 7th but the 8th of May was announced as the official day of celebration for Victory in Europe (VE Day). For some on the home front, the delays and lack of government announcements early on, meant that the news came as somewhat of an anticlimax. The continued war in the Far East also led to mixed feelings about the announcement of peace. However the nation still came out in force on the 8th to mark the event.

Around the country impromptu as well as organised celebratory events took place on the 8th and throughout the following week. Many amateur film makers made a record of the official announcement of the end of the war by turning their cameras to the covers of local and national newspapers. Film from Gateshead in the North East, shows the local newspapers announcing ‘victory’ and detailing forthcoming celebrations; similarly film from Bradford, in Yorkshire, illustrates the cover of the Daily Mirror, who’s headline reads 'Germany Surrenders'. Most VE day films went on to capture the local events as they happened, showing the crowds of people that flocked into public places and the countless union flags and strings of bunting that decorated the streets. Amateur film-makers from Brighton in the South East to Bradford in the North captured scenes of people dancing in the streets that serve to illustrate the nationwide sense of high spirits and a spontaneous outpouring of joy.

At 3 p.m. on the 8th, Winston Churchill gave an address from Downing Street which was broadcast across the world and relayed to towns and cities around the United Kingdom by loud speakers. After giving a brief history of the conflict he concluded, that ‘We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing, but let us not forget for a moment the toil and effort that lie ahead …’

As the week progressed, official celebrations were organised in the form of parades, mayoral addresses, sports events and thanksgiving Church services. In film from Grantham in Lincolnshire, people are seen singing hymns and gathering at the Guildhall in the presence of the mayor and other dignitaries for an official commemoration of the end of the war. For many towns and cities, community festivities also took the form of street parties such as those at Newton Abbot in Devon, in the city of Derby and at Gateshead.

On the 14th of August, Japan surrendered and Victory in Japan (VJ Day) was celebrated. The 15th and 16th were declared as public holidays and further celebrations took place, though on a much smaller scale.

Following the main celebrations, further events continued to be held around the country. In Eastleigh, Hampshire, a ‘Victory Walk’ and athletics events took place in September 1945 and the following year parades were held in June to commemorate the service of the commonwealth forces. The Sheffield Indian Victory Parade illustrates one of these events.

For further information on life on the home front in the Second World War see:

Chamberlain, E R. Life in Wartime Britain.
London: Batsford, 1985.

Gardiner, Julie. Wartime Britain 1939-1945
London: Headline Book Publishing, 2004.

Goodall, Felicity. Voices From the Home Front: Personal Experiences of Wartime Britain 1939-45. Cincinnati: David and Charles, 2004.