On Friday to commemorate VE Day – and to lift our spirits – we held a BBQ in the gardens for the Brothers. We kept a safe distance apart, and wore our masks except for eating. And we gathered and shared our war stories and memories of that day – 8th May 75 years ago.
“I was on holiday in Sutton on Sea on 1st September 1939 when I heard that Germany had invaded Poland. My family started our journey home on the 2nd September and reached home on 3rd just in time to hear Neville Chamberlain on the radio declare war on Germany.”
“In the beginning ‘being at war’ didn’t seem real, nothing very different was actually happening in England, it wasn’t until I saw photographs in the newspaper of soldiers with guns on their way to Poland that it started to seem real to me.”
“During the war I took part in pantos to entertain the troops, I remember a landmine landed on a local police station, and the street party we had on VE day.”
Another Brother remembers “rationing, the black market, butchers and favourites imported from the USA, like pineapple jam and Spam. We were much healthier then.”
He adds “I was in the war but was non-combat – I would have hated that. My brother was non-combat too. Our father was sick and we were very poor, and never went on holiday.”
One Brother lived in Clerkenwell at the time and remembers a bomb falling on the playground.
Another story…”I volunteered at 14 to weed fields and in the autumn to work on the harvest. The food provided was a “grim cheese sarnie”. We were so poor we couldn’t go to shops. Some things were not rationed but you had to walk for miles and wait in a queue. They often ran out of things.”
“I didn’t have to be enlisted because I was studying. By the time it was VE day, I was 18 but still had to do my exams so didn’t have to enlist. I was called up in December. On VE day, we dressed my little brother in fancy clothes and we pushed him round in a pram as a celebration.”
And two more VE Day memories…”I was in Whitehall and a soldier put me on his shoulders to see what was going on!”
“I remember being on the Mall gazing up at the royals on the balcony!”
(Thank you to our work placement Esther Noon for gathering our WW2 and VE Day stories in advance of this event)