VE Day home front celebrations of WW2 Victory in Europe
VE Day stood for Victory in Europe day, 8 May 1945, i.e. the end of WW2 as far as the British public and the rest of Europe were concerned. It meant that we were safe from German aggression, and to us it was total victory, even though total victory came later with VJ Day, victory over Japan. This page describes and illustrates everyone's euphoria on VE day with celebrations of street parties; street bonfires, victory parades and dances. Field Marshal Lord Montgomery's message is included.
Firsthand recollections from named contributors edited by the webmaster
Some newspaper headlines
- VE day and the day after announced as public holidays.
- Prime Minister addresses the nation at 3pm.
- Troops in the UK told to celebrate as they will, but to spend the time in their camps.
- Bonfires and prayers at the front.
- Czech squadron in the UK flown back to save Prague.
- Goebels and his family found dead.
I went to Buckingham Palace with my uncle, Jack Sharpe, to see the crowds of people dancing and singing in the streets, thanking God that our prayers had at last been answered.
We walked across the park to Wellington Barracks to see the Guards Chapel, out of respect for our Uncle Alan who was killed in action in Italy. The chapel had been hit by a V2 rocket on a Sunday morning when it was full of people. Now it was just a pile of rubble.
We had lived in hope and fear, although not a religious family, when the bombs and doodlebugs were falling we held each other and said a silent prayer. Now it was all over, life was going it get better. We did not know at that time that Food Rationing would go on for another eight years or more.
The lights come back on!
I was eight when the war ended and have a clear memory of our celebratory evening street bonfire. The light was bright, for the first time since the beginning of the war and the fire was so hot that the concrete road cracked with a huge noise!
In the evening we went to a dinner and dance in the ballroom above the Regal Cinema. All the street lights that were still working came on, and to walk home and see the lights on in every house blazing out, it was magic after those long years of war. Some of the shops had their windows ablaze with light.
There was also a bonfire. Life was going to get better from now on.
VE DAY, 8 May 1945
We arrived at Southend later that day.
For once, people's faces were bright and gay.
Merriment showed and laughter abounded.
Out in the Thames victory sirens sounded.
Street lights came on for the first time in years.
As the need for blackout disappears.
That night we strolled along the prom.
The whole town turned out, a happy throng.
They danced in the streets to a lively band.
Some linking arms, others hand in hand.
Soldiers, sailors and airmen all joined in.
On everyone's face was a merry grin.
extracted with permission from
an unpublished poem by Mike Swift
... but sadness too
Yet some of the houses had their curtains drawn with the residents shut inside. When these people did come out to watch, they would be crying. We were told that these families had lost the man of the house or one of the adult children while serving in the forces.
Types of victory celebrations
The UK celebrated victory with numerous events all over the country. All were tagged as VE Day events although they took time to organise and took place sometime after VE Day itself. VE Day was the day of Victory in Europe on 8 May 1945. VJ Day, the day victory was declared over Japan, took place two months later on 15 August 1945 and marked the end of all hostilities.
The celebrations were wide-ranging, limited only by imagination and money. Some took time to set up but many were spontaneous.
There were military parades. Ours in Edmonton took place in Fore Street, starting at Noel Park and it was saluted by the Mayor outside the Town Hall. My uncle who was in the Home Guard was involved. I remember climbing into a Bren Gun Carrier, a small tank, with lots of other children outside the town hall and speeding to the Angel pub and back.
Message from the Commander, Lord Montgomery, 21 Army
The following message from the Lord Montgomery was to be read to the troops on VE Day. It came to me as a leaflet (courtesy of Norman Groocock) and seemed that it was also circulated to the public. I found it very moving, reading it now as someone who is grateful to have lived through WW2. Note the mentions of 'He [God]' and 'the Lord'. Although not specifically Christian, it certainly assumes that everyone has enough religious feelings to empathise with the message.
PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM THE C-IN-C
(To be read out to all Troops)
1. On this day of victory in Europe I feel I would like to speak to all who have served and fought with me during the last few years. What I have to say is very simple, and quite short.
2. I would ask you all to remember those of our comrades who fell in the struggle. They gave their lives that others might have freedom, and no man can do more than that. I believe that He [God] would say to each one of them:
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
3. And we who remain have seen the thing through to the end; we all have a feeling of great joy and thankfulness that we have been preserved to see this day.
We must remember to give the praise and thankfulness where it is due:
"This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."
4. In the early days of this war the British Empire stood alone against the combined might of the axis powers. And during those days we suffered some great disasters; but we stood firm: on the defensive, but striking blows where we could. Later we were joined by Russia and America; and from then onwards the end was in no doubt. Let us never forget what we owe to our Russian and American allies; this great allied team has achieved much in war; may it achieve even more in peace.
5. Without doubt, great problems lie ahead; the world will not recover quickly from the upheaval that has taken place; there is much work for each one of us.
I would say that we must face up to that work with the same fortitude that we faced up to the worst days of this war. It may be that some difficult times lie ahead for our country, and for each one of us personally. If it happens thus, then our discipline will pull us through; but we must remember that the best discipline implies the subordination of self for the benefit of the community.
6. It has been a privilege and an honour to command this great British Empire team in western Europe. Few commanders can have had such loyal service as you have given me. I thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart.
7. And so let us embark on what lies ahead full of joy and optimism. We have won the German war. Let us now win the peace.
8. Good luck to you all, wherever you may be.
B. L. Montgomery
Field-Marshal, C.-in-C., 21 Army Group.
We also had street parties. People put their tables and chairs out into the street. In our street these spanned nearly half the length of the street. A stage was erected in the middle of the street and there was music, light, and people singing, glad to be alive.
Example street parties: Edmonton
Example street parties: Edgware
Brook Avenue where I lived in Edgware had its own street party. It was held in the garden of the flats at the start of the road.
We children had to dress up but there was precious little to dress up with. Most of us just wore home-made hats. I am third from the left in the front row of the picture and my mother made my hat by covering a custard tin. The brim was made of cardboard.
VJ Day marked Victory in Japan on 15 August 1945, the end of all hostilities. It followed the dropping of the first atom bombs, after which the world would never be the same again, but that is outside the scope of this website.
V J DAY, 15 August 1945
Relieved of the anguish of six years of war.
Two final blows put Japan on the floor.
Celebrations now over, though quite an affair.
There's work to be done, change is in the air.
extracted with permission from
an unpublished poem by Mike Swift