This VE Day, we mark 75 years since the end of World War II.
Reading through these fascinating extracts from Helena Hall’s 1945 diary gives a real sense of how the British people were feeling at this momentous time in our history.
May 2, Wednesday
It is stated in the paper today that Hitler is dead, that he was killed in action while fighting at his command post, to the last breath, for Germany.
Few believe the statement, it seems too much “to order” . . . The Gestapo are burning documents by the ton.
News that war has ceased in Europe will be announced by the Prime Minister over the wireless and at 9 p.m. on the same day the King will speak to his peoples throughout the world. He wishes the Sunday following VE Day should be a day of thanksgiving and prayer.
May 3, Thursday
The war in Italy is over. Berlin has fallen . . . Goebbels’s right-hand man says both Hitler and Goebbels committed suicide in Berlin . . . But even these statements may not be true. Members of the WVS are to help give London’s half million evacuated mothers and children a happy homecoming.
Sir Henry Willink, Minister of Health, thanked on behalf of the Government all the hundreds of thousands of householders who have cared for mothers and children from bombed places.
“They have done one of the finest and hardest jobs of the war on the Home Front, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week”. Mr Parsons came round this evening to say our ARP wardenship ceases as from today. This ends our work which we began in 1938.
May 4, Friday
The Wehrmacht is queuing up to surrender . . . Shelterers in London’s Tube last night drank their last cup of tea underground.
May 5, Saturday
Last night the great news came through that Montgomery gave the Germans an ultimatum . . . Hamburg radio, now under British control, was last night putting out the V signal. Lord Haw-Haw’s place was taken by Vaughan Thomas, who gave Hamburg its orders . . .
May 6, Sunday
In Copenhagen, Gestapo and Nazi sailors defying the ceasefire were still fighting.
They placed machine guns on the roofs and shot at patriots, wounding civilians. While crowds were celebrating Allied victory in Copenhagen, Danish quisling police fired into the midst of them. Hitler and Goebbels are said to be buried in Berlin at an undiscoverable place.
Everyone is awaiting V-Day, bonfires are ready crowned with effigies of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, shops decorated with red, white and blue.
May 7, Monday
The announcement of V-Day is expected any minute now . . . This morning I made a V flag to hang out alongside my Jack when the day is announced, a red V on white.
May 8, Tuesday
Today is V-Day. The news came through yesterday evening and Tuesday and Wednesday are holidays. At 3 o’clock this afternoon an official announcement will be broadcast by the Prime Minister – Victory in Europe Day.
The King will broadcast at 9 this evening. All over the world the report of the German surrender was celebrated yesterday. Londoners could not wait for today, they crowded joyfully Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus and all other big places.
The lights made London look as if it were in flames. More than 100 planes roared over London in the daylight, every kind from Spitfire to Fortress.
Whitehall was in high spirits, but throughout dusk a constant stream of men and women passed round the Cenotaph paying homage to the dead of 30 years ago. Boys and girls are happily building a bonfire on the Common, they began yesterday evening.
May 9, Wednesday
Yesterday was a tremendous day in London and eight times during the day the King and Queen appeared on the Palace balcony to acknowledge the cheering crowds.
The last time was just before midnight just as searchlights flashed across the sky and bombers dropped flares and coloured lights.
About 11 o’clock the two Princesses with Guards officers left the Palace quietly and mingled with the crowd when their parents made their last appearance. The King spoke at 9 o’clock in the evening and again I enjoyed listening to him.
After thanking God and then everybody, Services personnel and civilians alike, for their war-time efforts, he said the years of darkness and danger are now “please, God, over for ever”.
On the balcony of the Ministry of Health building in Whitehall the Prime Minister conducted the thousands of peoples below in singing “Land Of Hope And Glory”, a tremendous climax to a day the like of which London has never seen before.
Another wonderful thing was light everywhere. A procession of flaming torches came along from Pondcroft Road and the Common to the bonfire, which was lighted about 9.30.
A very large swastika and an effigy to Hitler in an old armchair were thrown on to the blaze.
It was a perfect night for a bonfire and fireworks
It was a perfect night for a bonfire and fireworks, fine and no wind.
Earlier in the evening at 7.30 we had a Thanksgiving service in the church, a special service, details printed on a red leaflet given to all who came. The church was full. The collection was for the Fund for repairing, in some cases rebuilding, bombed churches.
Officially hostilities ended at one minute after midnight, but in the interest of saving lives, the ceasefire began yesterday all along the Front. The Channel Islands are also to be freed today.
And now the war in Europe is over, this war journal, begun on September 3, 1939 comes to an end. I have written it every day, excepting of course on those days papers were not published, just for a record to dip into sometimes, to remind me of these 5½ years with its varied work, other than ARP, its anxieties and pleasures.
It is impossible to give enough thanks to God for our great deliverance. Not until the war of Japan is over shall we have all our men home again. I pray that will not be a long war
These extracts come from Helena Hall’s book, “A Woman Living In The Shadow Of The Second World War”. It’s well worth a read!
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