Stevenage pensioner recalls being bombed on his birthday and dogfights overhead on 70th anniversary of VE Day
- Credit: Archant
Being bombed on your birthday isn’t something most 14 year olds can say they’ve experienced.
But Stevenage pensioner George Bollen remembers it as clearly as the dogfights he saw above his school in the 1940s.
The 84-year-old former sea cadet was 15 when peace was declared in 1945 and recalls people celebrating with tea parties in the street.
“Everyone was a lot more together in those days,” he said.
“I remember all the women putting on parties along the streets. There was food and cakes for everyone and games for the younger children.
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“I was too young to be interested in girls at the time and spent most of my time in the sea cadets or playing with my friends so I didn’t take a great deal of notice to what was going on.
“Even so I could still sense that there was a great atmosphere after so many years of war and destruction and despite being young I could really feel the sense of relief among people.
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“I also remember the difference between how people treated and talked to each other – it was much better.
“I think you would struggle to get the same number of people out on the streets if you tried to do the same thing today. When the Royal Wedding was on a few years ago they tried to rekindle that spirit but there was nothing like the same amount of people out celebrating like back then.”
In 1947 George joined the Royal Navy as part of his National Service – which was compulsory at the time.
After serving his time in the forces he was demobbed and moved to Shephall Way in Stevenage in 1961 with his wife and first son to work as an environmental engineer at British Aerospace.
They had another son in 1963 and later moved to a house in Collenswood Road where he still lives today.
Throughout all this time George stayed at the company, now called MBDA, in Six Hills Way for more than 25 years until he was made redundant.
Despite joining the cadets as a teenager George has maintained a connection with the organisation ever since and was awarded a Pride of Stevenage Dedication Award last year for his work with the group.
This link still continues today and he is currently the group’s band leader and played The Last Stand at the 70th anniversary of VE Day in the town square on Friday.
“It went very well,” said George who has played the trumpet and bugle since he was eight.
“I was quite pleased with it considering I played it solo in front of all those people.
“I was a bit nervous beforehand because of all the pressure but I managed not to fluff any of the notes which I was pleased with.”
More than 100 people including many veterans and people who remember the day turned up to pay their respects to the millions of people who died in the Second World War.
A two-minute silence was observed across the country at 3pm as a mark of respect.
The Stevenage Sea Cadets is open to anyone aged 10 and above and is also looking for adult volunteers. For more visit www.sea-cadets.org/stevenage.