VE Day 75: How Stevenage celebrated Victory in Europe in 1945

PUBLISHED: 17:04 07 May 2020

The Home Guard leading the victory parade along the High Street. Picture: Stevenage Museum

The Home Guard leading the victory parade along the High Street. Picture: Stevenage Museum

Archant

On May 8, 1945, the guns fell silent and Victory in Europe was declared – a momentous moment in the lives of millions touched by war.

A Home Guard parade led by an armoured car - donated by Mr Appleton. Picture: Stevenage MuseumA Home Guard parade led by an armoured car - donated by Mr Appleton. Picture: Stevenage Museum

A new blog from Stevenage museum has revealed how VE Day was celebrated in Stevenage during the spring and summer months of 1945. A victory parade was held on Sunday, May 13 with units of the town’s civil defence organisations coming together for the last time.

Led by the combined bands of the Home Guard and the Army cadets, the parade marched through the High Street to the Astonia cinema – to attend a short thanksgiving service.

A resident street party in Albert Street. Picture: Stevenage MuseumA resident street party in Albert Street. Picture: Stevenage Museum

There were celebration bonfires at Fishers Green, Whitesmead Recreation Ground, Trinity Road and Longcroft Road and a firework display in Pound Avenue.

Victory parties were held in several streets in the town including Walkern Road, Albert Street and Alleyns Road.

The ESA Concert Party went on to become the Lytton Players - a local amateur dramatics company that continues today. Picture: Stevenage MuseumThe ESA Concert Party went on to become the Lytton Players - a local amateur dramatics company that continues today. Picture: Stevenage Museum

Fairview Road held its street party in August after Victory over Japan (VJ) Day. Many years later, one of the children in attendance recalled:

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“Long trestle tables were erected in Fairview Road and all of us feasted on jellies, blancmanges, sandwiches and cakes all hastily knocked up for the occasion, jugs of squash and homemade lemonade quenched our thirst, the sun shone and no one mentioned atom bombs or Belsen or Hiroshima.”

“A Stevenage wife and mother also recalled in her diary at the time: “VE Day – Germans unconditionally surrendered – everyone full of it – I went up to London – Len and I in garden – saw lights up and down Street at 11.15pm – boys had a lovely bonfire – went to Thanksgiving Service in Benington.”

The Home Guard band on the steps of the Astonia cinema. Picture: Stevenage MuseumThe Home Guard band on the steps of the Astonia cinema. Picture: Stevenage Museum

Several VE Day dances were held at the Lytton Club in Pound Avenue, and on one occasion it was reported that the dancers left the club and danced around the local streets.

Around 30 members of the club – some of the last of the women war workers still billeted in the town – were invited one Sunday to a party given by the local US 8th Air Force Camp.

Later in 1945, the Attlee Government quickly set up a New Towns Commission, under Lord Reith, to provide homes for overcrowded Londoners.

A year later, Stevenage was identified as the first of the post-war new towns – a new chapter in its history had began.

For more information about Stevenage in wartime, visit the Stevenage Museum blog.


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