VE Day in Buckinghamshire

On the 8th of May we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe, or VE Day – marking the day that the Allied forces accepted Nazi Germany’s surrender.  Many people alive today will remember the 50th anniversary of these celebrations, but those recalling the events of May 1945 are now fewer.  We turn to the documents deposited with the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, to see what they can tell us about that Tuesday, 75 years ago. 


Farnham Royal and Farnham Common

Mr Basden of Farnham Royal wanted  to record all the events of the war in the area that he lived. This is his account of the peace celebrations:

In spite of threatening weather about 300 children and grown ups assembled  on the village green, Farnham Common, where peace celebrations started at 1.45pm with an openair service.... Mr R Lund then expressed his views on the peace celebrations and then planted a lovely golden oak tree...The children and adults were then taken to  the funfair at Burnham Beeches by means of a coach ..

On arrival each child was given a tub of ice cream then taken to the sports fieldFarnham Victory Ball poster 1945

where various races were run. The children were then given tickets for free rides on the dodgems, caterpillar, swings etc  at the fair and they enjoyed themselves thoroughly in spite of the heavy rain. All then had a fancy tea including jellies, blancmanges, trifles and ice creams.

A victory dance was held in Farnham Royal Village Hall in the evening.

This poster advertises a different event, held a month later in Farnham Common.  



We know what happened in Aylesbury to celebrate VE Day because of two sources: a file of papers created by Aylesbury Town Council, and a letter written by ChurchAylesbury Council VE Day file cover, 1945

Street resident Cicely Baker.  Victory was not sudden – the staff at the Council started planning VE Day celebrations in April 1945, when victory in Europe was looking 

certain.  In this file of are letters from Pinewood Studios and the Ministry of Information, arranging to film the celebrations in the Market Square, but more on that later. 

The heart of the celebrations was a procession of dignitaries into Market Square, and an open-air service in front of the War Memorial with hymns, culminating in the broadcast via loudspeaker of Churchill’s speech at 3pm.  Where the Council papers are dry and contain the bare bones of this, Cicely Baker’s letter to her cousin brings the occasion to life.

She recounts that in front of the war memorial was a space for wounded soldiers from a local hospital, “One had painted the plaster encasing one leg red, white and blue stripes…he’d painted red toenails”. 

During the service Cicely writes that she clambered up onto a truck, which had a film camera mounted on it: “the cameraman didn’t arrive quite in time and had an awful squeeze to get in among about 50 people”.  This was presumably the film crew from Pinewood Studios, then under the management of the Ministry of Justice.  In preparation for this article, we asked BFI Archive if this film survives, but have yet to have a response. 

Of Market Square she writes: “Every window and balcony was crammed and most of the rooftops as well.  It really was most impressive.”  On her copy of the Order of Service, she notes: Very hot day, bugler didn’t show up.  (D-X 1429).

Away from the Market Square there were other, more local celebrations: this photograph is of a children’s party on Regent Road.    





Mavis Nancy Lavinia Byford was born in Winslow in 1926.  Between 1989-1998 she wrote her reminiscences, of which we have copies in the archive.  Of VE Day she recalls:

“When the war with Europe ended, everyone went mad, dancing in the street, kissing and hugging all the servicemen!! A…carnival atmosphere – pubs open all day, if they had any beer left!”  (our ref D-X 1395).

Byford spent a lot of the war working at Bletchley Railway Station, she reflects on the secret work over the road at Bletchley Park – at the time she and her colleagues knew that something unusual was going on there. 



This photograph is from Wolverton, and it shows a house done-up in bunting, to celebrate either VE Day, or VJ Day, which happened in August 1945.  A website put together by the BBC earlier this century contains many accounts of life during WW2 from around this country.  This is where we found Christine Sinfield’s account of VE Day in Wolverton: during the war she worked in the Railway Works, repairing aircraft.  Pregnant at the time of VE day, she recalls attending a street party – although notes that food was still rationed.   Read more here

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