VE Day: How Blackpool celebrated the historic and crucially important day

May 8th 1945 heralded the end of the war in Europe - the day when the nation was brought together and when peace returned.

Friday, 8th May 2020, 7:00 am

It is 75 years ago since Victory in Europe, bringing to a close the six-year battle against Nazi Germany and its Axis allies.

People were waking up to a new dawn which brought peace. People could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

They were euphoric, dancing in the streets with street parties quickly arranged to celebrate the victory.

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VE Day crowd in Talbot Square

The front page of The Gazette on that day spoke volumes under the headline ‘This is your VE Day’.

The newspaper stated: “Today, Britain along with her allies celebrates the end of the war in Europe.

“After nearly six years of blood, toil, tears and sweat, the nation can now breathe freely in the knowledge that the German Beast who wreaked death and destruction is now irretrievably dead.

“Let us now concentrate our energy in ridding the world of that other fanatical beast – Japan.”

Flags flew proudly in the promenade. Notice the top of the tower is missing as it was used as a radar station during the war

Sir Winston Churchill’s speech was also reported: “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan, with all her treachery and greed, remains unsubdued.”

The paper reported that there was no mass hysteria in the streets in the day’s celebrations.

It said: “But everybody was happy that the Hun had been crushed and happy in the thought that it will be the Japs turn next.

“There were union flags everywhere – Union Jacks, America’s Stars and Stripes, the flags of Russia and China, the tricolour of France and the flag of St George.

An American services band entertains the jubilant crowd waiting for the arrival of civic dignitaries on VE Day

“Women and girls wore red white and blue rosettes in their hair, men and boys wore them in their buttonholes.

“Every street was festooned. Heroes of the last war and of the Boer War joined in the celebrations too, pinning their medal ribbons on their coats for the great occasion.

“Everybody was waiting to hear once again the voice of Churchill, this time the voice of a great, victorious, triumphant leader.

“At the town hall, decorated with flags of the allied nations, arrangements were made for the Prime Minister’s speech to reach the crowds in Talbot Square through loudspeakers. The Mayor Ald John W Roberts spoke to the crowd.

The front page of the Gazette on VE Day, Tuesday May 8th 1945

“In a very few minutes, he said, they would hear the voice of the Prime Minister declaring the end of hostilities with Germany.

“So justly ends the ignominy and ruin that monstrous domination of Nazism, that creed of cruelty, barbarism and lust of power, that threatened not only our lives but civilisation itself.

“This is truly a great day in the history of the free peoples everywhere.”

The Gazette reported moving scenes as churches throughout Blackpool held thanksgiving services.

St John’s Parish Church, typical of the many, was not nearly large enough to accommodate all who wanted to give thanks.

Fleetwood was preparing a victory bonfire to be lit by the Mayor of Fleetwood, Coun W Ward, and all day volunteers had been building it on the foreshore.

Yet amid the celebrations there was still sadness for many.

The Gazette reported the tragic death of Pte William Strickland of the Green Howards who had been captured at Anzio and held prisoner by the Germans at the Stalag 8B prisoner of war camp.

He had been sent home in a terrible state having been starved by his captors and forced into hard labour.

The Gazette also reported the death of Gunner D Midgley, of Preston Old Road, who was killed in Germany. His commanding officer said the D-Day veteran was a “very brave man” but had been killed at his battery in an attack by ‘fanatical maniacs’.

The photos on this page are from the Gazette archives documenting the day.

They show the jubilation and sheer enormity of what was an historic and crucially important day which would pave the way for a peaceful nation.

One picture in Vance Road, near the train station shows Union Jacks interspersed by red, white and blue bunting, flying across the street ready for a street party.

Another symbolic photo show’s flags and bunting flying along the Promenade with Blackpool Tower in the background. Notice how the top of the tower is missing. The top was removed when it was used as a radar station during the war.

Most evocative of all were the scenes in Talbot Square. when thousands of people crowded in front of the town hall . An American services band entertained the jubilant crowd waiting for the arrival of civic dignitaries.