We take a good old look at the events surrounding the VE celebrations in 1945 and the real Royal Night Out…Imagine the courage of a nation, the struggle for basic every day survival. A lack of basic things, essential supplies, shortages and rations on basic food stuffs, like eggs, bread, milk and meat, even water in which to bathe was rationed to five inches. This is the story of ordinary men and women who existed and coped for 6 long years during the War of 1939 to 1945. This is the story of our grandmothers and grandfathers, and it’s also the story of two Royal Princesses who were allowed out from their sheltered Royal household to take part in the street celebrations of VE day, of a nation dizzy with happiness at the end of what had been a long war. After 6 long years of struggle when the end of the war eventually did come, how the ordinary men and women of our nation reacted, with jubilant scenes all around the country. On that night 70 years ago the then Princess Elizabeth and her younger sister The Princess Margaret, along with the whole country, was jubilant in its rejoicing for peace. And now that a documentary and a Hollywood film has been made entitled “A royal Night Out” giving an insight in to what it was like on the night for the every man and women in the entire land. Royalty included!
Tuesday the 8th of May 1945 saw the nation erupt in what had been a stirring afternoon, reported The Guardian on the Day. Winston Churchill appeared on the Balcony at Buckingham Palace at 5.30pm, with the Royal family. He was the last to leave the balcony waving his bowler hat at the crowds and enjoying every minute of his victory. He had led the people to victory for 6 long years during World War 2 and he had like a Trojan been fearless and strong for our entire country, surviving on sometimes 4 hours sleep a night. He was enjoying the moment and the crowds were loving him! “For he’s a jolly good fellow!” the crowd sang to him. An Australian soldier, (you can always rely on an Aussie to get the party rolling) famously climbed the gates of the palace waving victory flag and led the crowd in more songs and chants of good cheer. Earlier he had stood on the balcony at the Ministry of health looking decidedly “Bulldogish” as he gave the “V” sign.
“God bless you all,” Mr Churchill declared. “This is your victory – victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this.” He gave the “V” sign, to which the crowd responded tumultuously. It was a moment that the elder statesman relished. Then it was the part of Fleet Street, and what could be more suiting than a ticker tape parade. Trafalgar Square saw young people shoulder to shoulder, en masse dancing and linking arms proudly singing. The crowds were jubilant, taxis, cars, public transport all came to a standstill. Cars were even turned over such was the furore of the jubilant crowd. A party of soldiers managed to get their hand s on a barrel organ and raced it to the National Gallery where they provided music for the revellers. Bombers who had days before seen action in the skies, now flew over Nelsons Column the plane’s wings almost touching Lord Nelson himself. Swooping and dipping that drew gasps of delight from the people below.
Services had been held earlier in the day at St Pauls whilst cabinet and MP’s and the House of Lords went to offer their thanks at Westminster Abbey. Meanwhile up North in Manchester, The Guardian reported,” that young men and women were dancing in Albert Square making it a huge impromptu dance floor, upon which partnerships were formed on a free and easy plan”. Music was blaring out, Red carnations and red ribbons and rosettes were commonplace, from the Town Hall through loudspeakers people climbed on the roofs of the air raid shelters to dance, girls of the WAAF and men of the NAVY. Great continuing cheering and even fireworks emerged paper hats, streamers and confetti where hurriedly fashioned, despite the fact there had been a paper famine during the war years.
The people were war weary, they had had the stuffing literally knocked out of them time and time again. So they started to celebrate and they did it in true blue style. The years of austerity had taken its toll on the nation and they weren’t holding back on this most magnificent of celebration. Enough of having to “Make do and mend “the nation had awoken to triumph and was breathing a huge sigh of relief that War was finally over.
Half a million homes had been destroyed by the enemy, thousands of civilians had been killed and millions of lives had been forever disrupted by the Hitler war machine. The whole nation had depended on the radio during the war and this day was no different, people tuned in to the wireless to find listen to the news. Crowds had gathered in London on the following day, and at 3pm Churchill made a broad cast to the nation. One eye witness noted that the “there was an extraordinary hush over the assembled multitude”
The Queens parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth with the two Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret appeared an unprecedented eight times on the balcony of The Palace and then mingled with the London crowds. The Princesses were allowed to join the crowds later in the evening with their cousin Margaret Rhodes. The Royal Princesses had both taken part in the War effort and had after months of begging her father to let her pitch in the then 18year old Princess was allowed to join the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, with the rank of Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor, where she trained as a mechanic and military truck driver. Her majesty is the only head of state who has served on active service to have served in World War 2.
This was the peoples Victory each and every one of the British people had played a crucial part in the War machine which had led to victory.
Parades were held all over the country for the children, dress parades and street [arties, people got drunk, danced in the streets and gave thanks at church to God for victory. For many people left behind having suffered the loss of a loved one or killed in one of the German Air raids the moment of truth was bittersweet. Peace was not going to be easy both the war had changed people and War rations went on in to the mid 1950’s.