VE Day 2020: Hitler’s ‘many deaths’ mark Brent’s celebrations as neighbours rejoice in the streets
PUBLISHED: 10:57 04 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:57 04 May 2020
VE Day on May 8 1945 saw “big scenes of rejoicing” all over Brent.
People were left to express their emotions “in their own way”, according to the Willesden Chronicle’s edition three days after victory in Europe was declared.
Neighbours met in the streets, lighting bonfires and letting off fireworks after almost six years of conflict.
And Nazi Germany’s leader Adolf Hitler “died many deaths” with effigies of the hated Fuhrer burnt on bonfires throughout the area.
“In one Neasden road a very lifelike Hitler was first strung up on a lamp-post and later well and truly roasted”, the Chronicle noted.
But stirrup pumps had to be used to put out the flames after one bonfire in the same district - which had previously been blasted by a rocket attack - set fire to the tarmac.
Children were reported as being largely responsible for the blazes, but adults “quickly entered into the spirit” with dancing and merrymaking until the early hours.
Flags flew from the windows and bunting “that had not seen the light of day” since King George VI’s Coronation in 1937 was strewn across streets and homes. “Sellers of flags and red, white and blue button holes did a roaring business”, the Chronicle observed.
Possible fears about any untoward consequences resulting from people’s revels were put to bed by the mayor.
When asked about an official celebration, Mayor Jack Clark told the Chronicle: “The people have been ordered about and regulated for nearly six years.
“I believe they will welcome a chance to be free to amuse themselves in their own way.”
The mayor even toured street parties until 1.30am the following day giving three minute speeches at each stop.
VE Day celebrations continued on May 9, 1945 with street parties hastily arranged, mainly for children.
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Edna Wilson from Willesden Green was four years old when she joined her friends and neighbours at a street party in Torbay Road, Kilburn.
“The neighbours were very good because in those days people helped each other more. They came along and collected your old bits of material to make the flags for the party,” she said.
She remembered her father Alex – a soldier who survived the Battle of the Somme during the First World War – putting a “V for victory” sign on her scooter.
The 79-year old former BT worker recalled sitting on her dad’s shoulders to see above the crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace to celebrate the end of hostilities on the continent.
Edna said: “I can remember him being annoyed because he must have told me to look one way and I was looking in the other, You know what children are like.”
She also remembered seeing the Royal Family on the palace balcony, although she was too young at the time to recognise them all.
“There were thousands [of people]. It was really packed solid. I vaguely remember coming back and you can imagine what the trains were like,” she added.
The unconditional surrender of German armed forces signalled an end to the long nights Edna, her family and neighbours spent in the street’s air raid shelter.
“We used to go to sleep there at night. I don’t know what I was sleeping on but I remember wanting to sleep on a bunk,” she said.
And eventually her dream came true, although she had to bed down on the bottom bunk for safety.
But for a young Edna, one of the best things about the end of the 1939-45 conflict was when the rationing of sweets ended.
“We all went round to a shop called Bills. We were all there queuing up to get sweets. That day was really exciting,” she said.
To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Edna and her neighbours are hoping to celebrate with their own party in a courtyard near their home.
“We should remember,” she said.
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