VE Day – 8th May 1945

Steventon has not changed a great deal since 1945. Most of the houses look the same but many of the smaller cottages have now been combined to make larger family homes. Wheatley’s Close did not exist then as these houses were built in the 1950’s.

In 1945 Steventon had its own shop and Post Office with an Off Licence.

The village Hall was known as Steventon Church Rooms and had a consecrated sanctuary at one end, included to encourage the residents to attend church services, as St Nicholas Church was so far out of the village. For this reason the rector, Revd Charles Rome Hall disapproved of any form of entertainment being held there. What would he have thought about our pantomimes.

There was also a thriving Methodist Church in the chapel behind what is now Flintstones, with a Sunday School run by Mrs Agnes Titheridge,

During the war Steventon Manor House was requisitioned and became the Southern Regional Headquarters of Civil Defence which was responsible for protecting the civilian population by training ARP Wardens. Heavy rescue equipment was moved to the manor as air-raids over Portsmouth and Southampton made it too risky to keep it in the cities.

In 1945 Steventon school had 35 pupils.

During the earlier part of the war there were also 19 evacuees attending the village school.

All school children were sent a personal message from King George to mark the end of the war

Silvia Allam, from Ashe Park Cottages was 13 when the war ended and was in the seniors class at Steventon School with Mrs Tanner as the headmistress.

She lived in three different houses in the village, the last being the one next to the school, with no electricity, oil lamps and a candle to take to bed.

Neither Sylvia nor her husband Mike Allam can remember any special celebrations in Steventon to mark the end of the war. Mike can remember going to see some bomb damage in one of the farm fields.

Anne Joseph, from Elmtree Cottages, joined the WAAF in August 1944, aged 17, and travelled to Wilmslow in Cheshire for basic training for six weeks, then on to RAF Kirkham in Lancashire to learn her trade. where, after very good marks, she gained her first promotion from AC2 to LACW (Leading Aircraftswoman). Whilst there, she enjoyed a visit to Blackpool and danced in the Tower Ballroom!

She was then posted to 225 MU (Maintenance Units where all sorts of equipment was held), RAF Crabtree, Warminster (which was in the grounds of Longleat). Her next move was a brief stay at 16 MU Stafford, before being posted to HQ 40 Group at RAF Andover. She was now a Sergeant.

On VE day, she hitch-hiked to Andover and danced in the town with my sister and friends.

In early 1947, the whole unit was moved to RAF Bicester: Her demob was 5 November, three weeks before her 21st birthday.

Roy Cross, from The Forge, joined the RAF in 1943 when he was 17 years old.

In 1945, on VE day, he was stationed at HQ Coastal Command at Northwood in Middlesex. Here he was a pilot in training and working for the flying accidents branch.

In his time in the RAF, between 1943 and 1948, he felt quite safe. Even when a bomb landed on a building he was working in he managed to walk out unscathed. He said the only thing that nearly killed him was the exercise with the PE instructor.

In 1946 he was posted to the Middle East, and then to Cyprus where he ran a yacht Club.

He gained his Gliders Certificate in 1943, while in the RAF, but did not gain his Pilots Licence until 1966. He has always been interested in flying gliders and light aircraft.

Here he is flying a Shark glider at the age of 91.

Julian Pilcher was 9 years old on VE Day. he was a boarder at his Prep School and remembers the whole school being taken outside and told by the Headmaster that the war over Europe had ended. He remembers that he and the other boys would pray for the air raid warning to sound so that they could go into the cellars and be given a boiled sweet.

However , this was not the end of the war for Julian’s family as his father was still fighting in Burma, where, in 1942 he was put in charge of raising a labour force of 80,000 from the Tea Plantations to build the Manipur/Burma Road to evacuate the 14th Army and also the many civilians who were fleeing from Burma. The war in this area did not finish until August 1945.

Sally Pilcher, Julian’s wife, and her family endured the hardships of a prisoner of war camp in Japan until September 1945, when they were repatriated and received a letter welcoming them home from King George.

This photo shows Sally with her brother and parents just after their release from the camp.

 

Alan Drew, from Stonehills, was 4 on VE day. He well remembers all the bomb damage in South East London, where he lived. When attending a celebratory party soon after his brother was told by his mother that he should not accept a second helping of cake as food was rationed and the ingredients had been hard to find. His reply was, “Well, if anyone asks if I have enjoyed myself I shall say “No” because I could not have more cake”.

Sylvia Carter was just 3 at the end of the war and she can remember having this photo take on their rocking horse, in the garden, with her older sister, June and her twin sister Joan . Sylvia is in the middle and they are all waving their Union Jacks.

She remembers rushing to the Anderson air raid shelter and sometimes sleeping there at night.

Chris and John Smith, from Cedar Cottage, were 2 year olds on VE day. too young to remember much but John used to be carried into the garden in Kent to watch German planes flying over to bomb London.

Sadly Chris can’t find the photo she has of the local VE day party in Kent, where her father was holding her up in celebration.

VE day for some was not a celebration, Derek Lamprill, who was our postman for many yeas, lost his father in the Italian campaign. His home in London was so badly damaged in a bomb blast that the family could no longer live there and was split up. He was sent, on his own, to live with a family in rural Bedfordshire and was not reunited with his mother and brother until October 1945.

Steventon families were fortunate and survived the war with nobody killed in combat.

The war years were times of fear, uncertainty, deprivation, and for some great sadness. Many were able to celebrate the Victory over Europe and then Japan as an end and a new beginning. For others who lost loved ones life would never be the same.

Today we are fighting another war, with similar hardships, and we hope and pray that we will have a VV day —- with an end and a new beginning.

Thank you to those of you who have shared your memories, and to Sally and Linda who helped to collect them.

Chris Smith.