Hampshire Remembers

A collection of written and spoken testimonies of the Second World War and VE Day from residents across Hampshire .

In VE Day Memories, residents of Gosport who lived through the Second World War talk about their experience of war, rationing and celebrating VE Day.

The video is part of a workshop presented by SEARCH and was originally designed for Gosport schools as part of a VE Day project.

VE Day and VJ Day Celebration Memories, Jan Brown.

It was May 1945. I was almost eleven years old. My school had been bombed during the war so each day we went to school in the church hall. Every morning the hall was divided off by screens. Tables were put up each day for our desks. At four o’clock each day I would leave the hall and set off home. On this particular day in May 1945 I was walking home from school on my own. It was a sunny afternoon and everyone seemed to be smiling. I crossed two main roads to get home as usual but it felt different today.

As I turned into the road where I lived I noticed that people had started to put flags out. Even my dad had hung a flag from the front bedroom window. There had been an announcement on the wireless (radio) that war in Europe was over. May 8 1945 became VE Day.

A few days later we decided to have a party to celebrate. We didn’t need permission to close the road as there were not many cars. Out came tables and chairs. Although food was still being rationed it didn’t stop the mums and grans from producing a feast for us. We had paste and jam sandwiches, rock cakes, fairy cakes and jam tarts. My mum even came up with two large Swiss rolls. We didn’t have any music or dancing as we knew there was still a war going on with Japan.

A few months later America dropped two bombs on Japan and they surrendered in August 1945. That was the end of the war and it became known as VJ Day. On that occasion the whole road decided to celebrate together. At the end of the road was a waterworks depot. They allowed us to hold the party there. A house to house collection was made to cover the cost.

Party day arrived. We were to wear fancy dress. The children all sat down to tea. Then it was judging time. I went as salvage. My costume was a sack with lots of rubbish sewn on to it, with silver milk bottle tops and tin cans. It would be called recycling today. I won first prize and was very pleased to get that sack off as it made me itch. A musical band had been hired for the evening. The grown ups all danced and sang along. A good time was had by all. The best thing was that we were at peace at last.

Recollections of rationing by a WWII teenager, Laurie.

I remember encountering saccharine for the first time because there was a very severe sugar shortage. You dropped this tiny tablet into your cup and it fizzed around and gave a sweet taste.

Some strange jams were produced - marrow and marrow and ginger. My mum used golden syrup for sweetening.

On bread spread with margarine we had a lot of fish paste, I still don't like margarine.

Once a fortnight I would go to the sweet shop and buy a 2oz bar of chocolate on ration and try to make it last for a long time. We used to try and make chocolate from flour, cocoa and margarine - not a success.

Once a week my school friend and I bought Lyons individual fruit pies, they were gorgeous as were choc ices which paradoxically had a plain chocolate coating on vanilla.

During air raid periods we used to have school dinners on tables spread along the corridors that went right round the hall. The teachers used to dole it out at one end and we passed the meals down. This was particularly good when they made chocolate sponge pudding, I used to put two plates on my lap as I passed them down eating three helpings quite quickly.

It was only at the latter part of the war that we had doodlebugs - a funny name for a very unfunny thing. As I say we had a few bombs near us, one blowing out our ground floor windows just before I arrived home from school with a broken leg - due to a playground accident. My mum was sweeping up the broken glass as I arrived.

As you will gather my thoughts are mostly about food and what we couldn't get but I was fortunate as my dad kept chickens which gave us eggs pretty much continuously and a Christmas fowl, we also had apple trees and fruit bushes.

Memories of Peter

As a young child I lived through the six years of the Second World War.

I lived above my mum and dad’s sweet shop in Forton Road. I expect many young people would have loved to live in a sweet shop but because of the war we had hardly any sweets. We could only open for a couple of hours each Thursday afternoon. Due to rationing, all that children in that long queue could have was a tiny bag of sweets and they had to make them last all week.

The loss of sweets was a minor problem for us as Gosport. Positioned on the centre of the south coast, we were truly in the front line in the battle against the German forces.    

So why did VE Day mean so much to us children and why were we so happy?

No more would we hear the dreadful dull sound of the air raid siren telling us that the Germans would be dropping bombs on us in the next three minutes.

No more rushing to the nearest air raid shelter or if there wasn’t one, placing ourselves under the kitchen table or stairs to await our fate.

No more would we come out of our shelters and hiding places to see large parts of our town where our friends and neighbours lived just hours before turned into rubble. In Gosport, nearly 50 homes were completely destroyed and 11,000 houses were damaged. 111 civilians were killed and 289 were wounded.

No more would we go without the essentials of life, hardly any decent food, no gas, electricity and water for days.

I think VE Day was perhaps, for us children, the happiest day of our lives for simpler reasons. We looked forward to seeing and learning how to eat fruits we had never seen, such as bananas and oranges. We had to learn to peel them! We also looked forward to eating our first ice cream. But, of course, soon we would be able to go into Edgar’s Sweet Shop in Forton Road and buy sweets any day of the week, not just for two hours on a Thursday.

Click here for an activity based on Peter's testimony.

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Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.
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