This series is an adaptation of an article written by Paul H Vickers, Chair of the Friends of the Aldershot Military Museum. It was first published in Aldershot Garrison Magazine in 2015.
Part 1: Victory in Europe
By the beginning of May 1945, it was clear that the Second World War in Europe was nearing its end. Adolf Hitler, recognising at last that the war was lost, had committed suicide on 30 April, and, shortly afterwards, on 4 May, Field Marshal Montgomery had received the surrender of all German forces in the Netherlands, North-west Germany and Denmark. In Aldershot, on the morning of Monday 7 May, rumours began to circulate that the end of the war was imminent, but it was not until the 1 o’clock news broadcast on the radio that there was official confirmation that Germany finally wanted to surrender. The 3 o’clock news bulletin brought the announcement that the enemy had unconditionally surrendered and the war in Europe was over.
Anticipating the declaration of victory, all over the town people had been preparing bunting, decorations and flags during the morning, so as soon as the official announcement was made the town was suddenly ablaze with colour as flags and bunting appeared everywhere. The British Union Flag was joined by the flags of all the Allied countries flying from houses, shops and municipal buildings. Some people brought out the decorations they had kept from the coronation of King George VI, fairy lights were strung out in ‘V for victory’ formation on the front of many houses and victory slogans painted across shop windows. The bell ringers of the Parish Church rang out a peal of celebration in the evening.
The government declared that Tuesday 8 May was officially 'Victory in Europe Day', or just 'VE Day', and a two day national holiday was announced, much to the delight of local schoolchildren who arrived at the school gates to find notices that the schools were shut all that day and the next. From early in the day soldiers from the Camp and women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) joined the people of Aldershot in the streets of the town in a joyous, holiday atmosphere. All the local churches quickly arranged services of thanksgiving for Tuesday evening and the bells were rung out again in gratitude.
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