Part 2: The Celebrations Begin
Throughout Tuesday 8 May, the local cinemas and theatres did good business, and landlords who had been quick off the mark on Monday were given extensions to their licences to stay open until 11 o’clock Tuesday night. Into the evening of VE Day the celebrations continued unabated. A pipe band from one of the Canadian units led an impromptu parade through the streets of Aldershot. Bonfires were lit, many burning effigies of Hitler, and searchlights, floodlights, fireworks and gunfire all added to the noise and colour.
At the Aldershot Recreation Ground a crowd estimated between 8,000 - 10,000 assembled, including British and Canadian troops and civilians, who sang “Auld Lang Syne” followed by the British and Canadian National Anthems, then the floodlights were switched on for the evening’s dancing for which the band of the Royal Military School of Music played continually from 7.30 to 11.30 with only a 15 minute break. Not wanting their celebrations to finish so soon, the crowd left and headed for the town centre, marching up Victoria Road, along Wellington Street to the Ritz Cinema (now Gala Bingo) where they stopped for more community singing, before continuing back to the Recreation Ground.
The Recreation Ground was the focus of attention again on Wednesday 9 May, when the Army gave a Victory Display which included a musical ride by the RASC Animal Transport Company, a marching display by the ATS drum and fife band, rhythmic exercises by the Physical Training Corps, a motorcycle display by the Military Police and music from the RASC Band. The following Sunday 13 May, saw an equally impressive, but more formal Service of Thanksgiving at the same venue. On parade were 3,650 British and Canadian troops, including women’s detachments, plus the Aldershot Civil Defence Services, Fire Services, Nurses, Home Guard and Youth Organisations.
In Farnborough, a Victory Dance was held at the RAE Assembly Hall, where 500 guests danced to the music of three bands: The Raeolians, The Leadswings and The Stardusters. There was an alarming moment in the early hours of the following morning when the party suddenly stopped as a loud explosion was heard. Fears that this was some last enemy weapon were quickly put to rest when the MC announced that this was just some fireworks exploding over the airfield. The dancers cheered, the band struck up again and the party continued.
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