What VE Day means for Somerset
Somerset Life|May 2020
Charles Dickens was right – it was the best of times and the worst of times, except that Dickens wasn't around in 1945 when the party began to celebrate VE Day
BERNARD BALE

Confidence had been growing in the months leading to 8 May, 1945, as it seemed that Germany was about to fall and war would be over. There had been false dawns before though, so the tension remained and whatever was going to happen there were many families who knew that life would never be the same again as fathers and sons, as well as mothers and daughters, would never sit by the fireside again.

Like the rest of the country, Somerset knew very well what it was like to hear bad news, to emerge from bomb shelters to find that homes had been reduced to rubble, sometimes inhabited rubble. Somerset folk also knew what it was like to receive the dreaded telegram to say that someone was missing in action or, worse, had been killed.

Finally on 7 May at 2.41 am, Germany surrendered. Hopes were fulfilled. The hostilities officially ceased at one minute after midnight – the first minute of 8 May and the first minute of peace. At last it was okay to cry and smile at the same time.

When the news finally broke through, the party began even though heavy rain was falling over much of Britain. In towns, cities and villages all over the country people gathered in groups and crowds. They just wanted to be with each other and the normal reserve gave way to hugs, kisses and back-slapping. This was VE Day and, even though there was still war raging in the Far East, the nightly worry about bombings was over.

Somerset celebrated along with everyone else. People listened to the King broadcasting the good news over the wireless to the Empire – as it was then. Everyone wanted to hear those words over and over again – 'there is victory in Europe – the war is over'.

In Bath, Bristol, Taunton, Yeovil, Weston-super-Mare it was time to switch the street lights back on – well, almost. Permission still had to be received and one of the first to ask for and receive that permission in the entire country was indeed Weston-super-Mare where everyone was determined to celebrate not only the end of the war but also the return to being a seaside resort.

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