Ely High School 1905-1972 - Ella Thurmott's VE Night in London

from the July 1945 Ely High School magazine

[Ella Thurmott was in her first year at Bedford College for Women (University of London), reading for a degree in Geography.]

We had only just got back into the routine of things, lectures, reading and housework when VE-Days came along and made a good break.

On Tuesday we stayed in to hear Mr Churchill’s announcement and then hurried down to St Martin’s-in-the-Fields. The Church was packed out and we could not get in until 5 o’clock. Afterwards we were going down Whitehall in time to see and hear Mr Churchill, Mr Bevin and various other members of the cabinet on the balcony of the Ministry of Health. Then until just before 9 we went to a Variety Show, arriving back outside the Houses of Parliament to hear the King’s Speech which was relayed to the huge crowd by loud speakers.

Afterwards we joined the crowds outside Buckingham Palace. The crowds there were beyond description. Everyone was wedged as tightly as possible and everyone was shouting and cheering. When the King and Queen and the two Princesses arrived on the Balcony the noise was deafening only everyone was too excited to notice it.

When we eventually extricated ourselves we toured round looking at the floodlighting. It was a really wonderful sight especially along by the river where the reflections added to the beauty. I think the two pieces of floodlighting which impressed me most were the Union Jack floating in a circle of light over the darkened Westminster Abbey. Apparently the total floodlighting on the Abbey refused to function so they just ‘spotted’ the flag but it was most effective. The other was Christ Church up in Hampstead which we saw the next night. It has a tall delicate spire which shone in the lighting, and the trees in the churchyard formed a frame round the picture. Perhaps it was because it was the only piece of lighting in the vicinity but it was certainly lovely.

However, we finished our tour in Trafalgar Square where crowds were singing and dancing round two bonfires. We joined the people on the base of Nelson’s Column and eventually managed to scramble up on to one of the lions, which, incidentally, have very slippery rumps. We had been wanting to sit on a lion all the evening. All the search lights for miles around were switched on at 11.45 and swept across the sky but in contrast to the brilliant flooding of the buildings around the Square seemed very faint and ineffectual.

We remained in possession of our lion until 12.30 when we decided to have a look at the Palace Flood Lighting which had not been on when we had visited it first. Just as we reached the Palace the King and Queen appeared on the balcony. We were this time right up to the railings and could see in much more comfort.

Having returned via Birdcage Walk and the Horse Guard’s Parade to Trafalgar Square we decided it was time we started on our long trek homewards to Hampstead – all tubes and buses had stopped long ago. We eventually arrived, very tired at about 2.30 having walked at least 10 miles by the map although we probably went further in actual fact.

London celebrates VE-Day May 8th 1945 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XinkrjbebYY

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page created 4 Nov 10: last update 24 Nov 10