Wednesday, 3 December 2014
This will be the last mailing about my war time memories for the moment because a new project has taken over my life filling those hours between two and four thirty when I tend to lie awake but haven’t the energy to go down stairs and make a cup of tea.
Tuesday 8th May 1945 – It was a bright sunlit day, blue skies and the sound of church bells, suddenly life felt wonderful. All the grownups were smiling, we spent the morning gathering and tying up bundles of wood, even the smallest child was expected to carry wood to the top of Brent Hill for the thanks giving bonfire. All the men who had been gone for so long would be coming home: no, not quite true for the war in Europe was over but the war with Japan had yet to be won and my father was captain of HMS Redpole somewhere in the Pacific. The 8th May was his birthday but there would be no family celebrations for him. It must have been hard for my mother but she was determined that we children should have a day to remember.
At three o’clock we all gathered in the village church, it really was standing room only for the London and Scottish Regiment was camped in a field on the edge of the village so joined us and paraded their colours. Those who couldn’t get standing room in the church stood outside and we all sang our hearts out – Now thank we all our God, O God our help in ages past and of course, the National Anthem.
The government had decreed that the nation’s clocks should be set to double summer time for ‘The Duration’ to make maximum use of the day light hours but the smallest child was still wide awake when we began the climb up on to the moor each with a bundle of wood on our backs. I remember the pile of wood for our bonfire as huge and even now I can feel the sense of mounting excitement as we waited for the dusk to turn to dark when the lighted torch would be pushed into the heart of the heap. Suddenly the cry went up, ‘There’s the first!’ and someone nearby murmured, ‘and the red glare on Skidaw woke the burghers of Carlisle.’ Pin points of light sprang up on every hill top across Dartmoor, a flaming torch was pushed into the heart of our pile and our bonfire became part of the chain of triumphant fire that carried the message of peace across the country.