Young & Old Join Together to Remember VE Day

The bunting was up in town and on many homes around town along with other decorations to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day on Friday.  Despite the lockdown, young and old joined together (at a social distance) to mark this special occasion and reflecting on circumstances we are living in now to back then and how the spirit of community has come together.

Many neighbours had got together to organise a social distance street party with people coming out to the end of their driveways at an arranged time.  Neighbours Cherry Rogers and Angela Perks on Gainsborough Road had got together to organise food, drink and decorations between them.  David Eggleton always loves to dress up for occasions and Friday was no exception.  He was dressed up as a 1940s police officer and his wife Nicola was dressed like a typical 1940s housewife.  Their front garden included WW2 artefacts including a shove ha’penny board.  David had made the rifle decorations for the house and his daughter Poppy had made the VE day signs.  David had also found a photo album from a house clearance which had photos from the original team at Bletchley Park, home to top secret WW2 codebreakers.

The biggest decoration was at Sarah Cronin’s house on Gainsborough who had turned her skip into a tank.  Sarah said, “I didn’t want it to be an eyesore with everyone coming out into their front gardens for the celebration.  I had the idea, it’s a new version of junking modelling and asked David (Eggleton) if the had some tarpaulin to cover it.”

Josh Thatcher was displaying his latest army vehicle he had built.  He said, “It’s a 1942 Ford GPWG jeep.  It’s taken about a year and half (nearly 2) and it’s the first time it’s been out on display. I think we should remember VE Day as it is part of history. Everybody’s family was involved in one or another whether down the cold mines, out in the fields, or on the front line.”

On the green at The Close, residents were enjoying an afternoon of musicians singing and playing.  Georgie Gibson who lives on The Close who was displaying a photo of her Mum (Mary Murphey) said, “Today would have been my Mum’s 97th birthday.  She was in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) the women’s branch of the British Army during WW2.  She came over from Ireland and met my Dad and the rest is history!   My two uncles were also in the army and came back on VE Day.  It’s a very special day today all round.  It so important to remember VE Day because of all those people that died and came back with their memories. They did it for us and that’s why we are here today enjoying what we have got.”  We also got to meet Arthur Hook who was outside his home in The Close who we had interviewed on the phone for our VE Day Commemoration article.

The best bunting (in our opinion) was made by Anna Del Nevo on Makins Road.  She had started to cut out red, white and blue triangles out of scrap material she had.  She then decided to use other things including red, white and blue knickers, blue gloves and white masks!”  Henley’s famous Big Ted on Berkshire Road was having his own special tea party with his owner Fred and big brother.

At Acacia Lodge, residents were brought out into the sunshine and were entertained by singers Samantha Horsfield and Daisy Smith (see video below) plus young Isabella playing ‘The Last Post’ on her violin.  Wendy Fricker, Activities Co-ordinator said, “Samantha and Daisy sang a selection of beautiful songs by Vera Lynn including ‘We’ll Meet Again’ which reduced us all to tears.  The residents loved it and we could see just how many memories it brought back to them, happy and sad. Isabella is granddaughter to resident, Kit Hinman’s whose family joined us (on the opposite pavement).  She had only learnt ‘The Last Post’ that morning and it was a wonderful moment for Kit and everyone listening. Afterwards we went indoors for a lovely traditional cream tea, it was a perfect end to a perfect afternoon. The staff were great, bringing the residents out for me, and I could not have organised it without “Team Acacia” to help me.”  Samantha and Daisy went on to sing in other roads around Henley including Riverside Terrace.

Ania Kozniewska is a member of The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps) and on Friday she wore her hat in memory of all veterans and decorated her house in Harcourt Close.  The FANY (PRVC) ​was originally formed in 1907 and today remains an all-female voluntary organisation.    The most famous WW2 role for the FANY involved 2,000 members active in Special Operations Executive (SOE). They also acted as wireless operators, encryption specialists, radar operators, drivers, coders and decoders.  Ania said, “Today the FANY is called upon to provide rapid response teams to support civil and military authorities in times of national crisis.  Currently, a large number of members are being deployed as part of the national response to COVID-19, providing essential support to NHS Nightingale Hospital London, to the North London and Westminster Coroner’s offices, and to the City of London Police. Members are all unpaid volunteers who train every week and are on call 24/7.”

Lady Sew and Sew employees who are still working from their warehouse in Farm Road marked VE Day on Thursday by dressing up, dancing with rolls of material and eating war-time food.

In Peppard Lane, the McGuiness boys, Rohan, Moray and Don were showing off their army soldiers, aeroplanes, tanks and military and history books.  Mum Susan said, “It was Rohan’s idea when I started putting up the bunting.  He loves all these things and he wanted to do a display for people passing by.  Lots of people have stopped that we know.  It’s been lovely to chat to them after for not seeing each other for such long time.”