VE Day 75: How the Isle of Dogs celebrated Victory in Europe in 1945
PUBLISHED: 10:30 08 May 2020
It has been 75 years since the war in Europe ended. Memories fade, but photos from the period help trigger special memories for those who celebrated in 1945 as Debbie Levett, secretary of Friends of Island History Trust, explains.
The Second World War left the Isle of Dogs devastated by bombing because of its close proximity to the docks and industry.
This resulted in the population at 21,000 in 1939 dropping down to 9,000 by 1945.
On May 8, 1945, people took to the streets on hearing that the war in Europe was over.
Many parties took place later in the summer after Victory in Japan Day on August 15.
On VE Day, many people were still absent as children had been evacuated in large numbers and men and women were still serving in the forces.
Since the 1980s many of those leaving the Island during and after the war have returned in search of their family history.
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Some brought along or sent photographs, taking part in recorded interviews.
These formed the basis of the Island History Trust Collection, now held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive.
Pam Cole, an Island History Trust volunteer, recalled: “I was almost 13 in the photo I have of the street party celebrating the end of the European war.
“Listening on what then was called the wireless [there was] lots of running reportage of what was happening outside Buck House and seeing it at the cinema on Pathe News. It was a relief, but I was unsure what life was going to be like. I was aware the Japanese war was continuing.
“I cannot remember when my street party was, I guess it took place not long after the declaration, possibly in the summer.
“However, the memory plays tricks and, looking at the photo, what I thought was a summer’s day looks chilly. The women are wearing coats.”
George Pye remembered a lot of noise and more food than families were used to.
He said: “By noise I mean laughter, as it had been quite subdued until then. The neighbours and the church possibly donated food and I remember a puppet show. I’m not sure when the party took place but it would have been held in Mellish Street. The bombed out buildings and debris became our playgrounds and a place to get away from adults.”
For more, visit islandhistory.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Write to Friends of Island History Trust, St John’s Community Centre, The History Room, 37-43 Glengall Grove, London, E14 3NE.
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